Small businesses owners and executives now have the opportunity to utilize cloud-based Information Technology services for almost all of their technology needs. By cloud-based I mean that you access the service over the internet and rent access to it. This offers many advantages over deploying computer servers in your offices. Among the advantages are:
- You eliminate the capital cost of purchasing hardware and software required to setup servers.
- You eliminate paying someone to have to setup and maintain the server.
- Servers are more reliable/available.
- You shift from having variable costs to having fixed expenses.
- Data is more secure.
- Data is always stored off site, making disaster recovery easy
- Cloud-services easily scales up or down as your company size changes.
Many people avoid Cloud-based solutions because they think their data is less secure than if it were in their own office. For the majority of small businesses this simply is not accurate. Cloud-based service providers host their servers in secure data centers with multiple redundant power supplies, two or more internet connections, and in many cases, redundant hardware. What this means to you is that you’re more likely to have a problem with a server in your office than you are with a server or service you rent over the internet.
When you’re working with a Cloud-based services provider there is no distinction between local access vs. remote access. The service is typicall securely accessed over the internet using a 128-bit encrypted connection which is statistically impossible to break. This is in comparison to a business who has deployed servers onsite and has less secure VPN connections in place or has does not have remote access capabilities. In many cases, particularly with Microsoft Small Business Server (SBS), the remote access connect is not secuire. The typical Microsoft Small Business Server is deployed with a hole in the firewall so that remote users can easily access the Exchange server. It is deployed this way to avoid the cost of having to implement a secure deployment which would be a prohibitive cost for many businesses. But most companies running SBS don’t know this and don’t understand the risk this poses to them–your server can be easily hacked into.
Contrast this to a Hosted Exchange service which provides highly secure access, via an web browser or Outlook, to all users, costs about $9/per month per user, has no setup costs and just works.
The savings of utilizing Cloud-based IT services instead of deploying on site servers add up quickly.
One of our clients is VC-based manufacturer of a home water filtration system. 1STARR designed their IT infrastructure, selected their business applications, and associated vendors. When looking at their data backup requirements an on site managed backup solution was considered as the standard type of backup system to deploy. This system cost $1490 to setup, $1290 per month and required a 3-year contract. Rather than select the on site system we selected an internet-based backup service with a monthly cost of $67, no setup costs, and no long term contract. Over the past year the company has saved more than $16,000 by implementing the Cloud-based solution.
Many IT services are now available from Cloud-based service providers. These include:
– Exchange server (email, calendar & contact management)
– File sharing
– Word processing, spreadsheets, presentations and more (Google Apps and others)
– VOIP PBX
– Backup solutions
– Accounting System
– Project Management
– CRM (Salesforce.com and others)
Many companies who see the benefits of using Cloud–based services delay moving to them because they’ve recently purchased a server and want to depreciate the cost before making changes. However the costs of not making a change should be considered in comparison to making a change. In many cases the economics of moving to Cloud-based solutions are so much less expensive it may be more expensive not to change.