Look to the Sky: Save Money with Cloud Computing – A Primer

Submitted by:

Charlie Tzoumas, Regional Vice President

Comcast Business Services

Not so long ago, it was a career killer to say that a businessperson had their head in the clouds. That’s no longer true. Placing key applications from your business in the “clouds” can save you a lot of money here on Earth.

“Cloud computing” is a new generation of computing that uses remote servers for data storage, hosting applications and data management. This new model offers significant advantages for fast-paced startups, small- and medium-sized business and enterprises alike. No matter the size of the business, cloud computing offers efficiencies, cost savings and peace of mind. Here, we’ll outline the benefits of certain cloud applications so that you can better protect, access and leverage your data.

Backup is one popular use of cloud computing that everyone should consider. Whether you’ve been in business for six months or six years, you likely have amassed data that is critical to your operations. You need to have a backup plan in case something unforeseen happens to where you store this data.

Traditional planning prompted business owners to place important data on CDs to be stored off site to guard against risk of theft, fire, flood or other event. Business owners were prone to forget to do their backups and often those backups were stored onsite. Today, business owners have lots of options to securely backup their data into a ‘cloud’ or servers hosted by trusted companies. One service, Mozy, allows users to upload photos, business documents, financial records and other digital files. And, backups can be performed according to an automatic schedule so there’s no need to take time from your busy business to backup files.

For businesses ready to move beyond backup and leverage other IT services in the cloud, there are tremendous cost savings. The Yankee Group recently analyzed one year’s cost for two email and messaging options for a hypothetical business of 25 employees. In one case, which we could call customary, the business relied on Microsoft Exchange and Outlook with servers located on premises. The other option allowed the business to use Microsoft Communication Services from Comcast Business Class – a cloud-based service.

In the example where technology is located in-house, the business might spend $14,000 a year on software licensing, maintenance and cost of servers, backup and support. With the cloud computing option – costs were cut to $2,463. That’s an 80 percent reduction in cost.

Cost savings might also be realized based on usage. Should your usage scale up or down, you pay for only what you need. Plus, when your business grows and you quickly need capacity – your cloud computing provider can support you.

Should you be ready to move to a cloud-based IT model, here’s a checklist of questions to consider. After all, your data is one of your most strategic assets. It’s wise to choose your vendors and plot your strategy wisely.

  1. Is the company credible? You’re placing your valuable data in the hands of another. Ask if they have security at all levels including physical, network, application, internal systems and operating systems security. Investigate the company as you would any major business partner. You’re safe with companies like Microsoft, and there are others that are highly regarded.
  2. Are my people well trained? There is always a risk when undergoing a major change – especially in IT. Before moving to the cloud or making any other major IT change, make sure you have a training and transition plan.
  3. Will I need to help to make the transition? Some businesses hire an expert to help them make the transition. You want to get it right if you are transferring your email from one system to the cloud. Considering bringing in someone who has done this before. Check their references.
  4. Is my recovery plan strong enough? An automatic backup plan is great. Surely, you will sleep more securely knowing that if there’s a business disruption, your data is safe. Yet a disaster recovery plan is more than about data. Your people will need equipment and know-how to get to the data during a disaster.
  5. Have I selected a telecommunications provider that will ensure that my connection to the cloud is reliable? There are many options when it comes to selecting a way to access your data.  Make sure you pick a provider that has a large network that promises minimal connectivity disruptions, while also allowing for easy scalability in case your needs change.

Cloud computing is a hot topic in the technology landscape because it can provide real business benefits. As you look to optimize your resources, this is an opportunity that is certainly worth exploring.

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