Online apps, cloud computing offer new alternatives

With the explosion of new technology on the market recently and talk of new iPhones, Android operating system, Windows 7, G4 technology, and on and on, it’s all pretty confusing, isn’t it? It’s difficult for the experts to keep up with all the changes – much less the people and companies dependent on it who “just need it to work.” As we move into this next phase of technology evolution, it will become less about whether you choose a Mac or a PC or an iPhone, Droid, or Blackberry. What will become more important will be the applications and access to them regardless of your technology preference of choice.

Growth of online applications to replace the large capital investment, maintenance and labor to support an Information Technology (IT) infrastructure is becoming more accepted. Initial concerns a few years back about information security, system availability and reliability have been addressed. The same consumers who have become more comfortable with online banking, online shopping and social networking are the same people making IT decisions for companies. Online applications and cloud computing provide a way for companies to take small steps toward migrating from the traditional in-house data center model. Some cloud computing providers offer application hosting and fully-managed IT services for the users to provide a complete turn-key offering.

These online services generally mean that the client is free to choose their device and operating system because the service provider has to build the systems such that they are technology agnostic. Companies can make business choices based on what application is best suited to their needs rather than having to compromise due to a limitation of the technology. Web-based applications or use of applications like Citrix or Microsoft’s Virtual Desktop (formerly Microsoft Terminal Services) provide on-demand applications to any user, anywhere, on any device. Keeping up with hardware maintenance, operating system licensing, patch updates, security patches, etc., are no longer issues. These are included as part of the infrastructure provided with cloud computing.

You may be asking, “What about my disaster recovery and business continuity?” With nearly all of these offerings it’s like Prego’s motto, “It’s in there.” The data resides on secured systems that are usually mirrored for hot stand-by for on-line redundancy and then backed up in at least one other remote location in the event of a catastrophic event. These data centers are generally in secure facilities with multiple levels of redundancy for power, cooling systems and network access. The cost to build systems individually for a company are usually cost prohibitive. In addition, there is support personnel available to provide assistance 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year – including Christmas and New Year’s Day – for a fraction of what it would cost to hire a dedicated staff.

 Each company has to evaluate its own situation and decide for itself if this is the path it wants to go. More and more, they are choosing to “get out of IT” to focus on their core business. They also see the flexibility and engrained functionality of online services that can lead to better overall profitability and happier employees. Your choice of a solid IT provider who partners with your business for the long-term is the first and most critical decision in the process. Look for one that has been in the business a while, has a strong reputation in the industry, and has strong references with companies that are of similar size or business model so you know they understand how to best align with you.

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