What is the cloud? It’s not as scary as you might think.
the name evokes an image of ethereal, tough-to-grasp computer
technology, it’s actually something most people have experience using.
In the cloud.
Your free email accounts?
the cloud means your computer data and programs are stored in data
centers rather than your office. Data centers are facilities where
servers are housed and maintained by IT professionals.
computing has become popular in recent years for convenience, added
security and potential cost savings of not having to buy computing
hardware and have IT workers on site.
Surprisingly, the cloud is not new technology. It’s just undergone a name change in the past four or five years.
Mendenhall, executive vice president of cloud at Las Vegas-based
Switch, the largest data center in the world, says the cloud business
model has been around for some time, though there are new cloud
What was once called “hosted services” or “managed services” are now called “cloud services.”
the information isn’t floating around in the sky somewhere, as the name
“cloud” might suggest — it’s located in a real-life, on-the-ground
“The term cloud is very misleading,” said Jeff Grace,
CEO of NetEffect remote-managed IT services in Las Vegas. “To most folks
it suggests their stuff is off in ethers somewhere.
“To explain cloud computing in simple terms, it’s taking applications and data and moving them to a data center.”
Andrulis, CEO of Intelligent Technical Solutions, an IT company that
serves small and medium-sized Las Vegas businesses, simplifies the
definition of cloud even more: “It’s just your stuff in someone else’s
space,” he said.
Easy enough, right? With that in mind, here are the basics to migrating your business to the cloud.
IS THE CLOUD RIGHT FOR YOU?
Any kind of business can be migrated to the cloud.
Locally, cloud clients work in fields such as law, billing, construction, nonprofits, retail and accounting.
only candidates that aren’t a good fit at this time are an organization
running a lot of graphic-intensive programs,” Grace said, pointing to
companies who carry out intensive design and run programs such as
Autocad, Final Cut Pro, Photoshop or InDesign.
There are two main obstacles with hosting businesses who run 3-D design or video editing, Grace said.
the customer would need expensive, high-end hardware in the data
center, which could eliminate cost savings because the cost of the
specialized equipment could be passed on to the cloud customer.
clients wouldn’t get the same “real time” performance as if they were
doing something 2-D, such as Excel spreadsheets or simple documents.
In that case, it might be better to keep operations in-office, he said.
for most small businesses, the cloud is a good fit, said Dan Rodrigues,
CEO of Kareo, a cloud company that specializes in medical office
software and services.
Kareo, of California, recently bought Las Vegas-based Ecco Health medical billing.
practices have been challenged with tech because their only option
historically was to install on-premise solutions,” Rodrigues said.
lack of options required small businesses to buy their own equipment
and have IT services on site. Servers alone can cost tens of thousands.
cloud eliminates this problem, allowing businesses to pay only for
services, typically by the number of people who will access the account.
Andrulis says average fees range from $30 per user to $250, depending on what services are included.
The cost of using the cloud is typically 10 to 20 percent more than a business would pay for IT services alone, said Grace.
its core, cloud costs cover four categories: program licensing, for
services such as Microsoft Office; resources and infrastructure located
in the data center; data center support; and end-user or client support.
most small businesses, Andrulis recommends “hybrid” cloud services,
which includes hosted email and files, and general programs like
Microsoft Office, but no customized programs.
At the top of the
cloud services menu is a “virtual office space,” that includes
specialized or even customized programs, with a central line of business
applications, customer relationship manager package and accounting
Andrulis said the best candidates are people who work
from home or businesses that have multiple offices, eliminating the need
to buy costly or redundant equipment.
He warns, however, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.
should be realistic about their expectations of the cloud,” Andrulis
said. “A lot of people think of it as this magical thing that will solve
all their problems.
“The reality is it’s just a tool. You have to use it as a tool just like any other. It’s not for everyone.”
KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GETTING
If you think cloud services could help your business, the best thing to do is talk to a professional.
“If you ask 10 people about the cloud, you’ll get 11 answers,” Mendenhall said.
this reason, he recommends seeking out experienced cloud providers when
trying to learn about the technology. It will save time and the
headache of having to sort fact from fiction on the Internet.
than rely on solo Internet research, Mendenhall recommends asking a
trusted technical adviser or setting up a free consultation with Switch.
serves more than 500 customers from startups to Fortune 1000 companies,
including 45 cloud-computing companies locally and internationally.
few can help you navigate that space,” Mendenhall said. “We’re really
thought leaders in the cloud computing space because of all the cloud
companies we work with.”
Switch helps potential customers
understand the cloud landscape and decide what services are best for
them. Sometimes, that means more than one provider.
CEO of UpTime IT in Las Vegas, notes that it’s important to go with a
reputable company, one that has been around for a while and isn’t in
danger of closing and taking your information with them.
“Make sure you want to be with them for a long time and have faith they’re going to be around forever,” he said.
If forever won’t work, it’s important to know a cloud company’s policy about migrating out of the cloud.
migrating in can be pretty simple — usually a plan carried out over a
number of weeks — there can be expensive catches to getting your
“It’s easier to migrate in than it is to migrate out,” Rounds said.
a cost of thousands of dollars, customers looking to leave the cloud or
switch services would lose accounting records, transactional history,
forecasting and other reports.
“For small business, that could be very painful to lose your transactional history,” Rounds said.
a final consideration, it’s important to be able to identify the
problem you’re trying to solve by migrating to the cloud, Mendenhall
While cloud computing is a lucrative management tool, it
won’t improve everyday business on its own. A clear objective must be
“At the end of the day, the goal is for someone to
manage and own the infrastructure for you so you can focus at the
business at hand.”
Contact reporter Kristy Totten at [email protected] or 702-477-3809 .