By Andrew Peddie, Managing Director of First Hosted, the cloud consultant and solution provider
Although many businesses and business owners still hold reservations about outsourcing IT and infrastructure to cloud providers, there is a noticeable shift towards increased confidence and adoption. Considering the spectrum of benefits available and the time-proven reliance of mature solutions, perhaps this is not surprising?
Quite apart from the obvious freedom from IT a cloud-hosted business application can offer, improved and intuitive interfaces make for more friendly and efficient work spaces. Business intelligence and portable device compatibility accommodate our ever increasing need to have good data on the go.
A good hosted business solution will be a single platform that develops organically at the same pace (or sometimes faster!) as the business environment that it facilitates and is designed to facilitate multiple “tenants” so that all the users can share the application without compromising speed or computing capacity.
Strong service level agreements and bullet proof data security means that the location of data is irrelevant and businesses are 100% detached from the physical devices and networks that deliver the service.
An annual subscription program with a single all-inclusive price allows for total predictability in expenditure. The ability for organisations to scale at will and to accommodate multi-company and multi-location organisations is dramatically improved in terms of timescales, cost and functionality.
Products such as NetSuite, Salesforce, Box and Google Apps are taking customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning, document management and storage and enterprise email directly into the cloud at an alarming rate.
Concerns about data security, hackers and exploits are proving unfounded in cloud-based business applications (not so for on-premise banking systems unfortunately). US data centres are providing hosting for an increasing number of non-US businesses without problems.
For example, data centres and organisations that subscribe to SAS 70 Type II Certified Data Centre audit procedures are able to guarantee security and reliability.
The best cloud solutions reflect this guarantee in their terms of service or service level agreements.
Although the cost of an annual subscription may seem artificially high at first glance, significant benefits manifest themselves in numerous ways.
First of all, the price really is the price with a reputable cloud based subscription solution. No more “hidden” costs for patches and upgrades and so on.
A single solution means that all information comes from the same source via a simple to use interface. That’s great for creating, scheduling and distributing financial reports and sales intelligence. Training is much simplified with in-built training videos, detailed help guides and just one product for everyone to get to know how to use.
Added to this is the obvious saving of removing dependence on hardware and IT resource.
The benefit I personally value most is how much time I can save because everything I need is made simple and efficient by my chosen system.
This is slightly tempered by the ease of global visibility that I get with a system that can be run from an iPhone or android phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, anywhere I can get internet access!
Start-up organisations consider a world class cloud-based solution as an essential component to their business and an important element when attracting investors at the time of resale.
Some plan to never own any infrastructure.
Finally, I feel my sentiments are echoed by the leading analysts in the field, Gartner. One of their leading analysts predicts 19 per cent growth in cloud computing against a backdrop of 3 per cent increase in IT spend.