SMB Cloud Solutions
My goal is to dive into cloud solutionsand put together an exhaustive guide for your small to medium size business. I feel that when it comes to articles about the cloud, they are geared to enterprise or fortune 500 companies. This article is written with the SMB in mind. The cloud can be very beneficial to many organizations. That doesn’t mean everything should live there. In this article I will cover cloud basics, why you should care, types of cloud storage, cloud security, and discuss what it means moving forward.
Who cares, and did you just say Amazon?
Yes, I mean that Amazon. The one that allows you to buy anything and ships it to you in as little as a few hours. The one that purchased Whole Foods. The one that has a $1 trillion valuation! They didn’t become the second company to hit that mark because they sell you clothes, groceries or any other goods. Amazon is in on this “cloud” thing. In fact, their cloud services dubbed Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a $17.5 billion business. Ok, I think I may have your attention now. If I don’t yet, here is one more stat. According to Gartner, “the worldwide public cloud services market is projected to grow 21.4 percent in 2018 to total $186.4 billion, up from $153.5 billion in 2017.” The cloud market will continue to grow rapidly. New businesses are being born from and on the cloud.
What is the cloud?
The definition of the cloud is as fluid as an actual cloud. Essentially, it is used to describe a network of servers, each with a unique function. These globally-distributed, interconnected servers are intended to operate as one powerful system. The cloud provides data storage, runs applications, or delivers content.
Cloud data storage and management
For active data, cloud storage refers to a group of “sync and store” applications. For small and medium sized businesses we’ve used: DropBox, Box, OneDrive/Sharepoint, and Google Drive. All have pros and cons, but they all allow access to files on any device connected to the internet.
What is cloud computing?
Cloud computing provides a simple way to access applications, databases, servers, and other IT functions over the internet. Rather than owning the computing infrastructure or data centers, organizations “rent” access to processing power. This could be a very cost-effective use of technology for your small to medium size business. Think about it. Rather than owning and operating infrastructure to manage terabytes of data, a business can use a solution such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure.
Cloud based applications
Any application can be hosted and based on an AWS or Azure Cloud. However, it only makes sense to run applications designed for the cloud.
Old-school applications: if it’s not broken…
Monolithic applications are the programs small businesses have been using for the last 20 years. These programs grew with the internet and computing power. Imagine a monolithic application as a stack of building blocks (processes) built on top of each other, becoming a taller and taller pillar. Whenever you run a command, the information starts at the bottom of the pillar and runs through the entire column of processes every time. Sometimes when you run an application, different processes require additional computational power. With a monolithic application, it is not possible to add computational power to a specific section of the pillar. It is only possible to add “juice” to the entire application. Therefore, it would not make sense to run these applications in a public cloud, where you pay for what you use. You’d be using a lot!
Examples of applications are Quickbooks, Oracle, ArchiCAD, etc. Historically, these applications were stored in on-premise servers. Although it is possible to store these in AWS or Azure, it would be much more expensive. Additionally, many of these companies have their own “hosted” or cloud version. Typically, these versions will remove some functionality in order to deliver a sufficiently fast application that uses computational power cost effectively.
Software designed to be in a “hosted” environment (SaaS)
Salesforce. Slack. Microsoft Office. Asana. Box. I can keep going but, hopefully, you recognize those names. Those companies and many more like them that are popping up every day and provide SaaS solutions to enterprises and SMB’s alike. In short, Software as a Service is a software licensing and delivery model in which software is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally located. This provides you with a completed product that is managed and developed by the provider. SaaS applications are designed to make your business more efficient. It is still important to manage and understand what applications are being used at your company.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
IaaS provides businesses with computing infrastructure that is managed over the internet. IaaS gives you access to servers and storage, networking and firewalls, and physical data centers. Rather than managing these yourself you can easily scale up and down to use only what you need.
AWS and Microsoft Azure are examples of IaaS. Organizations often use IaaS because in the right scenarios it can eliminate capital expenses and reduce overall costs. Rather than purchasing servers or renting out data centers, a company could use AWS and avoid paying all of the upfront charges of hardware. IaaS should improve business continuity and disaster recovery. It will also allow you to focus on your core business. You will not need a full-blown IT team to manage complex server environments. Then again, this solution may not be a fit for all organizations. There remain plenty of reasons to maintain your own networks, servers, and such.
Security is like managing on premise data centers. Instead of your organization being responsible for maintaining facilities and hardware, you can offload that to your providers. There remain risks if your provider gets hacked or breached. In my opinion, the biggest risk is securing your credentials. If employee’s credentials are recovered, a hacker can easily access information. The cloud is much more secure today than it was five years ago. Cloud providers have entire departments dedicated to the security of their product. If you do not have a dedicated team with eyes on your security, it may make sense to use one of those providers or look to an MSP.
I’m ready to go all in on the cloud, what next?
Great! The cloud isn’t going anywhere. The market is growing at an incredible rate. I attribute that to the fact that cloud services give you flexibility. They allow you to grow and scale and only pay for what you use. The applications that are available over the internet provide businesses the ability to innovate like never before.
When you are in the next executive meeting, start to discuss what portions of your business could benefit from a cloud environment. Outline and understand what applications are best for your teams. Make sure that you are unified in those decisions and that the information is relayed accordingly. Bring in your IT department or provider to help you sift through the jargon. Better yet give me a call, I am happy to chat!