For small and medium-sized businesses, the cloud offers a mix of opportunity -- and challenge. On one hand, cloud services give SMBs timely, easy access to scalable enterprise compute, storage, and networking. On the other hand, all your competitors -- enterprises and SMBs alike -- have the same opportunity. That makes cloud-based applications not just an opportunity but a near-necessity.
This includes not just specific cloud-based services like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and Human Resources, but also building applications and using data specific to your company and industry.
The place to start is identifying what cloud-based tasks can do for your company.
"One task that we see SMBs using our cloud services for is big data analysis," says Konstantin Bezruchenko, CTO, Servers.Com. "Others include SMBs using e-commerce that want quickly-scalable cloud services to handle seasonal and event spikes in traffic and payment transaction levels."
Clouds Let SMBs Compete With Enterprises
The work, expense, and commitment involved in provisioning, managing, and growing IT infrastructure on-site has been, and remains a constraining factor for SMBs and enterprises alike. Although virtualization, containers, and other new technologies have reduced some of the provisioning and management challenges, the fast evolution of hardware, and the physical, power, and cooling aspects make IT infrastructure something that SMBs and enterprises alike are interested, often eager, to farm out to hosting and cloud providers.
"It is much easier to scale performance and capacity faster and more reliably by using cloud infrastructure than on-premises infrastructure -- especially for SMBs," says Bezruchenko. "By 'going cloud,' a company doesn't have to provision additional servers, networking, storage, etc., which either takes time to order, receive, install and configure -- or means that your company has to over-provision in advance, which is wasteful. And a company doesn't have to maintain and manage that additional infrastructure."
One challenge, Bezruchenko notes, "because the cloud market is still young, every customer has their own of what they want to do with the cloud -- and at the same time, there are many customers with no idea of how to build cloud-based applications."
What is Servers.com's role in enabling and supporting cloud applications? "We are primarily providing infrastructure," says Bezruchenko.
On the hardware side, "We offer cloud servers and cloud storage, as well as bare metal servers with up to 64 threaded CPUs, three quarters of a terabyte of RAM, and 100TB storage, which is ideal for big data programming frameworks like Hadoop," says Bezruchenko. "We offer per-hour pricing, so companies can scale up quickly and easily to handle holiday shopping or other 'bursty' events, and scale back down afterwards. We don't have installation fees, and there are no commitments required. We make provisioning simple -- go to the Servers.com web site, purchase what you need, and contact us if there's something you want that you don't see."
In terms of the networking connectivity to support clustering, cloud integration, and Big Data applications, "Within each data center, we have a redundant switch set up both for private and public networks. Each server has a 20-Gbps redundant connection to our Global Private Network, and a 20-Gbps redundant connection to the Public Network," says Bezruchenko.
Additionally, Servers.com's data centers -- currently two, one in Dallas, Texas and one in Amsterdam -- are interconnected with the company's proprietary Global Private Network, says Bezruchenko, "Plus we have a total of 1.5Tbps of Public (Internet) capacity." Our network is comparable to what the large providers like Amazon and Rackspace offer, because we build ours to handle high-performance requirements like low-latency, high bandwidth, and secured privacy."
For Servers.com, infrastructure also includes the OpenStack suite of open-source tools for creating private and public clouds. "We have a great team of developers taking care of our OpenStack environment," says Bezruchenko. "DevOps-ready cloud servers can be utilized for development, staging and production environment 100% in line with software development best practices. We also support all the popular Content Management Systems (CMS)."
"SMBs looking to create cloud applications can save a lot by going with us, because of our pricing," says Bezruchenko. "We make it easy to start with lower amounts of power, affordably. Plus, because we offer both bare-metal servers, where the entire piece of hardware 'belongs' to you, as well as cloud service, customers can build hybrid environments that combine these, and can change or grow from one to the other without having to change providers. This also means we don't try to change a company's mind about whether they select cloud or bare-metal -- we offer both, and we believe each company knows best what they want."
What's clear is that SMBs can now build and scale applications just like enterprises. You'll need to invest in development, either in-house or through a design/development shop, of course. But you don't have to worry about buying and running servers -- or a computer room or data center to house them in.
So put on your thinking cap, and start pondering what unlimited computing and storage could do for your business.