The cloud as the great leveller: bringing enterprise-grade insight to SMBs

How cloud computing levels the field

Over the last several years, the discussions amongst enterprises about the advantages and disadvantages of various cloud models have filtered through to decision-makers in businesses across the UK. Perception, as the adage goes, is reality.

Executives have heard of enterprises fearing that cloud-based solutions can result in sacrificing security, privacy and control of business-critical data, but they have equally seen examples of enterprises relying on cloud computing and enjoying many forms of competitive advantage such as savings in time and cost.

However, this is only scratching the surface: businesses are using cloud solutions to integrate and apply mobile, social, analytics and big data technologies.

So what is the truth? Or rather, what are the steps to making sure that when following in enterprise footsteps, they lead to cloud success? The real beauty of cloud services is that they can level the playing field, delivering enterprise-level insight, infrastructure and performance to organisations of all sizes – if deployed correctly.

Four deployment factors

There are four key factors for deploying cloud computing:

• Hardware and software offload: Adopting cloud-based services makes it easier for the company's IT staff to manage and maintain hardware, both of which are time-consuming and costly jobs. Readily available and easy to deploy cloud solutions handle patching, routine maintenance and systems monitoring – and it becomes a single, integrated process rather than a per-machine undertaking.

• Mobilisation of solutions: Cloud services are delivered using the most ubiquitous technology available, the web browser, which means that at any time, from anywhere with an internet connection, authorised users have access to the solutions they need. Furthermore, many cloud solutions have display profiles optimised for mobile device browsers, extending their availability and usefulness still further.

• Single platform, single view: Best-in-class cloud-based platforms that deliver and host multiple software solutions provide IT administrators with a single, consistent console that gives access to all of the components of the solution. This enables them to monitor and manage a variety of key services from one browser window or interface.

• Predictable and manageable costs: Cloud services are charged on a recurring fee model – usually monthly, quarterly or annually on a per-device or per-user basis. This model makes the cost for IT software and services more predictable and manageable. It also offers greater flexibility for purchasing services. Instead of paying for unused licenses in anticipation of company expansion or increased demand, user accounts can be purchased almost immediately as the need arises.

Simplifying things

Moving services and data to a cloud environment, or deploying a cloud service from scratch, does not require anyone relinquishing control – the cloud-based service provides separation and individual control for each organisation using the service. In fact, moving the management process to the cloud reduces software complexity and simplifies the process of overseeing the IT estate.

Cloud solutions that handle management, security and policy enforcement provide both a means and an opportunity to substantially simplify the IT estate. Cloud-based solutions facilitate using fewer management interfaces, delivering the ability to control complementary (but often separate) IT functions in a single interface, delivery platform and management structure.

Leading multi-service platforms, for example, merge a variety of services into a reduced number of touch points – possibly just one. As a result, the risk of duplicating effort and steeper learning curves across the IT team is reduced.

Immediate benefits of the cloud

In fact, cloud-based solutions pay immediate dividends in a number of ways, including:

• Greater flexibility: With a smaller data centre or server room to manage, or nothing to manage at all, the need to keep IT staff as a single-point fixed resource is reduced. One of the benefits of a hosted service is that administrators can work from branch offices, at home or in the field.

• Redeploying IT staff: With fewer on-premise management and maintenance tasks, IT administrators can focus on other revenue-generating or revenue-protecting activities (e.g. software development, data integrity management, fraud prevention, IT training, and research and development).

• Environmental protection: Fewer on-site server resources lower the amount of power a company consumes (e.g. reduced air conditioning needs to cool the data centre or server room). In turn, sacrificing that floor space is no longer necessary.

Advances in low-cost, high-speed internet services – and the widespread availability of Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G mobile broadband – extend cloud computing services virtually everywhere. Of course, delivering a quality web-based experience is merely one benefit. The growth of reliable, well-equipped data centres offers a multitude of operational and financial benefits, including lower operating costs, speedier deployment, rapid scalability, automated patching and product updates, and consolidation of hardware.

However, there is arguably one benefit that trumps all others: convenience. Best-in-class cloud computing offers multiple IT services that are delivered and managed from a single touch point.

A well-planned and well-executed cloud computing strategy does not replace a quality IT department. Rather, cloud computing enables the IT staff – and company overall – to work in a more efficient, productive and profitable manner.

  • Alistair Forbes is General Manager at LogicNow