2011 is set to be the year cloud computing really goes mainstream, as more and more businesses and individuals embrace this key technology trend. Analyst firm Gartner recently stated that cloud computing would be one of the top 10 strategic technologies in 2011, with many people exploring what the ‘cloud’ is, and how it can help businesses to become more efficient.

 

by Steve Ball, MD, Cloud 9

2011 is set to be the year cloud computing really goes mainstream, as more and more businesses and individuals embrace this key technology trend. Analyst firm Gartner recently stated that cloud computing would be one of the top ten strategic technologies in 2011, with many people exploring what the ‘cloud’ is, and how it can help businesses to become more efficient.

Until recently, many start-up and growing enterprises have viewed cloud computing as something which is not relevant to them. Without the time and resources to fully explore this new technology, many smaller businesses are not realising the benefits of cloud computing. But for many of these businesses however, utilising this new technology can help revolutionise IT and drive efficiencies and business success.
 

What is 'the cloud'?

In simple terms, the ‘cloud’ refers to the internet, and ‘cloud computing’ is when data or software is accessed via the internet as opposed to such resources being stored on PCs or servers based in the office.

For smaller businesses, a major benefit of cloud computing is its cost effectiveness – instead of buying a large server that you may never fully utilise, having a cloud solution using virtualisation technology means you can rent just what you need. It’s a much greener way of managing IT, and efficient in terms of space allocation as businesses don’t need server systems in-house, all data is stored remotely, in locations ideally suited to this purpose.
 

Affordability in terms of up-scaling is also key...

Affordability in terms of up-scaling is also key. We are all well aware of the importance of growth in business, especially in the current times when businesses are under more pressure than ever before.

Cloud computing is highly scalable and flexible as the business expands. Businesses whose IT is based on a cloud model will be able to quickly, easily and cheaply scale up their IT provision without the need for expensive new infrastructure. You just pay for the service you need when you need it and can be free to expand without worrying about any expensive up scaling costs.
 

Remote working potential

Alongside a focus on business growth generally, we are also seeing a trend in mobile working, as lone and flexible working figures increase. Flexible working can bring enormous benefits to business, especially start-ups, including reduced travel costs, increased productivity and retaining members of staff by allowing them greater flexibility.

Cloud computing is designed to be used at a distance, meaning no barriers to remote working and allowing staff to just as easily access data at home or on the go as they can in the office. So if we are faced with another barrage of snow next winter, and staff cannot make it to the office, cloud computing can help reduce the cost to businesses, as well as supporting a more efficient flexible workforce.

Whether staff are in or out of the office, cloud computing is secure and reliable. Instead of saving data and programmes on a server in the office, working with a data centre means your valuable information is saved in the safest possible environment. For many start-ups, losing all your data and documents could mean the difference between a successful business and disaster. Disaster recovery and back-up strategies are therefore key to many businesses’ contingency plans, and embracing the cloud means you have a far more robust strategy in place to best protect documents, important information and your business as a whole.

The cloud is an exciting development, arguably one of the most significant technologies for businesses in recent years. But it’s not just for large companies, in fact quite the opposite – smaller organisations can benefit enormously; from affordability to easily up scaling, supporting mobile workers to securing your businesses’ vital data.

These new developments can help newer businesses to drive forward their IT strategies and embrace efficient new ways of working. Cloud computing offers an exciting opportunity for many organisations to improve not only their IT provisions, but also bring in improvements across the business as a whole.