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The latest IT buzz word which has been promoted to death is Cloud computing, which is about as new as AOL (which isn’t really new at all).
For those that have been bombarded by the marketing people and still don’t have a clue what they are on about, Cloud Computing is basically being provided with services such as E-mail, CRM systems, SharePoint and File Storage, Instant Messaging, Virtual PC’s or even online backup storage without having to buy the hardware…you just share someone elses. This means that for the good providers you get a small chunk of some really good hardware with first rate support, for others…well you should be able to guess. It’s the old adage of you get what you pay for!
The concept of Cloud computing is about as old as the internet, if you’ve ever had a home broadband connection, or used dial up with your modem to access your emails in Outlook Express, then you’ll be familiar with downloading your emails which are stored in your own little mailbox out on the internet. That’s essentially where it started, but with the improvement in internet connectivity speed, and the greatly reducing price to provide high speed access, then there are a lot of companies jumping on the bandwagon by setting up with a couple of servers in a cheap Data Centre and calling it Cloud Computing.
However there are some real big players out there in the market, Microsoft for example have their Office365 offering which is a ridiculously cost effective means for any small business to start off. Buy a domain name, link it to Office365 and pay £2.50 a month for 50GB of email storage. Increase that to £9.40 a month and you get Office Small Business on up to 5 devices, 50GB mailbox, Online Conferencing, Instant Messaging, 1TB of online storage per user, 10GB SharePoint for collaboration and a few other bits. That means to setup a small business, you could buy a cheap £300 laptop, buy a £6.50 domain name and be up and running with the latest version of Office and Exchange for £9.40 a month.
Extend this to 5 staff members and your annual costs (excluding internet connectivity and hardware) are a mere £564.00. To buy Office Home and Business 2013 for 5 staff would be £950.00 alone without email provision and all the rest of the products that come with the Office 365 Small Business Premium subscription
Compare that to the cost of a server with SBS 2011 which needs a lot of RAM and some IT support to put it in (I don’t care if Microsoft think its the easiest server to install, as trust me, as soon as you want something that doesn’t require Next Next Next, such as allowing someone to send as a distribution list, the world stops being simple)
Your server is going to set you back the best part of £5000 with someone coming in and installing it and setting it up as you require. Then you need the office licenses which will be about £950 for 5 users, then you need the anti-spam / server anti-virus for another £150 and some backup hardware which will be about another £250 to ensure an offsite copy. Add some IT support hours if there is a problem which will be about £1000 per annum and a small business has got a lot of work to do just to try and pay for their upfront costs.
That gives you the setup cost for 5 users for the first year of £7350 plus their hardware and the domain name….that’s a HUGE difference.
Don’t need 5 members of staff, just reduce the licensing, want to add more staff, just increase the licensing. See it’s flexible too. You only pay for what you use. That’s the joy of Cloud computing.
So to cloud or not to cloud..that is the question.
If you already have hardware and licensing, then it makes no sense to change unless you’re experiencing problems. It seems a bit silly to throw away hundreds if not thousands of pounds of licensing and hardware just because you’re not part of the in-crowd that are using internet based services already. If you want an off-premises solution for core services such as email, then look at Exchange Online, which we have a number of clients using so they can access email anywhere on any device and aren’t reliant on a single point of failure..i.e. their E-mail server or internet connection.
If you’re just starting out, it makes no sense to go any other way but by using cloud services (if you want to go even cheaper…check out Google’s offerings, but don’t expect the functionality…..)
Cloud computing has some huge benefits, especially for small businesses and I would encourage businesses of all sizes to explorer the possibilities that are available…even for larger IT investments such as CRM systems and finance systems.