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Cloud Computing 101

Understanding remote access and storage options

Uptime is a serious consideration as well, with an average of three to five days for server problems, McCary says. This becomes three to five minutes with a cloud service. But depending on a company’s needs and priorities, there can be negatives to cloud hardware and software services.

“Typically you’ll find that cloud computing will be least expensive in the short run,” Walborn cautions, but says users must realize they may not have the same kind of control or options like with their own software. He says produce companies should do a careful cost comparison.

Compared to leasing, Walborn asks, “How many months until you recoup your investment if you were to buy your hardware and software, and install and support it? Look at all the expenses involved in the total overall cost of ownership, then price it out to find your breakeven point.” If this comes in thirty months or less, owning rather than leasing may be less expensive.

Worth The Cost?
“To my mind, the cloud is valuable to businesses of all sizes,” notes Russell Perkins, managing director at Info-Commerce Group in Bala Cynwyd, PA. “It has particular value to small and medium-sized businesses because it moves both data and software applications out of their hands, so they don’t need the same level of IT support.”

Perkins feels it can also be advantageous from a pricing standpoint. “Rather than buying big expensive updates every couple of years, you pay a monthly fee, and always have the latest software at hand.” Again, this is good for smaller companies, but he contends it has proven “popular with big business as well.”

Peace of mind is a benefit cited by Chris Puentes, president of Interfresh, Inc. in Orange, CA. Interfresh uses a scalable “rental” or ASP model with “thin clients” on desks, consisting of a dock, monitor, keyboard, mouse, and Internet cable.

Further, the data center “is protected from earthquakes, power outages, etc., via multiple technologies,” Puentes says. “Our data is continually backed up to a separate remote location, so in the unlikely event there was a problem at the data center and our data was damaged or lost, we can quickly point our offices to another site and be up and running, with no loss of data.”

Another benefit is access. For Mike Dodson, president of Fresno-based consulting firm Lotpath, Inc., “There are two primary benefits of cloud-based software apps: one, remote employees and trading partners can access your company data without having to log into your network; and two, there is no software to install in your company network.”

Challenges and Pitfalls
The biggest challenge, as well as the biggest potential benefit to produce companies using the cloud, is Internet access in remote, rural locations. If Internet access is available, it solves many issues relating to data and communications. If it is not available, that location cannot be served by a cloud computing provider, or any kind of data connection.