Hype, The Cloud, and Why Small Business Should Move Now | Business Technology

Just a little over 3 years ago (July 2009), Cloud computing was at a stage of the Gartner, Inc. Hype Cycle called “Peak of Inflated Expectations.” Gartner has since segmented Cloud technology into several components, most of which they now (October 12) show on the “Slope of Enlightenment.”I believe several components of Cloud computing are now at the”Plateau of Productivity,”especially for Small Business.At the beginning of the hype cycle, many different but related technologies are lumped together in one big family and given a catchy name. While this may be necessary in order to generate the excitement or “buzz” that motivates investment and product development (the trigger), it confuses many potential customers, especially those without ready access to technical knowledge – small businesses.Later in the hype cycle, each technology begins to be scrutinized separately and the group fragments into different components again. But, it can still seem to the less technical, like an all or nothing proposition. Small businesses need to understand what pieces of cloud technology are important to them and which pieces can be left for service providers and others to worry about.


Cutting through the hypeAll small businesses use electricity, but most don’t need to understand how it is generated. Virtually none of them generate it for themselves. Cloud computing can be thought of as a utility, much like electricity. Cloud computing encompasses many different outsourced data processing services. There are three major categories of services:IaaS – Infrastructure as a ServiceInfrastructure includes server and network hardware, operating systems software, backup systems, data center cooling, fire suppression and operations services like monitoring and maintenance. Companies that use only IaaS have to provide platform, application and other software, as well configuration and maintenance of the software.One of the promised benefits of IaaS is “on demand,” scalable processing power. It is hoped that when this technology matures, a more cost effective “metered” approach to billing for IaaS services will develop. IaaS customers will likely be larger businesses. They will migrate slowly by business unit and application. Some will deploy “private clouds” and many will adopt a hybrid of private and managed services clouds.PaaS – Platform as a ServicePlatforms are database systems and middleware – application, web, email and groupware servers. Companies using PaaS will also need IaaS. Like most technologies, once widely adopted, IaaS and PaaS services will move down market as they become more and more affordable.SaaS – Software as a ServiceSaaS includes applications like Salesforce.com, Google Apps for Business, and Microsoft Office 365. Accounting, finance, customer relationship management, expense reporting, project management and many other types of business software are available as SaaS.SaaS can be thought of as “off the shelf” application software. Most small businesses will be able to find all the SaaS applications they need to run their business. It is configurable and customizable, just like other “off the shelf” software, but with the major advantages that come with not needing to provision and maintain platforms and infrastructure.


Businesses using SaaS only need to worry about inputting, processing and retrieving their data. They access their applications via the Internet. Their employees need only a computer, web browser and Internet connection. Businesses large and small will benefit from greatly reduced costs for information technology. Existing IT staffs will need to become more business oriented and use their skills to focus on integration, solutions and training.Many SaaS cloud offerings available today are already in the “Plateau of Productivity” stage of the hype cycle. SaaS is secure, reliable and affordable. Remote computing, real time collaboration, and video teleconferencing are just some of the affordable features included in many SaaS products and services.Small businesses should start taking advantage of the cost savings, flexibility and capabilities of cloud computing now.

4 Steps for Managing Your Small Business Technology Costs

A few simple steps can help you make the most of your expenditures throughout the lifecycle of the technology. Servers, desktops, software, networking equipment and peripherals add up, but you do need them to keep your business running. Follow these steps to make cost-effective decisions.

1. Weigh Financing Options

Aside from purchasing, financing and leasing are viable options for a small business. Consider a combination of the three when going through the buying process. Installing and configuring the technology could also be financed and bundled into regular payments. Does the company you’re buying from provide “new and authorized by the manufacturer” sales? After you’ve got the equipment up and running, this could enable your company to get updates or enhancements directly from the manufacturer–and dealing with problems will be much simpler.

2. Warranty Wisely

Anticipate growth and business changes and decide whether or not the technology you are selecting today can carry you through these changes. Take into account the time that it will be considered useful for your business. To protect yourself when financing or leasing, align the term of the agreement with the warranty period. That way you’ll have protection direct from the manufacturer during the period of time you intend to own it.

3. Consider Total Cost

Prepare and budget for other costs to support your technology. For example, toner cartridges typically cost the owner or a laser printer two to three times the initial cost of the printer. Consider a program such as a Managed Print Service to include these costs in the monthly price. Typically this will lower the total lifetime cost.

4. Plan for Disposing of the Equipment

Considering your company’s strategy around technology disposal or recycling at the front end. There are basically 3 ways to properly dispose of technology at the end of the useful life:

Sell the equipment
Donate the technology to a school, non-profit, etc.
Formal Disposition – Certified companies will assure your computers or other hardware and software will be properly disposed of, including recycling and reuse of components. Another benefit: Your data is destroyed and made unrecoverable by professionals rather than relying on inexperienced staffers.

The total cost of ownership of technology includes more than the upfront price tag. Consider the total lifecycle costs of IT for your business, plan ahead and you’ll make sure you’re maximizing your investment.