At the recent Cloud World Forum event in London, I was a panellist in a Microsoft debate that looked at which new services will drive the future and uptake of cloud computing, and why cloud computing is particularly suited to small and medium-sized enterprises. We identified the following drivers for the future of cloud:
Technology should enhance a business and not disrupt it. Business people understand their business and they need technology that adapts to their requirements and not the reverse. Business owners don’t want to adapt their business to technology, which might require training the entire staff and potentially not turn out to be what the company needs. If they are happy with their familiar Microsoft desktop look and feel - why change it?
A cloud-based hosted desktop solution can deliver the best of both worlds. It allows business users to access their desktop and all their business applications seamlessly through the cloud, so they can enjoy a familiar user experience in the cloud.
The second point raised was that companies need tailor-made cloud solutions. Every business is different with its own unique requirements, and therefore the IT solution needs to be bespoke. We discussed that in the future, cloud adoption will involve technology that is completely aligned with individual business requirements.
Another key driver for cloud computing adoption is the flexibility it offers. To be competitive SMEs need to be able to easily upscale or downscale their IT when required. The IT solution must be cost-effective and give them access to their desktop from any location with internet access.
The ability to add or remove users in line with growth or peaks in demand for services is vital. If a business employs temporary workers or wants its employees to work remotely they need to be able to do this easily and seamlessly. Similarly, accessing systems from anywhere will be vital as employees not only use files and emails, but databases and applications.
We also discussed the fact that too much jargon and complex terminology is commonly used by the cloud computing industry. Cloud computing is often referred to using acronyms such as SaaS, PaaS, IaaS and MBasS. These terms can be misunderstood by business people and cause them to ‘switch off’. The hidden word that repeats itself within all these acronyms is ‘service’, and the one thing that will drive cloud adoption isn’t the infrastructure or the platform, but the service.
One cloud solution that ticks all these boxes is a hosted desktop. A hosted desktop is not only cost-effective, hassle-free and environmentally-friendly, it is probably the best technical solution on the market for SMEs seeking to adopt cloud computing. It provides business users with the freedom to work from any location, using any device and access their Microsoft desktop together with all their business applications.
The key benefit is that it maintains the customer’s experience, whilst removing the IT administrative burden. The solution can be completely bespoke and unique for every customer, and offers flexibility so the business can scale up and down as needed. It is usually provided with services such as the latest software, regular data backups performed by the provider and a help desk service.
Any business thinking about migrating to a hosted desktop or infrastructure-as-a-service model needs to have a clear understanding of how their company data will be stored, managed and protected - and must ensure they do their research thoroughly into the provider they intend to use.
It is now a legal requirement for companies to know where their data is being hosted. Last year, the Information Commissioner’s Office stated that companies are responsible for where their data is held, even when using third party vendors.
Companies should look for reputable providers and seek references from other customers and look for security accreditations such as ISO 9001, ISO 27001.