There are plenty of articles on what cloud technology is and how it works so I won’t be covering it in this post. What I want to cover is how you can leverage some cloud based technology to move your business forward quickly and in some cases very inexpensively.
I have most of my career working in large corporate IT environments where everything was built and hosted internally. Web servers, email servers, file servers and application servers. In many cases this may still make sense but in some cases there are opportunities to leverage new services to get the same job done faster and for less cost.
The traditional approach would be to buy a server or servers then have either internal IT staff or hired IT staff set up your servers and install your applications. Once running there is a good deal of energy and resources that go into keeping all of these servers running the latest patches on the latest operating systems on the newest hardware. For specialized applications that are critical to your business this approach makes a lot of sense but for commodity applications there is another way.
There are now a number of cloud based services that are available on the Internet that can provide your company with commodity application services for a monthly fee that is probably much cheaper than what it would cost for your own staff to set up and operate the service. The best two examples are email services and web hosting services.
Both Microsoft and Google offer email services that are hosted in the cloud but allow your staff to use them as if they were still hosted inside your company. Most people are familiar with using the Microsoft Outlook email client to access their email and they can continue to do so if you were to use either Google or Microsoft to provide your email service.
There are also quite a few companies that provide hosted web services and have been doing so for quite a while but what I find really interesting is the newer breed of web services that are more than just a server in a rack somewhere on the Internet. Two that have caught my attention are Squarespace and Showit. Both of these companies provide you with web hosting but also provide you with an interface that you can use to build your web presence. The interfaces provided by both of these services give you templates that allow you to quickly get your content on the Internet and maintain your content without having to be a web programmer. I will provide more information later on Showit and how I have used this service to help the Markham Stouffville Hospital Foundation create a web presence for their fund raising efforts.