SMBs Looking to the Cloud

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Eight IT Projects SMBs Should Consider Implementing

New developments and products are changing the shape of IT implementations for SMBs.

As part of my continuing series on IT Projects that SMBs should adopt, I've touched on topics ranging from how businesses might want to re-examine and enhance their backup regime as well as how they can improve their security posture pertaining to their computers. As we move into this, the third, week, I'm looking at how the cloud can be harnessed to help SMBs attain greater reliability.


There is no doubt that the cloud is a misunderstood facet of computing, no thanks to its overuse as a marketing byword in everything remotely related to the Internet. This has generated much confusion about exactly what the cloud entails, which necessitates that we broadly examine some of the key facets of the cloud in order to better understand what it can do for businesses.




Probably one of the most well-known cloud services of the whole bunch, hosting has grown far beyond the plain old Web hosting of yesteryear. Today, cloud hosting includes full-fledged CMS engines such as Joomla!, Drupal and WordPress. In fact, WordPress.com offers free hosting of blogs under its domain, a premium paying tier, as well as VIP hosting for high-volume websites. Others, such as Intermedia, offers hosted Exchange Server for businesses that prefer not to deploy their own servers.


A recent innovation on this front is Amazon's Elastic Beanstalk. Currently in beta, it enables Java programmers to develop software using the Apache Tomcat software stack. The resultant application is then uploaded into Elastic Beanstalk, which hosts it in the cloud. The system in turn takes care of advanced (and usually complex) tasks such as capacity provisioning, load balancing, auto-scaling and even health monitoring. What differentiates hosting is its reduced need for complex server setup or configuration, with businesses free to operate the same services within their data center or even local area network should they desire to do so.


Data Backup


Probably one of the more well-understood features that cloud computing has enabled is the storing of data files on the Internet. Beyond helping SMBs achieve data redundancy, files stored online also help in sharing them with friends and family. The only confusion here is the large number of such services, which tend to vary greatly in their capabilities and accessibility from various operating platforms. To help you along, I've put together a very short list of the better known ones below:



Web Services


Web services used to be another marketing slogan that has matured significantly over the years. Today, it is possible to leverage full-fledged and robust Web services for a disparate range of jobs such as sending of e-mails, RSS feed services, spam filtering, or ad and payment gateways. In fact, many Web services come with APIs and widgets that can be integrated as part your business website, or accessed using Internet-enabled software.


I've barely scratched the surface about the possibilities of cloud computing today, though I do hope that the cloud will appear far less confusing after today. In the meantime, do feel free to chip in below if you have any comments to add.