Answers in the Cloud
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Cloud computing services are offering startups and SMEs in emerging markets the tantalizing prospect of being able to expand into previously out of reach markets, while significantly cutting costs.
For Deepak Advani, the benefits of adopting cloud computing services in our part of the world are obvious. “I think cloud computing could be viewed as the great leveler of the playing field between small enterprises and larger enterprises,” explained the general manager of IBM’s Cloud and Smarter Infrastructure. “The cloud gives you the ability to go global immediately. I think it’s the great equalizer.”
Over the past couple of decades, companies in every conceivable industry have leveraged IT as a tool to build a competitive advantage, Advani said. But some companies have found this easier to achieve than others. “Very often smaller enterprises have had difficulty getting access to the right skills. Many of them don’t have an IT department,” he said. “So how do they still leverage IT to build a competitive advantage, serve their clients better, and be more efficient in their operations?”
A STRAIGHTFORWARD PROCESS
Cloud computing gives smaller companies the ability to access complex IT services without having to build up a dedicated team or spend a lot, up-front, to buy all the kit needed. “If you do end up acquiring a lot of hardware and software, very often you may not be fully utilizing the assets that you’ve purchased,” Advani warned. Moving to a cloud-based environment lowers your cost of acquisition and gives you greater utilization of your resources – you only pay for what you use. He said: “A good analogy would be if you want access to electricity. Do you want a socket in the wall and pay for what you use? Or do you want to build a power plant just so you can turn on a hair drier?”
The process of getting into the cloud world is very straightforward and quick, Advani noted. “If you want to access infrastructure as a service, you can provision a server and storage using a credit card, and start playing around with them within minutes.”
There are several cloud providers in the market offering a variety of services to companies. So which one should a small company choose? Some cloud providers focus purely on infrastructure, by offering computing, storage, and networking resources while others specialize in software solutions. “If you want to, for instance, run a marketing campaign, there are service providers who will provide you with access to higher level software,” Advani said. “There are different layers of cloud providers. A lot of it comes down to what the SME is trying to do.”
SECURING YOUR DATA
But before embarking out into the brave new world of cloud computing, Advani stressed companies should be confident their data is secure. “As you move into the cloud world, you really need to deal with companies that you trust; companies that will be around and that have the highest ethical standards when dealing with data.”
Cloud providers should be aware where their cloud servers are located, who they share them with, and who can access them. “In some countries, there are local laws and regulations that say [cloud servers] have to be within the country. Then you get into this issue of are you sharing the resources with somebody else, or is it ring-fenced and dedicated just for you? There are all sorts of authentication and access controls that need to be factored in. Can other companies see your data? To some degree these are issues that you need to deal with in a classic local IT [system] as well. But when you move to a public infrastructure, you have to be even more diligent,” he told Venture.
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