Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : June 2009

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Imagine this: You receive a bill from an IT company. It is not for consulting hours or a server installation, though. It is a monthly bill that comes along with your electricity bill and bank statement – and it covers your organization’s usage of equipment, software and managed network support services for the month. Sound futuristic? It’s not, and you’ve likely already heard about it – cloud computing. It has been identified in eWeek, Fortune and other publications as a “top tech trend to watch in 2009.” But what is it, is it right for you, and how could it potentially change the landscape of technological services?

What Exactly is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing refers to the practice of delivering software, computer applications and other IT-related capabilities to end users by a third entity – or “the cloud.” This delivery method could refer to the Internet or any other existing “mystery” provider. The idea is that you have no knowledge of where or how the provider is actually delivering these capabilities and that you pay for these services according to usage. Great examples of a cloud service can be found in the many photo-sharing sites. The reason that photo-sharing sites are a good example is because you don’t actually have any knowledge of where the photos are stored, how they are backed up, protected from viruses or even delivered to your computer. It is all “up in the cloud somewhere” – hence, “cloud computing.”

Benefits of Cloud Computing

• Removes the guesswork that impacts the bottom line. Business owners no longer need to fret over choosing the right hardware brand or configuration. They subscribe to receive the necessary hardware to run their business for a monthly fee based on usage. Plus, with cloud computing, if the organization’s number of employees increases or decreases, the organization is never left with excess hardware inventory, software licenses and/or support for the delivery of storage space and applications. And, there is no need to replace computers and servers every three years.

• Removes limitations. Cloud computing frees business owners previously limited by the capabilities of local computers, servers or IT infrastructure. There is no more stressing over adequate storage space or access to certain applications or programs.

• Cost-effective. Cloud computing reduces in-house IT infrastructure costs. With cloud computing, there is no capital expenditure, less investment risk and a consistent average monthly fee based on usage (as opposed to financing a big software purchase and installation up front). This means predictable operating expenses and easier budgeting.

Is Cloud Computing Right for
the Small-to-Mid-Sized Organization?

In a word, no. Cloud computing technologies as they exist now are only beneficial for medium and large businesses with multiple servers, and high availability application needs. The cost savings from these technologies will be realized in these types of environments first.

If your organization has three, five or seven servers, the technology as it exists today isn’t ready for you. It will be more expensive, riskier and you won’t realize the added value just yet. Not to worry, though, your time is coming. Right around the corner is a technology that combines cloud computing and virtualization – a hardware and software as a service combination.

On the Horizon…

Small and mid-sized businesses need not feel left out. The technology is coming that will allow you and your technology partner to implement cloud computing in your environment – for your scale. This means that you will be charged on a per usage basis for hardware and software services within your own network. It will combine cloud computing and virtualization technologies, making them relevant for the small-to-mid-sized organization – and be worth waiting for.

Last Word

The technology service provider and user landscape is changing. Offices without server rooms, complex equipment installations facilitated by a simple email or phone call, reasonable bills for services based on usage – all of these changes are in the near future for the small-to-mid-sized organization. Hardware and software as a service will provide access to enterprise-class technology that is affordable and easily scalable.

Heinan Landa is the president and founder of Optimal Networks, a comprehensive computer and network support services firm assisting small and mid-sized businesses, associations and law firms.

Heinan Landa is the president and founder of Optimal Networks, a comprehensive computer and network support services firm assisting small and mid-sized businesses, associations and law firms.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: June 2009

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