Cloud Computing: SaaS Driving the Midsize World
The world of cloud computing gets more complicated with each passing year. What was once just an extension of centralized computing is now a collection of all kinds of virtualized and remotely delivered services, including a number of minor offerings that barely deserve to be called cloud computing. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), which offers all of the cloud's valuable benefits, is as old as the cloud itself and remains its most accessible entry point. Midsize businesses that understand they need to enter the cloud, but are having trouble finding the right starting point, need to focus their due diligence on SaaS.
The concept behind SaaS is that instead of having individual programs installed on different machines, each running their own version of the software and making their own computations, the software lives on a central computer. Users then connect to that central computer, through a thin client, Web browser, or other entry mechanism, and interface with an instance of the program.
The benefits of an SaaS solution are numerous, but three stand out as particularly attractive to midsize businesses. First, by hosting the actual applications in the cloud, businesses need to make a lower initial capital investment in software. They may incur recurring usage charges, but these are usually usage based and can offer significant savings. This cost structure better aligns the IT spend with the time frame in which IT benefits the business.
Cloud computing, SaaS in particular, make it easier to manage and support business users. Since each employee doesn't need their own package of every application, managing the user base will require significantly less IT man hours, as upgrades and application replacements all take place on the system side. IT headcount can then be reassigned to more value-driven functions or even reduced altogether.
Finally, SaaS allows the applications to scale up or down as traffic demands, which is a hallmark of cloud computing. SaaS is thus particularly attractive to midsize businesses that have trouble predicting spikes in traffic. If a particular sales or marketing campaign strikes pay dirt, a cloud solution prevents potential customers from being denied service during a traffic spike, which could damage the company's brand.
Cloud Computing: SaaS and Security
For the longest time, security has been considered the weak point of the cloud. On the surface, it makes sense. Cloud users would have to hand over their compute or storage needs to a third party, and the introduction of a new organization into the mix was seen as less secure.
But cloud providers turned their focus to this issue. Now, when using a proven cloud solution from an industry leader like IBM, cloud adopters can actually experience increased security. While extra access points still exist, the providers' dedicated focus on security and improvements to the generally lax security many organizations have before entering the cloud has now significantly mitigated the risk.
Making the Transition
Many midsize business have looked at the benefits of the cloud and may be deciding that now is the time to adopt cloud computing. SaaS provides a great launching point for organizations that are worried about seismic shifts in their applications or infrastructure but want to see the cloud's benefits for themselves.
IBM's cloud computing options can reduce IT costs, improve capital utilization, drastically reduce cycle times, and improve server utilization. Best of all, it can be adopted in increments as small as a single application at a time. Once a public, private, or hybrid cloud solution proves itself, future transitions are easier and can be rolled out without much delay.
The benefits of the cloud are obvious, and now is the time for midsize businesses to take the next technological step to avoid falling behind. SaaS solutions provide an excellent entry point to the cloud. Soon, many businesses will find themselves completely virtualized and reaping the cloud's enormous economic benefits.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.