Starting a business? Choose the cloud from Day One
With cloud, computer systems can now be the easiest part of starting a business, says Brian Timperley of Turrito Networks.
Every business needs computer systems - and thanks to cloud computing, says Brian Timperley of Turrito Networks, that can now be the easiest part of starting out.
"There's a lot to think about when you're starting a new business," says Timperley; "products, pricing, location, hiring, contracts, accounts - the list is long. The last thing you need is additional worries about setting up an e-mail server, installing network cabling or buying computers. Fortunately, you no longer need to do any of that. Take five minutes to call a service provider and say you want hosted Exchange or Google mail with your own domain, and you can be sending e-mails and researching customers from the device of your choice within half an hour."
Timperley says most standard business applications are now available in a cloud-based version of sorts, from accounting packages like Pastel to Microsoft Office. "The big advantage, for businesses of all sizes, is that you no longer need to spend a large chunk of money upfront to buy application licences. Instead, you pay a monthly fee for access; moving software from your capital budget to your operating budget makes it much easier to manage cash flow. It also means you never have to worry about whether your software is up to date or not Brian Timperley of Turrito Networks - all updates and upgrades are applied automatically."
The big shift under way, says Timperley, is towards "utility-based access. We don't build offices with their own power generation plants or water treatment stations; those utilities are delivered to across networks of power lines and water pipes. In exactly the same way, computing is now becoming a utility that's delivered across a network; there's no need to have your own server in a dedicated and expensive room."
Some people are worried about whether cloud-based applications can deliver the reliable service they need; but, says Timperley, their fears are misplaced. "It's not impossible that a reputable cloud-based environment could go down, but it's extremely unlikely. The reality is that with a server in the corner of your own office you're one tiny, isolated island, reliant on limited resources to keep things running. With cloud you're a part of a vast ecosystem, directly connected to very well-resourced teams who monitor and support that ecosystem. If something goes down, everyone knows about it, and it's addressed by the professionals far faster than trying to deal with your own isolated outage. I haven't yet found an SME with a good reason not to choose cloud-based services."
There are two real risks business owners should beware of, adds Timperley. "The first is to make sure that whatever data you put into the cloud, you can get it back easily. Some service providers try to lock you in and impose penalties when you want to remove your data, or make it very difficult by using proprietary encryption. Archiving solutions are particularly notorious for this. If someone's offering a deal that is much cheaper than anything the opposition can come up with, be suspicious; look for the clauses about who owns your data. The whole point of choosing the cloud is flexibility - you should be able to change providers whenever you want. The low cost of entry should be matched by low cost of exit."
"The second risk to be aware of is that the moment you go with the cloud you are 100% reliant on connectivity," says Timperley. "It's becoming less of an issue as connectivity becomes more abundant, but you need to make sure you choose a reliable service provider, and that you have a backup plan in place. Lack of connectivity is true cloud's achilles heel."