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Friday, 14 June 2013

Friday Guest Blog: Are You Sitting on a Cloud Decision?


By Andrew Roberts, Managing Director, Pennine Telecom.

Once dismissed as a passing fad, cloud computing has now settled over the IT world, raining conflicting messages of its pros and cons down upon business owners and managers.
With the latest version of Microsoft Office suite now offering access to files and applications via a personal ‘Skydrive’ cloud, it’s definitely here to stay.  
But will a cloud make your business shine brighter? There are undoubtedly many benefits. Because resources are hosted remotely, cloud computing removes the need for an IT infrastructure, reducing both capital expenditure and costs associated with supporting it. There are other bottom line benefits too, such as lower fees for software licences and data storage. We’re talking potentially major reductions in overall IT spend.
As clouds give anywhere-anytime access they’re also likely to positively impact financial (and business) performance more subtly, with staff able to use both company and their own devices to catch up on work. In addition always-on connectivity promotes collaboration.
Clouds are also impressively scalable and flexible so, for example, you can pay for applications and storage only when you need them, with capacity for the latter all but unlimited. Cloud architecture is, as you might expect of an Internet hosted service, particularly robust with failsafe mechanisms in place to convincingly minimise the risk of downtime. Business continuity is also protected by back-up and disaster recovery services which are typically included within cloud packages, the cost of which tend to be much cheaper than traditional IT infrastructures.
The major con is, naturally, security. You need to choose your provider with care because you will be entrusting them with commercially sensitive and private data. You need to know they have integrity – including their financial status because if they go bump where does that leave you? Watch out too for any contractual “lock in” that might make it difficult to migrate to another vendor in future.
Overall the pros outweigh the cons which is why cloud services are fast catching on in the corporate world. But before you take the plunge make sure you get good advice on which of the four cloud models and multiplicity of vendors and contracts will best suit your business – because not all will have a silver lining!
The next IT Directors’ Forum will focus on the cloud, so why not join the debate on 19th June at The Point, Lancashire County Cricket Ground: http://www.gmchamber.co.uk/events/639 

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