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Cloud computing: Everything you’ve wanted to know

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Cloud computing is certainly attracting headlines in the media. You might have noticed Microsoft’s Cloud Power advertising blitz. Or even seen Apple’s Steve Jobs talking excitedly about iCloud. The trouble is that, for most companies, it’s hard to work out whether any of this hype is relevant to their business.

So is the cloud an option for you? As it happens, it’s likely that your company already uses a cloud-based solution. If you subscribe to Hosted Exchange for your email, Online Backup for your critical files or a website hosting company, you already do so.

What is new – for small and mid-sized companies at least – is the concept of replacing your old server (that often sits in a darkened corner of your offices) with a fully hosted alternative.

So what does that mean? Simply put, all of your software – from Microsoft Office to Sage to CRM – plus your files and data, are stored in a data centre. No more servers at your offices. No more costly server upgrades every four to five years. No more Microsoft licence purchases for server or PCs. 

Instead, you simply pay a fixed monthly fee per person with zero set-up costs. You then just need a fast internet connection (plus a backup line in case the first one goes down).

Why are businesses considering this as an option? For many, it comes down to money. During the downturn, most businesses reduced IT spending, often by deferring the replacement of their servers. Many of those servers are now suffering frequent failures or running slowly, affecting the ability of staff to work. 

Rather than simply replacing those ageing servers, companies are looking at whether a cloud alternative makes financial sense. 

But there are other significant benefits too. The amount of downtime when your employees cannot work because of a server failure is likely to be significantly reduced. Your company’s vital data will be more secure as it is stored at Tier 4 data centres based in the UK. If you have staff that work regularly at home, at client sites or on the move, they can access everything they need to work without interruption or delay. Similarly, any business with multiple offices will avoid spending thousands on ensuring everyone can access the same files. 

What about the downsides? Well, the cloud is definitely not right for every business. Design agencies, architects and video production companies are probably a non starter. 

Likewise, if your internet line is chronically slow and a faster line is unavailable, the cloud is not for you. 

To help you decide if the cloud might be right for you, visit www.connectcloud.co.uk where you can see case studies of other companies plus a handy cost calculator. We’ve also produced a special guide to help you retire your server in peace.

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