Cloud computing better for small businesses?

Cloud computing

Cloud computing providers may be keen to get the large enterprise contracts but a number of experts have claimed the technology is better suited to smaller firms.

During a panel discussion at the 360 IT event in London, executives from major IT companies sung the praises of what cloud computing could do for those with a smaller staff or even businesses just starting out.

Dave Allen, managing director of NetApp in the UK and Ireland, said: "I think small businesses will benefit massively from the cloud."

"I think you see many businesses today who leverage Google for example [and] I think for many of those companies the cloud is the only way in the medium term to get access to effectively enterprise class... robustness and resilience in a service for non-enterprise class investment with a limited up-front investment. For many small to medium sized businesses I think that will be a huge factor."

Gregor Petri, cloud computing advisor at CA Technologies, claimed the case with most small businesses was the tenth person they hired had to be for IT support. However, most firms didn't want to have to dedicate so much of their budget for this purpose.

"They don't want 10 per cent of their costs going to IT support... when often they are just fiddling with the other [nine employees] PCs all the time," he said.

"The cloud, for those kind of small companies, offers [an] option to no longer administer their [IT] and no longer manage it."

Petri warned the companies must ensure they know where their data is and that it is easy to get it back from the cloud provider if they want to move it, but concluded: "I really think for small businesses it will be a much bigger opportunity than for bigger ones."

Mateen Greenway, an HP fellow, agreed with Allen and Petri but said the interesting point will come when those small businesses grow.

"I think what is going to be interesting is the dynamic of how you shift from one type of service to another," he added. "Is there a cut off point as you grow in terms of size or where you say now I need an easy method of shifting from a cloud model to an outsource model?"

No answer was offered by the panelists but Professor John Walker, visiting professor of science and technology at Nottingham Trent University, concluded with an anecdote of his own experience of cloud computing.

"I have got a small company [and] I use cloud services," he said. "I have used them for two years... and it is really cost effective. For me as a company outsourcing is not an option, cloud is."

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Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott is a former freelance journalist and currently political reporter for Sky News. She has a varied writing history, having started her career at Dennis Publishing, working in various roles across its business technology titles, including ITPro. Jennifer has specialised in a number of areas over the years and has produced a wealth of content for ITPro, focusing largely on data storage, networking, cloud computing, and telecommunications.

Most recently Jennifer has turned her skills to the political sphere and broadcast journalism, where she has worked for the BBC as a political reporter, before moving to Sky News.