SME Data Storage Options Using the Cloud

With today’s business and consumer internet environments relying heavily on multimedia, there is an increased need to support the data requirements that both businesses and individuals have. As such, enterprises are turning toward alternative means of storing data, which do not require expensive hardware and maintenance on their parts.

Cloud computing services are increasingly gaining popularity among enterprise customers, mostly due to the service-oriented nature of cloud computing, as well as the scalable nature of these offerings. With cloud computing, enterprises no longer have to pay for expensive servers, storage arrays and physical plant for these facilities. Rather, storage is offered as a service by cloud providers. Small businesses likewise get the benefit of spending for these resources as operational expenditure rather than CapEx, which helps minimize overhead and contribute to other cost-savings like tax expenditures.

Successful cloud implementations will require that businesses focus on finding the right kind of services, though. These will require some effort on their part.

  • Hybrid approach. Most enterprises are concerned about the security of their data, as well as Service-Level Agreements (SLAs) that would meet their data requirements. As such, many organizations are eschewing a purely cloud-based approach to a hybrid cloud computing deployment. This entails a mix of both public and private clouds, such as data and processes are shared both on public cloud servers, as well as on-premises infrastructure. Modern virtualization technology makes it all possible as a seamless experience for the enterprise, which also makes it easy for service providers to manage.
  • Application prioritization and testing. Not all cloud applications are built equal. As such, IT administrators will need to assess the viability of a cloud storage offering, and determine whether this is a good mix for their business. Experts recommend a tiered approach to cloud storage, with the public cloud being the lowest tier, in terms of reliability and security. As such, enterprises can place their most secure and mission-critical applications and data on a more secure platform, and keep those that are not considered critical in a public cloud setup.
  • Efficient organizational communication. Organizations are aware of the benefits of the cloud in terms of external service delivery. However, in terms of servicing internal clients, there are different requirements and IT departments will need to assess the viability of these cloud-based offerings given their own requirements.

Cloud computing is blurring the line between product and service, as well as between ownership and responsibility. As such, it will be the responsibility of an organization’s IT department to look into the viability of cloud computing and data storage, and efficiently utilize these resources for their organizations’ needs.

Top Cloud Trends that SMEs Should Consider

Cloud computing has permeated into almost every part of business, whether a big enterprise or small and medium business. According to analysts from Gartner, cloud computing is setting the stage for new approaches to IT that any business will need to heed. There is a need to consider how to acquire these products and services, especially in view of the differences in terms of packaging and licensing models. Cloud computing is already manifesting a significant impact on business and business services.

The trend is evolving rapidly, says Gartner vice president and fellow Mitchell Smith. As such, the consultancy firm considers cloud computing among the top strategic technology trends that small and medium-sized enterprises should address.

Gartner has provided five trends that will SMEs will need to address in the next three years, and that businesses would have to include in their IT plans.

  1. IT departments should foster a decision process for cloud computing. Gartner advises SMEs to consider their cloud options carefully, given the differences in business model, type of cloud deployment, and compatibility with existing data. Businesses should likewise consider potential vendor lock-ins, which can be a concern if a company wants to ensure long-term compatibility.
  2. SMEs can focus on a hybrid cloud deployment. Gartner believes that businesses are generally concerned about the privacy and security of their data. However, in these cases, a hybrid cloud deployment would be the best option, as such a setup can adequately integrate applications and data running between the public cloud and an on-premises setup.
  3. Cloud brokerage services (CSB) can help facilitate cloud setups. Service providers that act as brokers between cloud vendors and businesses can help speed up the adoption of cloud setups. Gartner expects CSBs to accelerate cloud adoption, although IT departments can themselves act as brokers between their own company and cloud vendors. Business units can approach IT departments or point persons in order to find the appropriate cloud setup for their needs.
  4. SMEs need to design for the cloud. With the cloud being a de facto standard in the business process today, businesses will need to design their applications with the cloud in mind. Gartner has advised that businesses should not look only into migrating their existing applications to the cloud, but to create cloud-optimized applications from the outset.
  5. Cloud computing will drive datacenter design in the future. The rise of the Internet as an essential business tool has given rise to businesses that cater to creating and hosting of websites. With the rise of cloud computing, datacenter infrastructure will be influenced by the popularity of cloud applications. According to Gartner, service providers will have to design their infrastructure with efficiency, flexibility and agility in mind.

Cloud computing is an essential part of business today, and IT departments will need to consider these trends in addressing their cloud computing needs. With the changing business landscape, IT departments will therefore need to ensure the viability of their cloud options, leading to better efficiency and productivity in the small and medium enterprise setting.


SMEs Not Afraid to Move to the Cloud

The Cloud seems to be an important buzzword in today’s enterprise setting. But apart from big companies and businesses, small and medium enterprises are also becoming interested in moving their data and processes to the cloud. A recent Dell Cloud Business survey across 450 SMEs in the U.S. has determined that a good number of entrepreneurs are interested in cloud integration.

The survey has determined a few interesting facts:

  • Almost three quarters of SMEs are integrating on-premise technology with cloud-based solutions through in-house developers and technology;
  • About 60% are actually writing their own software to integrate applications to the cloud via API;
  • 64% of SMEs want flexibility in integrating the cloud with their on-premises systems, due to foreseen changes in the future.

The main advantage of cloud computing is scalability. Unlike an on-premises solution, which requires a business to buy hardware, set-up network interfaces and train employees for use, a cloud-based system can be started with as little as a trial account. Resources can then be used and paid for on an ad-hoc basis. This translates to savings, given that businesses only pay for what they use.

However, integrating the cloud into one’s existing IT resources will require a few considerations, which are relevant regardless of business size. Whether you’re running a large corporation, medium-scale enterprise, or a small startup, you will need to create a cloud integration strategy in order to properly outline the steps to take in integrating your business into the cloud.

Here are a few simple steps.

  • Assess your data needs, as well as your resources. Not all cloud computing initiatives are the same, and each of these has its own advantages and disadvantages. Small start-ups may have different needs compared with bigger companies. Likewise, your requirements will differ depending on your industry, and budget.
  • Document data types and requirements. This will be important in determining the kind of cloud setup you need. This will also help determine if you will be better off with a purely software-as-a-service cloud setup, an on-premises setup, or a hybrid of both. Data integration tools can help your IT department save time and effort in importing or exporting of your existing data to your cloud setup of choice.
  • Take human resources into account. While cloud computing setups will mostly include support from a service provider, you will also need to make sure your IT staff understands the cloud deployment, and that other employees are able to use the tools efficiently.

Still, even with a big number of SMEs integrating their businesses with the cloud, some still have doubts and hesitations. 50% of SMEs have issue with their service providers keeping their end of the bargain, in terms of SLAs or service level agreements. About half also find it hard to explain their business processes to potential cloud service vendors, hence the difficulty in finding the right match.

Even so, SMEs are most comfortable with trying out certain applications first, such as customer relationship management (CRM) apps, which are considered an entry point to cloud computing for most enterprises.