Cloud Computing: Is it Right for Your Business?

shutterstock_85778389We have all heard the buzzword(s) surrounding Cloud Computing but what does it mean, how do I use it, and how does it improve my bottom line as a business owner?

What is Cloud Computing?

Let’s begin with the first and most confusing of the three questions and address what is “Cloud” computing. Cloud Computing is a metaphor describing a real server or computer, just like the server in your office, but the difference is that it is not sitting in your office.  It resides in the “Cloud” which is nothing more than a data center that can be located anywhere in the world, is connected to the internet, and you and your staff access that server exactly the same way you would if it was sitting next to you on the floor.  In the most simplified terms, Cloud Computing allows your business to store, share, back up and access any data files or programs from any device you use to one centralized location stored on hardware that is not located in your office.

How do I use the Cloud?

You’ve heard about it, we’ve just explained what it is and now your saying to yourself, “OK that’s great. So how do I use it?”  If you are one of the 55% of people who claim to be non-techie and swear you’ve never used the Cloud, it is more likely you are in with the 95% of people who have and may not even realize it.  Do you have a Gmail account?  Have you used Microsoft Office 365, Google Drive, Microsoft One Drive, Apple iCloud, or any online data backup service?  Then you have and are already using the Cloud?  See, it’s not that confusing.  You are taking advantage of several different service models with one of the biggest being the SaaS (Software as a Service) model.  In a SaaS model, hardware and programs are built or created and the company who performed all of the work just grants you, the user, access to their offerings.  Simply put, software like Microsoft Office 365 offers you the ability to “rent” the office application for as long as you want it without ever having to go to the store and buy it, install it, and upgrade it to the newer versions in the future.  You pay a monthly or annual subscription fee and you just use the product.  You use Microsoft’s equipment to run your office product on your computers.  Gmail is the same type of SaaS model where you create an account on their equipment and begin using the suite of Google applications like Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Drive.  You don’t maintain the hardware or the software, you just use it.

RTS offers a complete line of Cloud-based services including email using Microsoft Exchange Hosting servers for your company’s growing email needs, CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solutions, Microsoft Lync Instant messaging and communications platforms, Microsoft SharePoint collaboration servers, co-location and managed servers, Virtualized and Replication Server hosting, and Cloud Office hosting.

How does Cloud Computing improve my bottom line as a business owner?

Instead of installing computers at your business or hiring Third Party vendors to build in-house network infrastructure or specific applications for you, Cloud Computing systems help you do these tasks by leveraging hardware and programs developed, built, and maintained by an external provider (people in the Cloud).

Let’s say your business is large enough to have your own fulltime IT person and the financial resources to purchase servers and computers that you host in-house.  In this scenario, Cloud Computing may or may not be a good option.  You already paid for the hardware and you are paying for a fulltime employee to manage all of it for you.  However, if you are a business with less than 50-60 people, it might not be financially feasible for you to afford the “DIY” approach to your success.

Cloud Computing will clearly save you the hardware, software, and labor investment over the long run.  Depending on the age of your current infrastructure, you may find yourself having to spend on some internal equipment and application upgrades to take full advantage of specific Cloud offerings but in general, leveraging the power of the Cloud will have a direct positive impact on your organization’s bottom line.  Here are 5 Ways that Cloud Computing could save your bottom line.

  1.  Lower People Costs
    1. With a decreased reliance on in-house IT staff needed to “keep the lights on”, organizations can cut not only salary and benefits, they can recoup other related employee costs associated with larger staff.  Moving to the Cloud allows you to take advantage of the data center’s support staff of highly skilled IT personnel typically at a lower fee than you would pay salaried staff.
  2.  Lower Utility Costs (Power Consumption)
    1. Cloud computing uses less electricity by taking advantage of better hardware utilization resulting in efficient power consumption.  When you run your own equipment in-house, the full power of the server will most likely not be utilized resulting in the server wasting energy when it is idle.  In most cases, it costs the Cloud service provider less in electricity that it would your office to run the same application but on their equipment and power.
  3.  Economies of Scale
    1. With the use of Virtualized Servers, organizations are able to share a single set of hardware resources that are running multiple operating system environments.  In other words, you have one physical server packed full of power that can run many versions of an operating system simultaneously removing the need for a single operating system on a single server.  In other words, the server goes from a 1-to-1 to a 1-to-many usage format.  This allows multiple companies to securely run their applications on one hardware deployment spreading the cost over several clients, not just on a 1-to-1 basis.  This directly relates to high utilization and results in the data center optimizing their hardware needs for many different customer capabilities.  All of this combined results in lower costs to your business.
  4.  Capital Investments
    1. Making the decision to run your own hardware results in capital investments at all levels of your network infrastructure.  By switching to Cloud computing, you leverage that investment against the data center’s capital investment.  This frees up your finances to be spent on other areas of your operation.
  5.  Uptime through Redundancy
    1. Uptime is a huge buzzword that simply means the amount of time annually your company’s systems are up and running and producing.  Downtime is, well, when your company is down and not producing.  In order to prevent downtime, you are forced to consider implementing redundancies.  If you have one “Production” server, you should have another equally powerful, duplicated server running next to it in case the production server crashes resulting in downtime.  Extrapolate that to your network switches, firewalls, routers, VPN devices, NAS appliances and suddenly you are staring up at a mountain of capital investment (See item 4 above).  You basically decide to duplicate everything to create redundancy at all potential points of failure.  This is a very expensive way to maximize your uptime and you have not even factored in the labor cost to implement, test, and maintain all of these devices.  Depending on your business and the speed at which your applications need to move, it might be wise to deploy your applications in the Cloud, leverage the money you would have spent on hardware into another part of your business, and let the data center handle the redundancy issues which they already do behind the scenes.

Cloud Computing is not for everybody but it is here to stay.  In some instances, it is not feasible to migrate your entire operation into the Cloud but you may be missing out on one or many opportunities to not only save money but to streamline the processes you currently have, increase employee productivity, and redeploy human resources in a more efficient way.  Saving a few hundred to a few thousand dollars a month can have a major impact on your bottom line.

If you are interested in finding ways to take advantage of Cloud Computing at your business, call RTS to schedule your 1-hour FREE consultation at your location to discuss how our cloud and IT support services can help improve your business and your bottom line.