It’s all about the cloud.
Not the fluffy white kind, but the hard-sell from tech firms trying to get small and medium sized businesses to put all their computer records, servers and IT in their hands over the Internet — for a fat annual fee.
No more in-house IT department or roomful of servers, the marketers say. The idea of lower helpdesk costs is a big lure for penny-pinching businesses aiming to become more profitable.
Cloud computing is the use of hardware and software delivered as a service to companies over the Internet allowing them to use PCs, Macs, smartphones, tablets and other devices to access data and software stored on servers in remote data centres.
The cloud symbol has long been used in system diagrams to represent the Internet, and big IT companies like IBM and Kronos have seen revenues grow sharply in that market.
It’s a growing trend in the computing world that many Mississauga companies may be considering becoming part of.
But it may not be all it’s cracked up to be, says software technology expert Lora Gernon.
The president of Profit Business Consulting and software adviser for Mississauga’s RIC Centre tech incubator says outsourcing reduces a business owner’s ability to customize solutions.
Moreover, companies looking for cloud-based technology need to understand the level of support being provided.
“Most small businesses are not technical people,” Gernon told YourMississaugaBiz.com. “Their core competency is whatever it is they’re in business to do . . . and so they need the support.”
Gernon says companies looking at switching IT to the cloud should consider interoperability, even on basic things like if workers use Macs, PCs, or a combination of the two.
“You can’t just look at just one cloud-based solution,” she said. “You have to see how it interoperates with your other solutions.”
Moreover, according to Gernon, businesses should think about data ownership, especially if it’s linked to customers or accounting information. These terms have to be negotiated up front, be very transparent and everyone needs to be aware who owns the data.
Despite these considerations, Gernon said there are a lot of benefits to using the cloud for small business owners, allowing them to adopt new technology without huge capital cost.
“It really levels the playing field. And it really helps them with the functionality they would otherwise be unable to afford. You can let someone take care of and be your IT department for you,” she said.
Outsourcing to a cloud-based service also means infrastructure, maintenance and upgrades are all taken care of.
RIC, which stands for research, innovation and commercialization, is a virtual incubator for entrepreneurs in the Peel Region.
Mississauga is focusing on developing and helping to grow more software, biotech and other technology companies to diversify the economy and provide jobs and new industries of the future.