What are the benefits of cloud computing? Let’s count the ways

With apologies to the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, this installment of Cloud Talk is about counting the ways you can benefit from moving to the cloud. To help make it easier to count the ways, let’s divide the benefits of cloud computing into those that are primarily financial and those that are primarily organizational in nature.Financial benefitsCloud computing is mostly an operating expense, as opposed to a capital expense. This is beneficial in an economy where the availability of credit and borrowing has been greatly reduced for small and medium-sized businesses. Own less and do more is a good way to describe this benefit of cloud computing.Cloud computing also eliminates the expense required to install, patch and upgrade premises-based software applications. You can save 20 to 80 percent of the cost of running applications by subscribing to them in the cloud. Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS, gives you the benefit of running state-of-the-art applications without having to build the infrastructure to run them.In the cloud, you can increase your SaaS application subscriptions instantly to meet your needs, which avoids prepaying for licenses you may not need. Have you ever been able to get a traditional software vendor to give you a refund for licenses you purchased but didn’t need? Purchased but unused software licenses that sit on your closet shelf is where the concept of “shelfware” originated. There is no “shelfware” in the cloud where you pay for what you use.Another benefit of moving to the cloud comes from reducing the “carbon footprint” of your business. Running your applications in energy-efficient cloud data centers means you don’t have to run them on your own servers. Cloud service providers locate their data centers in places with lower electricity costs and their infrastructure is shared by thousands of customers, which allows them to achieve high utilization rates and tremendous economies of scale.You get to watch your electric meter slow down a bit and save some money.Organizational benefitsThe cloud is ubiquitous, which is another way of saying that the cloud exists everywhere you have access to a wired or wireless broadband Internet connection, which is just about everywhere you might happen to be.The apparent ubiquity of the cloud allows for the creation of virtual organizations whose employees, managers, consultants, contractors and customers can be physically located in multiple time zones around the Earth.In pre-cloud days, everyone being in one place or campus conferred the advantages of ease of communication and collaboration on an organization. Today, using cloud-based messaging and collaboration applications permits you to communicate and collaborate anytime, anywhere with anyone inside or outside your business. Pulling in the “troops” for that important company meeting can now be done virtually using Web and video conferencing services available in the cloud.The cloud is device-agnostic, which means cloud computing doesn’t believe or disbelieve in the one true device, which historically has been the venerable PC. Cloud apps can be launched from PCs, notebooks, netbooks, tablets and smartphones using wired, Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G Internet access.Thanks to cloud computing, the days of provisioning everyone in your organization with a PC chained to a desk are over. Most any device with a Web-browsing capability can function in the cloud. Your organization can use cloud-enabled mobility to communicate and collaborate in new and useful ways. In a cloud-enabled organization, you can forget about getting back to the office to pick up those pink telephone message slips to find out who called.Cloud computing brings agility and quickness to small and medium-sized businesses. Cloud applications can be rolled out in days or weeks instead of months. Application development and testing can be done in the cloud in a fraction of the time it used to take using more traditional methods. Premises computing workloads that had to be over-provisioned to accommodate peak periods of activity can now be run in the cloud, where elasticity makes it easy to add compute resources for peak periods of activity and release them when activity returns to normal.The value of these cloud computing benefits will simultaneously exist in every small and medium-sized organization. In the current economy, it is important to reduce the cost of delivering information services by going to the cloud. And by taking advantage of new ways to organize work and collaborate, you can evolve whole new avenues for developing products and services that will drive customers to your organization and keep them coming back.Tim Wessels, cloud navigator at Oort Cloud Computing, Rindge, has worked with small and medium businesses building and maintaining their IT systems for over 25 years.