Finding a home in clouds saves buckets of money


POSTED: Sunday, November 22, 2009

My last column discussed a rather new trend in Hawaii: the advent of cloud computing, particularly for small to midsize companies.

Judging by the flurry of e-mail I received, there is a lot of interest in this subject. The main reason seems to be what most businesses like to hear: It saves you money. Correspondents wanted more background information, so I'm devoting this column to getting started.

But first, a quick refresher is in order.

Cloud computing means getting your computer resources—software and applications—accessed on demand from the Internet.

That means everything is retrieved off-site. The upshot: All your office needs is a workstation and an Internet connection. All the computing power, servers and applications are outsourced. In other words, your screen, keyboard and an old PC run just enough software to connect to a virtual PC in the “;cloud.”;

So, what do you look for in a potential cloud provider?

First off, says veteran technologist Mike Meyer, whose company, Islanda.com, was one of Hawaii's first cloud service providers, you'll need to evaluate a provider's Internet connectivity as well as its internal networking and security architecture.

How does the average business take on a task that technical? Meyer says it's best to bring along a qualified IT engineer to assist you in evaluating a provider's architecture and facility.

He also suggests asking for an acid test—a demo that would load an application that you use in your business. The cloud system should work better than your existing office system. If it isn't faster loading, you've got the wrong cloud provider. Naturally, you'll want the CP for names and phone numbers of “;cloud clients”; that it services.

There are other things to consider. Who is the CP partnering with?

The CP should have relationships with recognized cloud technology companies such as VM Ware or Microsoft, as well as a reliable Internet service provider who can offer you a robust Internet connection.

Meyer says it's also critical to know where the CP's data center is located. Local, or at the least regional (West Coast), is preferable because of potential latency issues.

Finally, you'll want the CP to provide, as part of its offering, a complete network and system monitoring of your cloud services that is accessible by you on the Web. This will be incredibly helpful to your IT staff—even if it's just you. If you have any questions, drop me a line.