From its very beginnings in 1958 when Harold Leavitt and Thomas Whisler coined the term “information technology”, technology has always been instrumental in shaping organizations. While Leavitt and Whisler’s definition of “information technology” over the past 6 decades has evolved with the emergence of newer technologies, their 3 main definitive themes still hold true today.
- Techniques for processing
- The application of statistical and mathematical methods of decision-making
- The simulation of higher order thinking through computer programs
Today, large enterprises and small businesses alike, utilize the rapidly growing technologies as a means of survival. In addition, the exponential growth of IaaS, PaaS and SaaS such as the rise of the Amazon Web Service (AWS) in 2006 and Microsoft Azure in 2008, has forced organizations over the past decade to recognize the undoubtable position of these cloud-based technologies.
This begs the obvious yet important question, how are large and small businesses impacted by ‘the cloud’?
Cloud Life, Work Life, Personal Life
The days of showing up to work in your sporty new Chevrolet Celebrity, working 9 to 5 and then “leaving” the office are long gone. Listening to U2 on iTunes while checking your personal Gmail account and accessing your organization's OneDrive for Business documents simultaneously all share a single commonality…..wait for it… storage located in the cloud!
This example is one that is rapidly becoming increasingly popular for many individuals and organizations, which creates a very blurry line for the work life / personal life discussion.
Cloud-based technologies, as with any product, bring a list of positive and negative elements that should be identified and understood.
A major upside all cloud services provide is the flexibility to access content anywhere at any time. For parents, this means more opportunity to work from the comfort of their own home while watching their kids. For another individual, this may mean creating their very own freelancing career utilizing this flexibility to the fullest.
Likewise, one potential drawback is the hard to define line of when to work and when not to work. An example of this could be a manager becoming overwhelmed if he or she is unable to find a clear separation of responding to work email on mobile devices.
Organizations Depend on the Cloud Today
In the recent 2015 State of the Cloud survey, “55 percent of enterprises report that a significant portion of their existing application portfolios are not in the cloud, but are built with cloud-friendly architectures”. In addition, it was reported “68 percent of enterprises run less than a fifth of their application portfolios in the cloud.”
Although it’s staggering to realize how cloud services have impacted organizations in such large numbers over the past decade, it’s even more staggering to think less than 20 percent of app portfolios are cloud-ready as of today. These results potentially signify increasingly higher volumes of enterprises eventually using apps such as email, CRM portals, project management, time management, training portals, development and testing environments in more flexible, low risk hosted solutions.
Not only will these cloud solutions provide low cost storage with no administrative overhead such as weekly server patching, but it will also consist of high availability, worry-free disaster recovery, legal and compliance features such as auditing and much more. In the event a potential cloud service is unavailable, therefore resulting in a financial loss to an organization, cloud services such as Microsoft will financially back their products as we have seen with the Office 365 Service Level Agreement stating a “Financially backed guarantee of 99.9% uptime”.
The Cloud and What It Means for Small Business
A 2014 Microsoft report for the National Small Business Week reported that although 86 percent of small businesses understand the importance of cloud services, a whopping 70 percent aren’t using these solutions.
Why, you may ask. Stripping it down to its simpliest parts, the issue is all about time and value. Kirk Gregersen, general manager of Microsoft Office was quoted in a blog post as saying “small businesses need cost effective, secure and reliable solutions that enable them to be product from anywhere, and they have very little time to implement and manage those solutions.”
Fast forwarding to 2015, Kirk and the Office 365 team have made major strides to account for these concerns with third party sites such as GoDaddy offering services in an effort to help small businesses setup their portals from start to finish through their “online essentials” package.
While Microsoft and some of the other high-profile brands offer excellent configuration services with their products, there are 3 ways cloud-based services that can potentially assist small businesses in a sizable manner. (David Eisner, 2014)
Much like leasing a car, smaller organizations should seriously consider “renting” server space on a month by month basis to eliminate the cost and time of upgrading and patching.
Scalability will allow smaller organizations the ability to scale up to national and even global levels without major hardware or resource costs. Simply scaling up or down based on the amount of storage needed will save these organizations time, money and headaches.
As more and more smaller companies pop up in sectors such as small vendors, it is critical that businesses utilizing basic cloud-based functionalities like file synchronization through products such as OneDrive and create dedicated team sites with a platform such as SharePoint.
The flexibility of using a portal such as SharePoint allows team members to collaborate, work on, and view history on the documents that they need then and now. SharePoint and other similar platforms can also add additional “nice to have” features such as auditing, compliance options, and automation through workflow.
If you were to ask the dude beside you ‘what is the number one concern with the cloud?’ most likely he or she would respond with “security”. Don’t believe me? Go ahead…ask.
On a more serious note, the topic on security is, well… a serious matter. Cloud solutions such as Microsoft’s Office 365 portal have dedicated teams of “simulated hackers” that work continually to eliminate any potential threats outside hackers may create. For more information of their security measures, check out the Office 365 Trust Center.
With more and more PaaS and SaaS products dedicating more and more time and focus on keeping your data safe, the concern of “high risk” security shouldn’t be an issue for small businesses. Some other common storage platforms and their security commitments are Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive.
Cloud Services and Its Effect on the Jobs and the Economy
The potential positive impacts cloud services have economically can be transformative. By providing individuals and enterprises alike access to analysis, software, computing power and other services, these technologies could deliver a substantial rise in productivity along with entirely new business sectors.
Although measuring the economic impact of these cloud technologies has been more challenging than not, there have been reports of these technologies impacting industry structure, labor markets and productivity. With only a very general understanding as of what cloud services mean to the economy, we only can speculate that the number of potential gains exceed any doubts or concerns users may identify.