Cloud Computing for SMBs
Jonathan Sapir, CEO, SilverTree Systems
"If something is a good idea, it's going to happen. And so, you can fight
it, or you can do it."
- Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO
requirements. No more expanding data
A major shift in the centers to make room for additional racks of
way companies servers to support a growing business.
Maintenance, scalability, performance,
backup, disaster recovery – all gone.
capacity is well
under way. It With cloud computing, you outsource the
promises to offer functions that don’t make you special to
small-midsized someone who specializes in them.
organizations significant cost savings and
exciting new opportunities. Instead of PLUGGING INTO THE GRID
making do with a small, under-resourced IT
staff trying to emulate the capabilities of IT Cloud computing is a truly disruptive
outfits with multimillion-dollar budgets, technology in the way that it delivers
smaller companies can now access superior capability at a lower cost.
enterprise-class technology with low up- Think of it this way - what if you had to
front costs and easy scalability. concern yourself with providing the
electricity needed to run your business? If
WHAT IS CLOUD COMPUTING?
there was no outlet to plug your lights and
machines into, you would have to go look for
With "cloud computing", the general term
for this new wave, companies can run every a generator, buy it, implement it, hire
information system they rely on without engineers to keep it running, make sure you
owning any tech equipment. The ultimate have backup, and make plans for any
goal of cloud computing for a SMB is to disaster that might befall such a critical
component of your business.
become a serverless enterprise.
It used to be this way, in the days before the
Cloud computing lets businesses rent access
to applications and IT infrastructure that electric grid, and being able to produce your
reside on the Internet, pay for them on a own electricity was a huge competitive
advantage. But once the grid was in place, it
subscription or per-use basis and provide
quickly became a major liability. Companies
employees with access to information from
anywhere at any time with nothing more that moved to the grid significantly reduced
than a connected device. No more hassling their costs, and they could focus on their
with software updates or growing storage business. In addition, having access to
cheap, unlimited electricity meant they developer doesn’t need to worry about
could afford to make use of electrical being able to scale up the hardware when
components that before may have been cost more users are added – the platform takes
prohibitive. care of this and everything else needed to
keep the application running. Force.com
There is a very strong parallel between this (for professional developers) and Coghead
and IT. In the same way that companies
(for analysts and power users) are examples
moved to the electrical grid, so they will
move to the computing grid in the
"cloud". Just like plugging your device into INFRASTRUCTURE IN THE CLOUD
an outlet to get electrical power, you point
your browser to the appropriate application Developers and system administrators
in the cloud to get the service you need. obtain general compute, storage, queuing,
and other resources and run their
DIFFERENT TYPE OF CLOUDS applications with the fewest limitations. In
this cloud type, virtually any application and
There are different flavors of cloud any configuration that is fit for the internet
computing for SMBs: can be mapped to this type of service.
Amazon is the prime example of this kind of
APPLICATIONS IN THE CLOUD
cloud platform. In some cases, application
Almost everyone has already used this form platforms run on this infrastructure (e.g.
of cloud computing in the form of Gmail, Coghead).
Google Apps, Wikipedia, Salesforce, etc. In
WEB SERVICES IN THE CLOUD
these examples, a company hosts a working
application on the internet that many users
Web service providers offer APIs that enable
sign-up for and use without any concern developers to exploit functionality over the
about where, how, or by whom the compute
Internet, rather than delivering full-blown
cycles and storage are provided. The service applications. They range from providers
being sold (or offered in ad-sponsored form) offering discrete business services -- such as
is a complete end-user application. On the Strike Iron and Xignite -- to the full range of
customer side, it means no upfront APIs offered by Google Maps, ADP payroll
investment in servers or software licensing;
processing, the U.S. Postal Service, etc.
on the provider side, with just one
application to maintain, costs are low INTEGRATION IN THE CLOUD
compared to conventional hosting.
Users usually plug into isolated cloud
PLATFORMS IN THE CLOUD services individually. This is particularly
inconvenient if you require data or
Application platforms are provided for functionality from more than one service to
developers to write their own applications complete a single task. But one of the major
and then immediately deploy them. The
advantages of being in the cloud is that most
applications subscribe to the same open FREE UP RESOURCES
standards, making integration much simpler
than traditional application integration. The When you subscribe to a web-hosted
goal of cloud-based integration is to treat application, you free your organization from
every enterprise as a node in the cloud that supporting high cost, time-consuming IT
can programmatically be accessed in the functions that are far away from the core
same way. There are companies like Boomi mission of your organization.
that are making this easier.
GET THE LATEST INNOVATIONS
BENEFITS OF CLOUD COMPUTING
With traditional licensed software, you
SAVE MONEY typically have to wait for the next release to
benefit from the latest innovations. Given
It is much less expensive to implement a the cost and complexity of moving to a new
cloud-based application than a traditional version, it may not even be practical to
on-premises application. upgrade each time a new release becomes
A typical software implementation involves
purchasing and maintaining servers, housing With a cloud-based application on the other
them securely, and installing and hand, you benefit from innovations on an
maintaining the software. This requires the on-going basis. As soon as a new or
time and effort of experienced IT personnel. improved feature appears in the application,
you can begin using it.
In the cloud, there is no hardware to
purchase, scale, and maintain, no operating PAY AS YOU GO
systems, database servers, or application
servers to install, no consultants and staff to When you subscribe to a cloud-based
manage it, and no need for periodic application, you pay a monthly or annual
upgrades. subscription fee. Compared to a traditional
software license, this subscription payment
SAVE TIME structure works to your advantage. An on-
going monthly expense is easier to
By eliminating many of the typical incorporate into your budget than a large
implementation tasks associated with one-time outlay. You can cancel or change
licensed software, deployment time tends to your subscription at any time without losing
be much shorter with a cloud application
a large initial investment. In many cases,
than a traditional one. The application is subscriptions are based on metered usage so
already up and running on the vendor’s you pay for exactly what you use. Rather
servers so you just have to get your data into
than making a long-term commitment to
the system. one fixed account structure, you can add or
subtract accounts at any time as your
organizational needs shift.
JOIN A SUPPORT COMMUNITY With traditional licenses, there is no strong
vested interest from the vendor perspective
In the cloud, you are not alone. When you to make sure the customer is successful.
subscribe to a cloud application, you become Cloud vendors, by contrast, must continue to
a member of a community that has the justify their ongoing monthly fees. They have
application at the center. This community to make sure the customer is happy with it
can help you when you get stuck, and give month after month.
you ideas on how to leverage the software
even more. BUILD LONG TAIL APPLICATIONS
GET INCREASINGLY BETTER SOFTWARE Cloud-based development and deployment
platforms make feasible many software
One of the more subtle benefits of cloud solutions that were previously too costly to
computing comes from the fact that vendors build. Eliminating the need for
constantly monitor how their customers are infrastructure (both hardware and software)
using the application. Awareness of how means the start up, deployment and support
customers in the aggregate are using an costs for an application are significantly
application presents the vendor with a reduced.
constant supply of metrics they can use to
improve usability, performance, and BE ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLIER
functionality. In addition, when you contact
technical support, you’re likely to experience Cloud-based computing facilitates higher
use, economies of scale and efficiencies
faster and better service because support
professionals can see exactly what’s which leads to more work done per unit of
happening – there are no installation- energy consumed.
specific variables to be considered.
ENJOY BETTER SERVICE DELIVERY
The risk involved in implementing business
applications is eliminated the need for up-
Because of tremendous economies of scale,
cloud-based vendors can provide higher front capital investment.
service levels than the vast majority of
SCALE MORE EASILY
companies can achieve on their own. The
best technologies, policies, and procedures Successful businesses are continually
are used to ensure security at the facilities, changing and growing: employee growth,
application, and network level; to ensure transaction growth, the launching of new
maximum uptime and continuous products and services, mergers and
availability; and to provide a high acquisitions, or any number of business
performance level. events can dramatically and suddenly alter
In addition, the interest of the vendor and business needs. A cloud-based platform will
their customers are much better aligned. automatically grow, scale, and adapt with
your changing business – without you even put safeguards in place to ensure near
thinking about it. constant availability of their applications.
The major player like Amazon have full
SPARK INNOVATION hardware redundancy to avoid
consequences from equipment failure,
The ability to get new projects off the redundant power supplies to avoid
ground quickly is a huge enabler of consequences from a power failure, and
innovation. Also, the ability to re-allocate IT scalable server farms that are able to
resources means that IT can focus more on immediately meet a sudden increase in
new initiatives instead of maintain the demand.
WILL I LOSE CONTROL OF MY DATA?
When you subscribe to a cloud service, your
Once you are in the cloud, you can do things application data is stored on the vendor’s
that were really difficult to do using servers rather than on your own servers. If
traditional means. Each site becomes a you’re concerned about losing control over
service that can fit together like cogs in a your data, most vendors will allow you to
machine. easily export my data in a format that you
can re-use if you need to.
HOW TO GET STARTED
IS MY DATA SECURE?
For most organizations with an existing IT
Security and privacy are concerns whether infrastructure, moving to the cloud will be a
you subscribe to cloud service or purchase journey. There are many different ways to
software and implement it on in-house get started:
servers. A cloud vendor you can trust offers
BUILD A NEW CUSTOM APPLICATION
you the level of security you need while
saving your organization the expense and
Instead of building your new application the
effort required to house, deliver, and back
traditional way, build it in the cloud using
up an application. It’s very similar to
one of the new cloud platforms.
keeping your money in a bank.
An example of what you might use is for this
WILL MY APPLICATION BE AVAILABLE? is Coghead. It combines a strong rapid
application development environment with
Cloud applications are not a new, untested
the ability for tech-savvy end users to tweak
software delivery model. NetSuite and
business logic on their own. In addition, it
Salesforce.com have been around for more
renders the finished application in Adobe
than five years and have hundreds of
Flex, a rich and appealing user interface, and
thousands of subscribers, including large
stores all your data on Amazon's Elastic
Global 2000 organizations. Reliable vendors
Compute Cloud (EC2) infrastructure. Finally,
Coghead makes it easy to integrate with become part of a core process but no one is
external data sources, including everything really sure how it works.
from ERP data to Google Apps.
ADOPT PRODUCTIVITY TOOLS
ABANDON DYING TECHNOLOGY
There are significant advantages to be
This is a great opportunity to re-write an gained by starting to use cloud-based
aging application by using technology that is productivity tools at very little (or no) cost.
at the beginning of its lifecycle.
An example is Google Apps, which offers a
Replacing your old applications will not only comprehensive, easy-to-use and affordable
get rid of the servers they run on, but will option. You get: online, real-time
also allow you to take advantage of services collaboration for documents, spreadsheets
on the Web that can dramatically enhance and presentations; Google Sites, a shared
functionality and productivity. And it need space to store information, upload files and
not take years to develop what you facilitate discussions; an email system
need. Platforms like Coghead make it much accessible from anywhere and offers
faster to develop custom applications, and powerful functionality.
to even allow non-technical users to tweak
the software as needed by changing MIGRATE SUPPORT APPLICATIONS
business logic without programmer
intervention. There are very powerful and inexpensive
cloud-based online contact management
MIGRATE SPREADSHEET APPLICATIONS systems. There are ready-to-go options like
BigContacts or Highrise and easily
All enterprises have applications that live in customizable ones from companies like
spreadsheets, because a spreadsheet was Coghead. More sophisticated packaged
the only tool available. There are cloud- options include Salesforce, and some of the
based tools that are much better suited to accounting packages like NetSuite have
applications that have outgrown the sophisticated CRM built-in.
Another application that is relatively easy to
Typical candidates are: spreadsheets that migrate is content management. There are
have grown into multiple tables with a tools like Squarespace which offer a
tangle of forms and formulas; spreadsheets complete service for building and managing
that are frequently emailed to co-workers or your Web site with all the functionality an
clients for data collection and synthesis; SMB is likely to need. A tool like this can
spreadsheets that live on a shared drive to save an organization significant time and
enable multiple parties to access and update money.
it; spreadsheets that have a version or
revision number; and spreadsheet that have Project management software is one of the
applications that has really benefited from
moving to the cloud by making collaboration email. This will lead to new opportunities
and communication much simpler. There for improving efficiency, effectiveness and
are numerous options, including tools like innovation.
Basecamp and LiquidPlanner.
MIGRATE CORE APPLICATIONS
BUILD SITUATIONAL APPLICATIONS
If you are considering changing your
Sustained competitive advantage will accounting system, the cloud is the obvious
increasingly depend on enabling self-reliant choice. There is no advantage to be gained
employees to create their own software by keeping your accounting on your own
solutions to meet their business needs. servers and dealing with software upgrades,
These solutions are increasingly grouped backups and disaster recovery plans.
under the term “situational applications”
(SAs). There are several options available. Intuit,
makers of Quickbooks, offers a not so great
SAs are solutions aimed at solving but serviceable online version of
immediate business challenges in a cost- Quickbooks. But there are exciting new
effective way by specifically addressing alternatives like FreshBooks if your needs
the situation at hand. are limited, or Intacct if they're not. And
then there is NetSuite if you are really
SAs are often applications that have growing or your needs are complex, and
generally been inaccessible in the past need a fully customizable platform.
because software has been too difficult to
write, too costly to implement, and too CONCLUSION
brittle to customize and maintain once
deployed. The sooner you get started, the sooner you
will be able to get rid of your IT
Cloud computing has spawned a new wave
infrastructure and start saving money. And
of tools that effectively address these
once you get to the cloud and start realizing
problems. These tools empower business
all the advantages it affords you, you'll
users closest to the problems being solved
wonder why it took you so long to make the
to quickly build full-featured collaborative
business applications online and
immediately deploy those applications to In fact, as cloud computing matures, we'll
the appropriate people both inside and see small companies rely on the cloud for
outside their organization. more and more of their technology needs,
gradually eliminating the costs and
SAs significantly reduce or even eliminate
complexity of in-house IT infrastructure.
the need to hire professional software
developers, purchase or build a new Cloud computing levels the playing field for
software application, or throw together a SMBs. The cloud makes leading-edge
suboptimal, inefficient and incomplete technology available to everyone.
solution using tools like Excel and
ABOUT SILVERTREE SYSTEMS, INC.
SilverTree Systems specializes in helping
small-mid size businesses (SMBs) accelerate
their adoption of on-demand software
solutions. Our services include the
SilverTree works closely with small-midsize
companies and business units of large
organizations to determine how cloud
computing can radically improve business
processes, help reach new customers, solve
problems and penetrate new markets.
Our seasoned team of professionals has a
history of delivering solutions on time and in
budget. We combine proactive project
management, a proven agile methodology,
and a mastery of programming to guarantee
success for our clients.
SilverTree provides a complete set of
incubation services for organizations (or
individuals) that want to package their
knowledge and sell it as a service over the
Contact jon@SilverTreeSystems.com for