The 5 Biggest Challenges Cloud Computing Can Solve
I’m sure we can all agree that cloud computing and its definition has certainly evolved over the years. Although the term has been around for almost a decade, the concept has just recently starting gaining popularity and momentum (we’re all familiar with the “to the cloud!” phrase from Microsoft now). There still isn’t a set explanation for cloud computing. Ask five different people in the IT industry what their definition of cloud and you’re bound to get five different responses.
For the purpose of this article, the cloud we’ll be referring to throughout is a virtual private and all-inclusive cloud, meaning that it’s your own closed, secure cloud and that it’s your entire network that is being hosted (data, email, applications, printing, scanning, backup, etc.) in the same environment. Now let’s take a look at how this cloud can solve many of the common problems we see in small to medium-sized businesses…
Business Challenge #1: Network Upgrades
Although we here at WAMS think that network upgrades are fun, I’m pretty sure that just about everyone else reading this would skew towards the side that dreads network upgrades. They’re capital intensive, tedious, usually disruptive, and getting everyone in the company adjusted to new technology can be harder than getting democrats and republicans to agree on the healthcare issues.
With cloud, you can eliminate the need to ever go through a network upgrade ever again. Everything is hosted in the cloud, so you don’t have to upgrade onsite servers anymore. Your cloud hosting provider takes care of the upgrades to the backend infrastructure and even provides all relevant Microsoft licensing as well. You always have access to the latest and greatest Microsoft Office software on your own timing and without having to invest in them on your own.
Cloud computing breaks the “cycle of IT” where your network repeatedly gets old, you replace it, you use it, it gets old; you replace it, you use it, it gets old… you get the idea. With technology advancements and cloud, you can now avoid the endless and repetitive upgrade cycle.
Business Challenge #2: Mobility
The need for staff in today’s businesses to be able to access the network remotely is growing to the point of necessity. Attorneys want to work from home, you need to view a document from your iPad, your managing partner wants to work while he’s on vacation; work is no longer a 9-5 in the office gig. You and the employees need to be able to get the data you need wherever you are and on any device you like to use.
Cloud enables you to do just that. Since all of your data, applications and email are built into a virtual desktop, you can securely access everything you need from anywhere on any device.
Some of you may already be able to access your desktop by using something like LogMeIn, VPN, terminal servers, or maybe even an in-house Citrix solution. But be honest – how reliable and fast is the connection usually? A lot of these solutions that we see are very slow, problematic and even a little buggy. Many people don’t believe it until they see it, but a solid cloud solution is often faster than what you currently have when you access your network in the office. You’re using the data center’s Internet bandwidth and the data center’s reliability, which typically guarantees 99.99% uptime.
Business Challenge #3: Security & Disaster Recovery
There are a lot of scary IT possibilities out there. Server crashes, power outages, desktop crashes, cybercrime, natural disasters, and employee sabotage all present serious issues to the lifeblood of the business – your data.
Of course, cloud solutions can’t completely eliminate these threats, but it can protect you exponentially more than what you have right now. You benefit from the Tier 4 data center that your data resides on. Tier 4 means that it has the highest levels of security measures in place, including things like biometric hand scanners, redundant power systems, video surveillance, 24x7x365 security staff onsite, and more. Plus, data backups are built into the solution, so the worry that you could lose your data at any time can now be erased from your mind.
Business Challenge #4: Scalability & Flexibility
Businesses are constantly changing. They’re adding offices, moving, merging, hiring seasonal/temporary staff, adding employees, splitting…if anything is constant, it’s change itself. With a traditional, onsite network, you’re stuck with what you pay for. If you invest in a brand new server and then the next month you have to let go of half of your staff and don’t need the server anymore, good luck telling HP or Dell that you want to return the server since you don’t need it.
It’s hard to accurately predict what your IT needs will be over the next few years, but with cloud, you don’t have to. It’s flexible, meaning that you can scale up or scale down as needed. If you have file clerks coming on for two months to work on a case, you can just add them and what resources they need quickly and remove when the case is over. You’re adding an office? Just ask to add the users to the cloud network. Cloud changes with you, so you’re never stuck with a network that doesn’t fit your needs anymore. Think of cloud like an elastic band – it stretches and contracts based upon your company’s business needs.
Business Challenge #5: Cost Control
We’ve touched on this in previous points, but cloud can be a good financial choice, too. Since you don’t have to invest in a bunch of hardware and software, your capital expenditures significantly decrease, and IT goes from a capital expense to a monthly operating cost. You also no longer have to factor in depreciation of the equipment anymore.
And forget about maintenance and other extra and unpredictable IT costs. Just the maintenance and ongoing support for an onsite network can cost as much as a complete cloud solution that requires minimal ongoing support.
To Cloud or Not to Cloud? That is the Question
In many cases, the benefits of a cloud-based network greatly outweigh the benefits of staying with an onsite solution, but every business is different. You have different budgets and IT needs, so it’s important to look at both options. Work with your IT provider to examine both cloud and onsite networks to figure out which will work best for your business. As always, please feel free to reach out to WAMS if you have any additional questions or contact us through the website here!