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The Cloud as a platform

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The Cloud as a platform
As the cloud evolves from basic online software tools to a full platform for business, it can provide ways for small and midsize businesses to do more, grow faster, and leave IT complexity behind.
Start-ups and smaller businesses use cloud services for the savings, but the cloud platform is really about a better way to do business. It means small to midsize companies can get the benefits of big IT systems without the up-front capital investments and the ongoing costs of maintaining and expanding a datacentre. That helps businesses of any size come to market with great products and services and always count on reliable, secure, and powerful IT when they need it.
Cloud computing is based on a simple concept: instead of each business owning and building its own IT systems, vendors build massively scaled datacentres and provide computing as a utility. This allows every customer to enjoy the benefits of secure, current, and centrally managed storage, software, platform, and infrastructure services on terms affordable by any size business.
From cost savings to business opportunity.
Today, many businesses are moving to the cloud in a piecemeal fashion, app by app, without a strategic

vision for how different cloud services can or should work together—and sometimes without thinking about them as “the cloud” at all. This approach offers easy access to powerful software capabilities, but that is just the beginning of the journey.

Using the cloud as a platform—not just for cost and convenience—can help smaller businesses exploit their inherent advantages of speed and innovation, while also tapping into the scale that used to be available only to large, well-resourced firms.

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Cloud Value
Get big-business IT scale and capabilities on a budget any business can afford.

Cloud Coherence
Connect all your data from different systems through the cloud for one view of your business.

Cloud Power
Build apps in the cloud to reach new customers and take advantage of new innovations.

A cloud platform makes your business nimble to capitalise on new opportunities and resilient to react to unexpected challenges.

Cloud Flexibility
Pay only for the capacity you use but scale up any time demand for your services increases.

Cloud platforms help your business do more
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What Cloud as a platform means for your business
Cloud computing is a technological innovation, but how does it connect to the real needs and pains of small businesses?
The biggest impact of the cloud is in how it transforms IT from a cost and a headache into a flexible, affordable driver of innovation. Small to midsize companies can get the benefits of big IT systems without the up-front capital investments and the ongoing costs of maintaining and expanding a datacentre.
Improve business productivity and grow efficiently.
Go beyond stand-alone business applications with connected solutions that drive business process automation and employee productivity. With a common, cloud-based platform you can refocus IT resources and free capital to develop new products and services that drive business growth.
Deploy faster and reduce ongoing maintenance.
Internal and vendor-driven IT teams can deploy new apps and solutions in the cloud that scale up or down according to customer demand faster, with less maintenance and upgrade services.
Never wait for servers or infrastructure again.
Tired of waiting for IT? With software and apps running in the cloud, non-technical folks can experiment with better ways to connect with customers, manage financial records, and improve productivity, all without having to install new software and hardware on site.
Of businesses surveyed that had 1,000 or fewer employees:
0%
of SMBs are using the cloud
0%
want to be more agile and to access new technical capabilities

Use data for competitive advantage.

The big secret of big data? You don’t have to be big to use it. The tools you need to keep track of social media, spot market trends, reduce operational costs, and even create predictive models are accessible to any business through the cloud.

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Cloud platform by the numbers

Small to medium sized businesses

0%
have a hybrid public/private cloud strategy

—RightScale, 2014

0%
use at least one cloud business solution

—SMB Group, 2014

0%
use at least one cloud infrastructure solution

—SMB Group, 2014

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Evolving the Cloud: From Cost Savings to Business Opportunity
What new and emerging capabilities can businesses unlock on their journey to the cloud?
Many start-ups or smaller technology companies have already embraced cloud platforms, focusing on creating ingenious new products and services without spending on hardware they don’t need. But any business, including traditional firms and those with fewer than 1,000 employees, can gain the agility of a start-up by moving legacy software from on-site servers and personal computers to a cloud platform.

Streamline processes. Simplify your finances, streamline your supply chain, connect with customers, and make confident decisions that expand your business, not your budget.

Consolidate for bigger benefits. Dabbling in apps from multiple cloud providers means missing out on the powerful ways cloud-enabled services can work together. Strategic use of a single cloud suite can enable thoughtful connections among business application and productivity tools for data sharing, recovery, and business continuity.

Surprise and delight customers. Want to shorten customer wait times with mobile checkout devices? Target them with offers you know will interest them? Provide better service while fulfilling an order, and make it more convenient to shop for what you’re selling? Pushing your data and apps through the cloud can help you do all that faster and at lower cost.

Consolidate for bigger benefits. Dabbling in apps from multiple cloud providers means missing out on the powerful ways cloud-enabled services can work together. Strategic use of a single cloud suite can enable thoughtful connections among business application and productivity tools for data sharing, recovery, and business continuity.

Pushing your data and apps through the cloud can help you serve customers faster and at lower cost.

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Vision for an Agile Business
What business processes and outcomes can small businesses achieve through the cloud?
By building data and IT capabilities on a cloud platform, the business becomes better able to meet emerging challenges and capitalize on new opportunities in the market.

Pay for usage, not equipment. Cloud service pricing models let businesses buy the storage and analytical capacity needed now, automate the addition of more as demand and new revenues require, or just as readily scale back when less service capacity is needed.

Start moving at Internet speed. Gone are the days when businesses can spend years developing a new product or service. Whether your business is a start-up or one with a long history, cloud-based tools can accelerate many processes upon which you build revenues. Technology start-ups use online collaboration to work with supply chain partners near and far. Companies with a brick-and-mortar presence entice new and existing customers to come in with flash sales or

other promotional events. Cloud-based backup facilitates a quicker recovery if natural disaster strikes.

Unleash scalability as a service. Many businesses both welcome and fear a faster than-expected growth cycle. Cloud services take away much of the pain of scaling up IT systems to provide increased production or sales capabilities. When such tools are designed with cloud computing in mind, you end up only paying for the capacity you use, when you use it. And if the spike is temporary, decommissioning those virtual resources can even be an automatic process with the added benefit of instant cost reductions once they’re gone.

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Cloud jargon translator

SaaS—software as a service. Delivered through the cloud, typically for scenarios relationship management, marketing analytics, and so on.

IaaS—infrastructure as a service. IaaS enables businesses to move their entire datacentre, including storage, servers, and software, to the cloud, essentially outsourcing management, security, and maintenance to the cloud provider.

PaaS—platform as a service. PaaS provides a complete operating system environment in the cloud where customers can develop and deploy software, applications, and services. The advantage is that PaaS systems scale seamlessly to provide consistent quality of service.

Public cloud. Public cloud refers to services offered to multiple users (or “tenants”) in a single datacentre.

Private cloud. Private cloud is a dedicated datacentres or server environment to deliver cloud services for a single customer or tenant.

Hybrid cloud. Hybrid cloud is an enterprise IT environment combining some private cloud services, some public cloud services, and some on-premises computing resources.

Virtualization. Virtualization creates a layer of abstraction between hardware and software, enabling entire datacenters full of servers and microprocessors to operate as a shared pool of resources.

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Key takeaways
The cloud is more than just a bunch of apps and shared storage sites. Seen as a platform, it can be a springboard to better business performance in many different ways.
Moving old systems to the cloud and developing new tools through the cloud gives your business the agility to scale up to meet rising demands without having to constantly invest in new IT equipment and support.
Embracing a cloud platform for your IT means you can embrace new technologies and improve old processes faster to stay ahead of customer expectations and competitive pressure.
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Follow Paul Jackson:

IT Consultant

Based in Nairobi, Kenya

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