Many discussions of cloud computing tout its general benefits, like increased agility or lowered costs, but skip on the practical details, such as how small and midsized businesses are actually adopting cloud technology. This might leave companies wondering, “What does the cloud have to do with my business?”
Skepticism hasn’t seemed to quell the rising tide of cloud adoption. According to a recent survey conducted by Edge Strategies , 30 percent of small to midsized businesses are currently using cloud services. Furthermore, 48 percent of respondents expect to be using cloud services in the next two to three years. So, how are these businesses using cloud? According to the survey, current users are averaging four cloud services each, ranging from online backup and databases to communications applications.
A service-by-service approach
“Small and midsized businesses are not jumping into the cloud wholesale,” says Lisa Wolfe, HP worldwide SMB marketing and strategy leader. “They are selectively bringing in two or three key cloud services and integrating these with their on-premise infrastructure.”
The bits-and-pieces approach reflects some of the lingering doubts around cloud, like security, privacy, compliance and so on. The Edge Strategies study cited that 44 percent of SMBs believe that cloud services haven’t yet proven themselves to be trustworthy enough to adopt. However, the first wave of cloud adopters seems to be finding ways to avoid these risks by keeping it simple.
“Studies confirm that we’re still in the early adopter phase of cloud computing. SMBs without huge technical staffs are still sniffing the wind,” says Pete Johnson, senior sales engineer, HP Cloud Services. “But we are seeing simple use cases like backup/restore and archival.”
To serve this growing need, HP Cloud moved two new services to general availability starting August 1, 2012: HP Cloud Object Storage and HP Cloud CDN. Here’s a closer look at how these services work and how they might fit the needs of your business.
Object storage in the cloud
Object storage is the simplest way to get started with cloud computing because it’s really just scalable file storage. Rather than dishing out capital for a fixed disk drive, cloud object storage allows you to pay by the gigabyte. Plus, a quality cloud object storage service can replicate your data across multiple availability zones, providing a level of reliability that might be out of reach to businesses without large IT departments.
Here are some typical use cases for cloud object storage:
Nightly file backups
Source for file recovery or restore
File sharing across remote locations
Any other redundant storage needs
HP Cloud Object Storage features a central console interface that allows easy access to the containers which house your files, or objects. This provides full visibility across multiple containers as well as an easy, centralized way to upload, move or delete files. You can sort and search for specific files across containers and make files either public or private with the click of a button. And because HP Cloud Object Storage is designed with OpenStackTM technology, you won't get locked into a proprietary, vendor-specific application programming interface (API).
Content delivery networks in the cloud
More and more, people are accessing Web content from mobile devices, making website loading times critical. Even when browsing on a desktop, who has the patience to wait through the content loading process?
A content delivery network (CDN) can speed content delivery to end users, particularly graphics files which tend to be denser and therefore slower to load. A CDN works by caching copies of your files on multiple servers across the world. The result is higher availability and higher performance for end users because they’ll be accessing files from the nearest metropolitan area, rather than from a server that might be located halfway around the globe.
Customers using HP Cloud Object Storage can get an extra boost by adding the HP Cloud CDN service. This will add CDN capabilities to your object storage console so that you can activate (or deactivate) the CDN with the click of a button. From the Cloud Object Storage console, you can upload all your image files to a specific container, then simply activate the CDN for that container. HP’s Cloud CDN service has no contracts or long lead cycles and you only pay for what you use.
The cloud won’t stop with simple storage and file retrieval. “The current offerings are base level,” says Johnson. “We’ll continue to build on top of these for more sophisticated services.” With that he listed several developing service lines including Vertica- or Hadoop-as-a-Service and a marketplace concept in which customers will be able to select and purchase any combination of cloud services.
The marketplace concept is in line with Wolfe’s thinking as well: “The whole notion of app stores has changed our world forever, in every space, in every segment.” The roles of consumer and employee are merging as people continue choosing to use their own personal devices for both work and play. In a sense, consumer technology surpassed business technology in terms of the experience it can provide for end users. Now businesses, regardless of size, are obligated to support this growing trend.
The good thing about cloud is that you can start as small as you want, then continue to grow with your needs. So even if you just want to dip a toe into the cloud for now, HP Cloud services can adjust to fit your needs.