Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Pure Cloud for Small Business? How would that look?

As an IT service provider, it can be hard to take a step back and objectively examine the evolving small business IT landscape.  But unless you are a service provider whose been living under a rock (or, more likely, a couple of Dell Power Edge T310’s) for the past two years, it’s hard to miss the cloud evolution currently sweeping the land.

How will the evolution to the cloud impact small business?  Well, probably in the same way it’s impacting individuals.  Our phones and computers are connected to the internet constantly accessing data and services stored and maintained “in the cloud”. However, we still create, collect and store data on our personal PC’s and laptop hard drives. For some reason we are reluctant to let go and move our data to the cloud.

The same is true for small businesses. They too are reluctant to move their data to the cloud. Even though in almost all cases the data would be more secure and more accessible than it is on their own hard drives. Most small business owners cannot effectively articulate a specific technical reason for this reluctance. When small businesses become comfortable with providing a home for their data in the cloud they will realize significant benefits and savings in terms of IT expenditure and worker efficiency.

To make the case - lets say a small business completely embraces the concept of “the cloud” including moving their business data.  If all of their data were in the cloud, and the cloud they used was a pure cloud service like Google Apps, they could radically simplify their IT infrastructure.  They could use any kind of PC, laptop or mobile device for access to their data, email and intranets. All they really need is an internet connection (and even a connection is not necessary for synchronized data). The operating systems they use (coming soon) need only provide the connection to the cloud. Think Android, iPhone and Chrome OS as examples of a "connection only" operating system.  Even the configuration settings for the OS could be stored in the cloud.  If so, when (not if)  the user’s current device crashes, the new one would boot up looking just like the old one, with all of the user’s customizations and preferences already in place.  Instead of a day of downtime to replace a PC and a week to get the PC “just right” the worker is back to work almost immediately!  Wow, for us old “break fix” IT guys this might seem a little scary.

Another important new twist is the price of these new connection devices will be considerably less than the price of a current road warrior’s laptop.  Your cloud based applications, like Google Docs, would work the same no matter which device or operating system provides the connection. In addition, and of significant importance, those cloud based applications would be updated, upgraded and maintained by the cloud service provider. Last, but certainly not least, the applications are included with the service, think about the cost savings there! Potentially you could survive without a copy of Microsoft Office on every computer/device/...whatever! certainly is a brave new world!

The small business that fully embraces the cloud today won't be considered a bleeding edge beta tester of something new and perhaps fleeting, rather they will considered simply as "ahead of the curve" (and their competitors). From this old IT service providers perspective, the cloud is the way of the future, it really is coming, and it is coming fast!   At my Geeks On Call franchise in Charleston, SC we encourage our small business customers to consider Google Apps as the most cost effective, simple and productive cloud solution for small business.  Take a close look, it makes so much sense!


  1. Which business model do you think will work? Those that offer free access or those that offer free to premium (freemiums)?
    Microsoft should be getting worried about Google’s free stuff:

  2. Ryan, thanks for your comment. I think the freemium business model is here to stay and I agree with you (and Alan in his post) that Microsoft has a lot to be worried about. Google was practically born on a freemium business model and it fits so well SaaS/Cloud offerings. Microsoft needs to totally rethink their strategy in order to compete. In the small business space, price is always a factor, so free for some offerings is a good thing. Of equal importance is simplicity and reliability. I have said it before and it is still true, when it comes to cloud, Google is soundly beating Microsoft on the simple and reliable front.