To virtualize or not to virtualize, that is the cloud computing question. If you’re thinking about whether to take that first leap into cloud computing then that’s probably the question you’re asking yourself.
But the truth is the Cloud is more multi-layered than either using it or not. There are a range of steps, that start with whether you want it or not and end with how far can you use it to help you grow your business.
The first step is obviously if you’re sitting in an office staring at your physical server. It’s expensive updating to latest technology. It’s expensive having staff fix it and patch it if it crashes. There are higher energy bills to consider, not to mention the space.
But that’s just the start of cloud computing. You might have invested in cloud servers but wonder whether you should be using it across more of your business. Perhaps you only use it for Hosted Exchange, SharePoint or for hosting business data such as shared folders and calendars. But you might be wondering whether you should dip your toes in further.
There are further possibilities like using cloud servers for disaster recovery, streamlining company activity as well as sharing resources amongst offices and staff.
Not every solution will suit each and every business. Why would it? Every business and individual is different after all. There are cost-savings that, whether in real terms or as a knock-on effect, can become the most attractive proposition for the Cloud. Yet if you think about how you work and then begin to think about the technology you might use to suit it, you can consider whether investing more into cloud computing can save you even more.
1. How much is your infrastructure costing you? The flexibility of the Cloud is its most attractive feature. This is where the real savings can occur and it’s about technology mirroring your existing practice. Do you work with staff at various different sites? Does each and every one of those staff need to have access to the same, shared information? If yes and you’re still working with physical servers then alongside your IT costs you’re probably got a fairly lengthy folder of expenses claims. Travelling around the country for face to face meetings, expensive postage fees to send material here and there. Your technology and your infrastructure aren’t marrying up. Start with writing down how you work and how technology might be able to make it easier, and cheaper. SharePoint might be the easiest solution.
2. You work isn’t the same month in and month out. With more and more people becoming their own boss they’re looking to reduce their overheads as much as possible. Relying on freelance and contract work means that your technology requirements might not be the same throughout the year. Pointless, then, to lock yourself into a deal that costs you money for twelve months but that you only need for around a third of that time. What’s the solution? Investing in a Cloud Server, for example, means you can sign up to a month by month deal. It is flexible, allows you to pay for what you will need but to reassess when you no longer need it. The benefit is that, when a project comes to an end, you don’t have the repeat bills for the technology you’re not using.
3. You want to innovate but aren’t looking for more overheads. If you work on your own then coming up with new ideas for business strands is an important part of your day to day work. However you don’t want every new idea or development to come with a hefty price tag. Extending your services to offer web-hosting as well as web-design, for example, or perhaps exploring web applications like perhaps video editing or project management tools to suit fixed term projects or that offer something new to existing clients, this is an important part of growing your business. Innovation might be vital but crippling overheads can nip your idea in the bud before it even starts. A scalable Cloud Computing solution that offers flexibility, meets your needs and could even encourage collaboration with other professionals in the same boat might be the most cost-effective solution.
4. Bring staff and skills in when you need them. Redundancy and unemployment have been the two dark clouds hanging over the jobs market over the last five years. For many SMEs the solution has been to expand and contract organically. It means bringing in the skills and experience you need on a project by project basis, rather than say having a graphic designer employed full-time or a video editor, you bring them in when you need them. If this is the way you want to work, and it has its benefits, you need technology to match. It can mean saving money. Your business data and applications can be stored on a Cloud Server in a central space. You can invest in more email aliases and access requirements as and when you need it. You can manage how much the freelance staff can see and use web applications like Basecamp or Sharepoint to have project goals and off-site project management.
5. Increased stability and the power to plan. No businessman, be they a CEO, entrepreneur or project manager ploughs on into the future without putting down a strategy or plan in place. You might be old school and think you only need to do this using a pad and a piece of paper but if you employ staff or collaborate on projects then you might want to share it with other people. There are web applications you can use, accessed via the Cloud that can help make this process easier. Even if it starts as a shared document and then evolves into a questionnaire or creative, ideas-led strategy then you want to get different views and perspectives. A cloud computing solution will make this easier helping as many people feed in at a time that’s easy for them. It makes it simpler for you to collate responses and it means being able to plan ahead and develop your business without having to spend a lot of money.