Speaking with some entrepreneurs recently, I was struck by how much easier it is to start a company now than when I worked for a start-up 10 years ago. While I’m sure that investors are just as cautious with their funds now as they were then, the rapid rise of on-demand computing and The Cloud over recent years, along with advances in technology has made it easier, cheaper and faster than ever to set up an IT infrastructure.
Even though so many entrepreneurs are using Cloud products now than ever before, many are still uncertain about just what The Cloud is, and what benefits it offers them.
From a very high level, Cloud Computing usually has three main characteristics:
1) It is built on a shared infrastructure (to deliver economies of scale)
2) It is delivered over the Internet (as opposed to installed onto your PC/server)
3) It is billed on a utility basis (i.e. pay as you go computing)
There are many different types of Cloud products available that share these characteristics, with their ranks swelling practically each week as new innovations are released and as existing offerings are rebadged as Cloud. The most well known and widely used type of Cloud product is shared applications, or Software as a Service (SaaS). These applications can be anything from email solutions that are purchased on a per mailbox, per month basis, to CRM packages such as SalesForce. Start-ups can easily register a domain name online and purchase email accounts from a SaaS provider and have a working corporate email system up and running in hours, as opposed to weeks or months with dedicated systems.
Need a website hosted? Simple – upload your code to a shared web hosting platform like Rackspace Cloud Sites and your site can be up and running in minutes. Or if you need something more complex, why not sign up for a Cloud Server? These virtual servers are available in most operating system flavours that you can think of, and are paid for on an hourly basis.
Looking for a suite of productivity or Office applications? Instead of purchasing expensive licenses, sign up online for a virtual desktop product that comes with all the applications you need, or with Microsoft’s Office 365 or Google Docs. A few clicks of the mouse, enter your details and credit card and your IT system is up and running before you know it.
The benefits of Cloud are many – no more expensive capex payouts for servers and software licenses, the flexibility to grow quickly and pay only for what you use, and the lack of fixed term contracts all make Cloud an attractive proposition.
With the rise of the Cloud, it really does look as though 2011 will be the Year of the Entrepreneur as opposed to the Year of the Rabbit!