Manas Kumar, Thinking out Loud

my thoughts & visions for technology

How much of your business is in the cloud?

with 2 comments

Cloud Computing Information Super Highway

Cloud Computing Information Super Highway

Hello readers…what a month this has been. I must admit, this month has actually been busier than any other “June” in the last 7 years of my business history. I guess it’s a good thing – I’m not complaining… Anyway, but before I shoot off on a tangent, let me bring your focus onto something that you as a business need to be thinking about going forward.

I am certain that most of you (one of my 8,000 odd readers) would have come across the term “Cloud Computing” – well if you havent then here you go – Cloud Computing.

Here’s how our corporate website defines it

http://www.genesisweb.co.nz/genesis+interactive/content/What+is+cloud+computing/58

Here’s how I personally define it – The central nervous system of the operating system of 2017.

I believe that by 2017 (if not sooner), as many as 85% of business computing will be done through the cloud. If by any chance IBM ends up mass producing the A16 quantum computers (ask Michio Kaku on You Tube what a quantum computer is or simply watch Terminator- Sarah Connor Chronicles on TVNZonDemand.co.nz) then the convergence toward cloud computing will be a lot quicker.

Anyway, by now you are sitting there thinking, “that’s all very nerdy Manas but what does it have to do with my business – my small business on the other side of the planet with less than 5000 customers – is cloud computing for me?”

Well yes. But let me share with you some practical applications.

Email
Without actually realising it, since 1996 if any of your emails are hosted through a domain (e.g manas@genesisweb.co.nz as opposed to manas@xtra.co.nz), chances are you have been using IMAP to send and receive emails. IMAP by its nature is a server based email protocol – English: This means your emails sit on the server (this my friend is nothing else but the cloud). If you are not using IMAP (then you must be using POP3) I strongly suggest you speak to your IT providers or your ISP and get working on moving to an IMAP based mail system.

The real benefits are that you will gain mobility in the way you handle your emails. For instance, I have my main email address setup as IMAP. I have the same mailboxes then replicated across multiple devices. When I am on the road, my emails come to my iPhone (which both my son and I absolutely adore), when I’m in the office I am using Thunderbird or Outlook (depends on whether or not I have any compassion left for the day toward Microsoft), when I am out and about or at a clients office I am using my Live CRM mail client or Apple Mail. At any given time all my mailboxes show me the latest snapshot of my emails – everything is synchronised, everything is 100% up to date – I love it. I’m sure you will too.

Document Storage and Backup
Regardless of popular misconception that online is not the safest place to store critical business documents, it is fast becoming the preferred option for many smart business operators. Look, we have to get past the point of thinking that the internet is not a safe place. Well in actual fact the internet in general is safer than your own private network. If you are using proper firewalls (at the router end) along with a secure browser like Firefox or Chrome (don’t get me started about IE) over a secure connection, you are as safe as safe can be.

The fact that people die driving, does not stop you from driving, so why should hacks on the internet stop you from using it for what it was built for?

There are several good online backup and storage sites online that can provide you with the appropriate tools to keep your time critical business documents on the Cloud. This way, you save the cost of upgrading your hardware or expanding disc space and also make sure that you have your business documents available on demand, when and where you want it.

Also, what would happen if your office got broken into and you lost your computers? At least these off-site data centers are secure and often have multiple layers of redundancy in terms of data and power outages – which I can bet you dont have in your business currently.

Word processing
Go checkout Adobe Buzzword. I love it, several of my team members love it and I think it is a fantastic product (although still has heaps of room for improvement). Buzz Word is the ideal replacement for MS Word for businesses who want to be completely cloud driven.
http://www.buzzword.com

Spreadsheets
If your excel spreadsheets are mainly to store tabular data then you should really consider trying Google Docs. A spreadsheet that is online can be shared with multiple people at the same time allowing users from different locations to collaborate and contribute to the sheet. Cross compatibility wiht MS Excel means you will not lose any functionalities if you open your xls files in Google Docs. Worth a look
http://docs.google.com

Powerpoint
Google has tried it. I am not convinced the Cloud Computing model is there yet to handle such graphic intensive tasks such as presentations. This is a work in progress. However, feel free to checkout slideshare…
http://www.slideshare.com

Contact Database
Here comes the plug – Live CRM. You need to check it out for yourself (unless you havent already done so)
http://www.livecrm.co.nz

Telecommunications
For this I have two choices. Skype or pure VoIP. VoIP is a fantastic way to reduce telco costs and increase efficiency across all levels of communications – both internal and external. I also encourage you to explore VoIP as an option for your business. For starters, the cost savings alone provide a great business case to ditch Telecom

Now I know some of you may have strong opinions about moving everything to the cloud – I’d like to know them. This is so that my other readers can get a deeper understanding about this issue. If you post a comment, it will be placed on the blog unedited – I believe in the freedom of speech…so tell me what you think?

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2 Responses

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  1. I’d add cloud-based CRMs to this as well, with Salesforce being an example. I guess I fall into one of your readers that has a strong example of moving everything to the cloud, but there’s a reason: With Salesforce (http://www.salesforce.com), Google Apps including Google Docs (http://www.google.com/apps/), and cloud-based communications provider Onstate (http://www.on-state.com), a company can provide everything an employee needs–CRM, email, wordprocessing, spreadsheet, presentations, and a phone system–for less than $150/mo for each employee. Oh, and no CAPEX here, either. Plus, everything’s backed-up in the cloud, so redundnacy is inherent, and you’ll never again lose employee time because of a computer crash. Pretty cool, if you ask me.

    Virtual Call Center

    June 17, 2009 at 5:16 pm

  2. I am a believer in this for 2 reasons. 1. Cost efficiencies real enough to make it a significant cost saving. 2. Flexible access to email and files when moving around.

    The adoption of mobile phones initially was slow but the opposite now eevryone has one and some choose not to have a land line phone. Mobile Computing is in my estimation the next big thing… and the “cloud” is the way.

    Murray

    June 22, 2009 at 10:53 pm


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