CLOUD, CLOUD, CLOUD!  Is there a more pervasive buzzword in all of business right now?

Cloud computing is currently one of the most popular topics in the technology industry. Most business decision makers have had at least one vendor offering them a service or space in the cloud.  For small to medium businesses, the decision to move to the cloud can be a tricky one.  Here are a few questions to ask when making your decision to move your data or services to the cloud, and the answers you should be looking for:

What kind of cloud services are available to me?

There are two types of offerings: software-as-a-service (SaaS) and a custom-hosted solution.

SaaS is the most common and will typically be offered by a vendor of a service or software that you are already using.  Your line of business application vendors host the hardware and software for you, and deliver it across the internet in a web browser or client application.  This removes the need (and cost) of purchasing and maintaining hardware in your own infrastructure.

If SaaS is not offered for the software or data that you want to move to the cloud, you’ll be looking at a custom-hosted solution. In essence, this is similar to setting up a network inside your office, only at a datacenter or hosting environment.  Businesses can rent space on existing environments or purchase space in a datacenter to create their own cloud.

What costs are associated with a particular cloud offering?

When a SaaS solution is offered, vendors will typically license it per user on a monthly or annual basis.  There may also be costs associated with moving or converting your data and training your users.  These costs need to be compared to the costs of keeping your solution in-house.  This will be where the possible benefits of a SaaS offering will be most apparent.

In a custom-hosted solution, businesses will rent a piece of existing infrastructure, or space to set up their own.  In either case, the business will incur the cost of setting up the service, moving the data, configuring the delivery system, and maintaining the service.  In this scenario, the need for a cloud offering will probably be something other than financial, as the cost will likely exceed an in-house solution for small or medium businesses.

What type of bandwidth needs does my cloud offering require?

This is often the most overlooked question when discussing a move to the cloud.  With a SaaS offering, the vendor should typically have some metrics around this question that will have some specific answers for you.  In a custom solution, you will generally see a very pronounced increase in bandwidth usage because a delivery system for your data or software typically will not have been created.  For either solution, you should prepare yourself for an increase in bandwidth needs and costs and plan accordingly.

Written by Greystone Senior Consultant Bobby Sowder

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