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How the cloud can benefit small and large businesses alike

The cloud is both the great enabler and leveller when it comes to businesses of all sizes. This HP whitepaper explains why the scalability and flexibility of the cloud delivers benefits of equal measure to both large and small firms. With rapidly changing business models being driven by the need to address online and mobile demand, and the challenge of managing the growth of big data in the business world, the cloud is seen as the ideal business platform in many quarters.

Cloud collaboration

The new IT service delivery model is based around collaboration, and designed to better support business performance improvements. Collaborative technology built around social media platforms, for instance, can reshape relationships within organisations, across supply chains and with customers, all with the cloud at centre stage. This is a natural progression, especially when taking into account the fact that consumers have been using cloud-based email and desktop productivity apps, built around services like Hotmail, Yahoo and Gmail, for years.

Cloud expenditure spells a shift

Increases in cloud expenditure represent a shift in spending from traditional IT assets in the data centre towards assets accessed in the cloud. IT demand is shifting from traditional proprietary and highly-customised assets to ubiquitous assets in the cloud that can be more widely shared.

The cloud is driving the migration from the "IT as a cost centre" model to a more business-centric "IT as a service" model. This new model of IT creates improved approaches at each critical layer of a modern IT architecture: infrastructure, applications and end-user access. This means that IT shifts from producing services to optimising production and consumption of those services in ways consistent with business requirements. This changes the role of IT from a cost centre to a centre of strategic value.

A cloud infrastructure using this principle leads to technology and services being delivered to corporate users and customers to enable them to do their jobs or complete transactions, for instance, rather than to support IT itself.

Agility in a post-recession economy

Businesses in the post-recession economy know they will have to react more quickly to change than ever before. Agility will be a key factor in building IT, as we see rapidly changing organisational structures. For both small and large organisations, the cloud is a key enabler of this agility. Organisations can reinvent themselves through cloud services to be better prepared for the new economic realities.

Cloud computing represents a shift in IT thinking similar to the just-in-time philosophy in manufacturing. IT service delivery models like software-as-a-service (SaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) can benefit firms of all sizes, as they reduce fixed hardware and software costs, as well as management costs.

An alternative to high capital expenditure

The cloud allows you to stop tying up capital expenses in IT systems that are costly and under-used, as a result of being loaded with unwanted functionality. Through the cloud you can get the exact IT services you need, when you need them, and only for as long as you need them. Small and large companies can pay for cloud computing services out of operational expenses, and pay for what they use when they use it. This is pretty agile from a technology investment angle.

The promise of cloud computing is to deliver on-demand computing capacity reliably. Services delivered from the cloud can be accessed from remote offices, from the road using mobile devices, or just about anywhere there is a good Internet connection.

Instant scalability

In a cloud computing environment, all organisations can increase and decrease the number of users of computing resources instantly. They can also provision new resources and stop using them when required. This provisioning is typically automated, further increasing business agility and saving money too.

Organisations are discovering that the scalability and accessibility of cloud-based services is supporting the new opportunities being created for the previously mentioned collaboration requirements, making it easier to open up applications, information and processes to partners, suppliers and customers. Because it is fast, easy and cost-effective to provide, with cloud computing companies of all sizes can also explore new ideas more readily. It can enable managers to arm their employees with tools to undertake their jobs in a much more straightforward manner than before.

The resources used can be increased and decreased instantly in line with business requirements. In a cloud-centered environment, IT effectively becomes commoditised.

Fledgling projects

Cloud computing is ideal for test-and-development needs, as companies can call on as much capacity as they need while products or services are in development. Those cloud project resources can then be scaled up if the product or service is moved to a production and delivery environment. If not, the capacity can be turned off or moved to another project.

With such an operating environment, smaller firms have a much better chance of competing in similar markets as larger firms, and therefore have a better chance of growing. With all these factors in mind, it is clear to most organisations that even if they don't jump feet first into the cloud straightaway, they must at least try and see what it has to offer.