AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Application, Cloud, Virtual

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    Cloud Computing and Virtual Applications for Small to Medium Businesses.

    Keeping costs down is vital for any business to maintain its ability to compete. IT infrastructure is a key part of most modern commercial enterprises. Software applications are used across the board, from communications to office management to production control.

    As a business grows, there comes a point when it may have to employ one or more individuals to administer the IT systems. Securing server environments can involve major expenditure on resources like fire protection and ambient atmosphere control.  As the business may not be able to function if a server goes down, it will be forced to invest in comprehensive hardware backup systems to protect it from this eventuality. Data backup is also of prime importance, and requires additional resources.

    Investment in application software increases as new employees join the business. The most popular software applications are sold with a specific number of user licenses, and once a business reaches its limit, it has to buy more licenses to stay legal. As new versions of software are released, the business will eventually have to upgrade its existing applications, resulting in more expenditure.

    The total expenditure on the IT arm of a business can be substantially reduced by switching to a cloud computing environment. The only difference between using cloud computing and traditional computing is in where applications and data are stored. With cloud computing, everything is stored remotely, while in traditional computing everything is stored within the business.

    Cloud computing should not be confused with distributed networking. For example, a company may have offices in New York that link to its headquarters in Boston. The core of the IT infrastructure is the server network in the headquarters, and all data is stored there. Even though New York employees will be connected to the servers in Boston, this is not cloud computing.

    When a businesses chooses cloud computing, it usually signs up with a third party that provides the hardware and software resources. The business does not have to concern itself with the physical hardware structure of the cloud service provider. In other words, the location of the servers in the cloud is unimportant.

    By opting for cloud computing, a business will no longer have to install servers in its own buildings, and will not need server support staff or ancillary hardware for backing up data. These facilities are provided by the cloud computing company.

    Using cloud computing for backing up data has been popular for some time. The advantages of storing data remotely are very clear. Should a disaster happen, like flooding or fire, for example, valuable data are not lost. A business so affected could quickly set up in different premises, greatly reducing the overall impact of the disaster.

    A more recent development in cloud computing is the provision of application software in the cloud. This should be of particular interest to small to medium firms. When a firm signs up to use remote applications, it no longer has to purchase usage licenses. It can reduce its expenditure on hardware because it can buy lower specification computers.

    Using virtual applications also means that the company will not have to worry about upgrading its applications. Applications will be upgraded automatically by the cloud provider.

    Any small to medium business should consider changing to cloud computing. Businesses that are about to expand their IT department should definitely explore the cloud computing option before hiring new IT staff.