AMID the headlines and hype that has surrounded cloud computing over recent months, there is now some tangible, real world evidence that cloud computing will have a major role to play as the IT engine room for many small and medium size organisations.
The key questions many business people are asking is why and how?
The vast majority of business leaders agree that information technology is expensive to acquire, costly to maintain, difficult to understand and typically entails taking on significant business and operational risk whilst implementing new systems.
It is therefore understandable that if there was a realistic alternative to the way that businesses procure technology, then they would be keen to explore it.
Cloud computing is that alternative.
A cloud computing provider is an organisation that will deliver all the necessary hardware, maintenance, software licensing and storage requirements as part of a service and takes responsibility for the data centre fabric services including the costs associated with electricity, security, cooling and environmental services.
The cloud provider can also scale those resources both up and down dynamically to suit business demand and the customer only pays for the IT resources used or dedicated to them on a monthly basis.
This operationally expensed, low risk deployment of IT is proving to be a particularly attractive proposition to board members in general and the finance director in particular.
Using cloud services, the business no longer needs to fund IT systems from capital. Instead, the organisation can specify the amount of technology resources required and have the technology provisioned by the cloud provider in days rather than months through a revenue programme.
The cloud services hardware and software is usually located within a secure data centre environment, which has redundant power systems, cooling, advanced security and environmental management systems.
And, if the provider has invested correctly in their cloud infrastructure, they will be confident in offering customers a service level guarantee, which commits the provider to delivering IT services to a pre-agreed contracted level.
This shifts the service provision challenge from the IT department to guarantee that high service uptimes are constantly delivered. In addition, cloud providers can often incorporate the necessary communications links and internet bandwidth to make the service easier to manage and to budget for the customer.
Also, cloud customers often choose to have their solution delivered as a single, easy to manage service which includes the business applications software such as email, office and databases together with all of the necessary back office servers, switches, storage and networking connections.
Cloud computing services are particularly well suited to organisations that have multiple offices, distributed infrastructures, large mobile or remote workforces or have constant project churn. Cloud is also the ideal choice for new business start-ups and organisations wanting to centralise IT resources.
This all in one cloud service therefore greatly simplifies technology provision, removes the need for capital investment and mitigates business risk by providing the organisation with greatly improved business agility, robust service delivery and effective cost control.