Businesses may find
benefits in remote services
in the clouds
By Eric Taub
YOU’RE A SAVVY computer user. You scan
your hard drive for viruses. You regularly
upgrade your applications. You back up your
company’s data to an external hard drive. And
then a natural disaster hits, your office is
flooded and you lose everything anyway.
That was not going to happen to Mike
Widener. Owner of a five-person accounting
firm in Seguin, Texas, Mike saw other accountants’ businesses destroyed when hurricanes
hit and their client files were lost.
“This is my livelihood,” Widener says. “I
need to know that if something happens to
my electronic files, I won’t lose any data and I
can be up and running within a day.”
The solution, he realized, was to move
copies of his computer files away from his
office—very far away—to remote servers
owned by Mozy, a company that specializes in
cloud computing backup services.
Many uses of the cloud
The idea is simple: Instead of keeping
your programs and data on a local computer
or server in your home or office, let someone
else store and manage the material for you in
the “cloud”: remote servers kept in multiple
locations throughout the country.
Data backup is just one use of the cloud.
Companies large and small are realizing that
they can ditch their in-house servers and let
other people store and manage their e-mail,
and even their favorite software, from anywhere in the world. Many are now using
cloud versions of e-mail, word-processing,
spreadsheet, calendar and presentation software. Microsoft is working on a cloud version
of its Office suite. Sophisticated accounting
(CRM) software, such as Salesforce.com, is
kept on a remote server and accessed from a
standard Web browser.
By utilizing cloud computing services,
there’s less need for an IT department, and
you don’t have to burn a backup CD every
Saturday and take it over to your brother-in-law’s place.
Cloud computing is growing as high-speed broadband connections become widespread, making fast data transfer feasible.
When colleagues need to revise a document,
everyone can use their Web browser to view it
in the cloud and make necessary changes, all
on the same copy.
“With the cloud, you’re not proliferating
versions of the same document across local
PCs,” says Jonathan Rochelle, group product
manager for Google Docs, a set of cloud computing services available by subscription.
computing ... you
bene;t from ...
economies of skill.“
—John Betz, Microsoft
But what about security? Many consumers raise questions about how safe their personal information is, given recent accounts of
hackers obtaining Social Security numbers,
breaking into banks and more. Cloud computing service providers respond that steps are
taken to ensure safety—typically several layers
of protection. And customers’ files are usually
kept encrypted, safe from prying eyes.
“It’s simple; if we didn’t [take security
measures], we’d be out of business,” says Raju
Vegesna, head of product development and
marketing for Zoho, a provider of cloud computing e-mail and office applications.
Devin Knighton, spokesman for Mozy,
adds that his company encrypts all data on a
customer’s machines, and that data is trans-
mitted via a secure connection. “Cloud
backup can be more secure than local backup
because it can’t be stolen and because it’s
encrypted,” he says.
Many services on the cloud
By cutting IT costs and by not needing to
continually upgrade both software and local
servers, cloud computing can also be a bargain for many small businesses.
Just by switching to a cloud-based e-mail
service, for example, a typical small business
can reduce costs. According to Forrester Research, a local e-mail service can cost a business from $7 to $21 per month, once IT and
hardware expenses are included. Cloud e-mail
can be as low as $4 per month.
“With cloud computing services, you
benefit from our ‘economies of skill,’ ” says
John Betz, Microsoft’s director of product
management. In addition to the expected
coming release of cloud versions of Microsoft
Office, the company also offers cloud computing for e-mail, CRM and instant messaging, among other services.
Even more esoteric and sophisticated services have now migrated to the cloud. Using
Salesforce.com, for example, executives can
track leads, maintain contacts, order ads and
integrate other traditional CRM services
without adding a piece of hardware in their
And cloud computing is easy to use, says
Costco member Bill Kelly, chief information
officer of Duralee Fabrics in Bay Shore, New
York. His company uses e-mail and other productivity applications supplied through
“Cloud computing is so simple; I can
train anyone to administer our Google Apps
system in 10 minutes,” says Kelly. C
JANUARY 2010 ;e Costco Connection 29
Eric Taub is a frequent contributor to The