Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Leveraging the Cloud

I love reminding myself how much power we have today with all the technology at our finger tips. The Cloud is bantered about quite a bit. Clouds can be used by small businesses and large businesses to reduce their expenses. For a very small business it’s the difference between survival and death. Many of the cloud services are free like Google Docs.

Today I was talking to a friend who designed a really great T-Shirt she wants to sell. She had even bought a press. She was trying to figure out how to create a shopping cart. I told her about www.cafepress.com which allows you to upload your logo and apply it to all kinds of products. They take care of creating a shop for you, processing credit cards, printing the logo on the merchandise, and shipping the order directly to your customer. But this is just one example of the cloud.

The fun thing about the cloud is its like the perfect spouse, everyone has a different view of what it is.  Let’s talk about what it means:

Data center
When a company uses a cloud for their data center it means that instead of buying a building, filling it with networked machines, cooling it, they buy space, speed from a company like Amazon.com.

Off the Shelf Applications
When a company uses a cloud for off the shelf applications such as emails, web conferencing, spreadsheets, word processing, contact management, blogs, wikis, sales lead software. These are hosted by the application service provider company. Instead of buying Word from Microsoft in a shrink wrapped package, they buy a login to the application service provider's web site which allows their employees to edit word documents.

Customized Applications
When a company uses a cloud for their customized applications such as custom inventory management system, they would hire an application service provider. The application service provider would document the company’s requirements and create an application and host it on the application service provider's data center.

When a company uses a cloud for a small part of their own systems such as credit check, address validation, they would buy a widget instead of creating that small piece. For example, if the company wants to have a credit card processing module, they can get one from a credit card service provider. These widgets then can be mixed and matched to meet their needs.

When you leverage the cloud, you can get more done with less startup costs. That will allow you to spend your money on your core competencies.

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