Is the cloud the right fit for owner-managed businesses?

In 1919, a young man named Conrad bought a 40-room hotel in Cisco, Texas. It was a backup plan; he’d originally wanted to buy the town’s bank. The hotel did surprisingly well and, in 1925, he opened his first high-rise hotel: the Dallas Hilton, and the first hotel to bear his name.

Fast forward almost 90 years, and I’m in the Manchester Hilton: a tall, gleaming edifice that stands testament to Conrad Hilton‘s entrepreneurial spirit despite war and economic depression. It’s a building that often scrapes Manchester’s perma-cloud so perhaps for those reasons, it was an ideal place to take part in a seminar about what ‘the cloud’ can do for entrepreneurs and owner-managed businesses.

For the more cynical amongst us, it may seem surprising that in 2012, we’re still discussing what ‘the cloud’ is. Unfortunately, this is a side-effect of the term ‘cloud’ becoming the biggest buzzword since “social media”!

No more. To be honest, we got involved in this seminar because there’s so much misinformation or inaccurate content that exists about ‘cloud computing’ and saw it as a chance to set the record straight. But, perhaps more importantly, it was also a chance to sit down with some of the region’s leading entrepreneurs and answer their questions about the nature of the cloud and how it could help them grow their businesses.

And it’s not surprising that most people are confused. The cloud has been touted as the answer to everything from managing your accounts to avoiding your mother-in-law! But, as with everything, the real answer is to talk about what you’re trying to achieve and then examine whether cloud technologies can play a part.

But time-starved business owners still want a simple answer. The best I can offer is that, with a reputable cloud provider, using a cloud-based option can offer increased reliability and flexibility over traditional hosting and software delivery methods. It’s also easier to scale up resources allocated to cloud hosting and, importantly, scale down – meaning businesses that are growing rapidly can rapidly expand their technology infrastructure and also respond to seasonal demand.

It’s tempting to start with a technology – be it cloud, or physical – and design a solution around that. The thing is, a cloud solution that’s poorly put-together can end up costing more. That’s why we’d always recommend having an in-depth face-to-face conversation with whomever is hoping to provide your solution and insist it’s benchmarked against other options, as well as considering the potential for growth. This is why we’ve also put together a document: the five dangers of cloud servers. We hope helps you ask your potential providers the right questions when it comes to considering a hosting or service platform based on the cloud.

Finally, here’s a copy of the presentation that Steven delivered at the seminar yesterday morning. To be honest, it’s best done in person… but you can enjoy the hand-drawn slides anyway! You can also read a roundup of the tweets from the event below.