The cloud and start-ups: A match made in heaven

Ross MacKenzie

When it comes to starting up a business, the hardest hurdle to overcome is the very first one encountered - getting off the ground. With financial institutions still being very coy when it comes to lending, many start-ups do not have access to the funds they need to stand a fighting chance; and until money begins to flow through the company, the only option is scale back on plans which has a direct impact on growth.

Traditionally, almost any IT solution required four things to be deployed successfully. Hardware, software, licenses and IT professionals to handle said hardware, software and licenses. The first three of these require significant capital expenditure. The final one requires significant operational expenditure.

As the company grows, hardware and licenses need to be upgraded; however, because start-ups can rarely accurately project growth, it can be almost impossible to predict as and when these expenses will be incurred. For a start-up working with a limited cash flow, this can prove extraordinarily prohibitive.

Cloud to the rescue

Well, not anymore; in recent years, the cloud has been the saving grace for many start-ups, providing them with access to the infrastructure, platforms, disk space, tools and software that they need at a fraction of traditional services.

The 'as-a-service' model is a relatively straightforward one. Rather than purchasing hardware, software and licenses, the business simply rents all of the above from a cloud-service provider. This almost entirely eliminates upfront costs - all the business needs is a computer and an internet connection.

This subscription model dramatically reduces OpEx as well; start-ups can grow safe in the knowledge that their IT services are up-to-date, maintained and secure; and when it comes time to increase capacity, rather than bringing in outside help to upgrade on-site hardware, a simple phone call is all that is needed.

What can start-ups get as-a-Service?

There are three broad categories of cloud based services: Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). With each model, certain responsibilities are handed over to the cloud service provider. IaaS delivers the underlying computer infrastructure, removing the need for businesses to procure their own servers. Resources become a utility and can be provisioned based on demand, much like electricity in a home.

PaaS is the next level up in the stack, providing the business with the likes of operating systems. This frees up businesses to focus on the application layer, without having to worry about the underlying platform.

SaaS is perhaps the most straightforward of the models to understand. Applications are stored, managed and maintained by the cloud service provider and the interface is accessed on the client's side. Often this is done via a web browser, but many SaaS applications can also be downloaded locally.

In reality, it is likely that businesses will dip into more than one of these categories as time goes on and that is the beauty of the cloud - if there is something a business needs in order to move forward, the cloud can provide it.

While the cloud is not for everyone, it is proving to be one of the most valuable resources available to fresh start-ups. Many of the headaches that come with trying to get a business off the ground are eliminated in one fell swoop.

The reason that the cloud is so valuable, is because it frees start-ups from the shackles of IT and allows them to focus on what is important - building a successful business.


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