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Can I Run My Business In 1 Cloud? And By The Way, What Is “the cloud?”


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By Mike Kean, Altico Advisors

When it comes to “cloud computing”, the buzz goes on and on.  Business owners are wondering, does it make sense for us to move applications and data to “the cloud"?  They ask their IT consultants to do the research and make a recommendation.  Our advice is, before you spend a lot of time investigating “the cloud”, you should understand that “cloud” come in many different colors.  

Pure Cloud Applications – Applications like NetSuite, Dynamics CRM Online and Salesforce.com are written and fully maintained by an Application Service Provider (ASP).  Everyone using the application is on the same version of the solution and the only option available is to use the application over the Web.  Typically the applications are paid for on an annual or monthly subscription basis.  The only thing you own is your own data.

Hosted Applications – These are typically applications that could be deployed on premise but are deployed at a hosting center instead.  The Microsoft Dynamics GP and Dynamics CRM solutions are great examples.  In most cases you can either rent or buy the software.  And then, in addition to the cost of buying or renting the software, you pay a monthly fee to access the application at a hosting facility.  This allows you to avoid maintaining the application and the hardware in-house.

Custom Cloud Applications – Using a platform like Windows Azure you can develop custom applications and only pay for the actual usage of these applications.  These types of platforms allow you to write software specific to your business and pay for it as you use it.  Many companies who have written applications in Microsoft Access and other tools can start to look to “the cloud” to solve unique business requirements.

We work with hundreds of Microsoft Dynamics clients and prospective clients every year.  In many cases we find that their businesses have changed over time and the result is islands of information and megabytes of redundant data that reside in various applications from Excel to software systems designed to address unique issues.  All of this data needs to be up to date, but due to redundancy and the multiple systems in which the data is stored, you can’t be confident that you’re accessing the most current and accurate information. 

[There’s a pretty good article that just appeared on Microsoft TechNet about “the cloud” from an IT perspective.  Check it out at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/ff934854.aspx.]

Moving to “the cloud” will not resolve this problem unless you spend time up front to understand your business needs and make sure you’re picking the “right cloud".  The reality is that you can link multiple clouds, but this will require extensive time and effort.  “The cloud” is the future.  That’s a given.   Just make sure you stay focused on the overall goals you’ve established for your company and don’t lose your head in “the cloud", whichever cloud that might be.

By Altico Advisors, Microsoft Dynamics GP Partner for Manufacturing and Distribution serving New Hampshire (NH)

Altico Advisors, a New Hampshire Microsoft Dynamics GP Partner

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