Cloud Computing for Small Business

In just the past few years, cloud computing has moved from novel idea, to industry standard – and for good reason. Whether your looking for security or scalability, the cloud is fast becoming the solution of choice for hosting. The best part is anyone can make the switch; you don’t have to be in the Fortune 500 to start reaping the benefits of the cloud.

There are a myriad of options when choosing a host, but for the purposes of this article we’ll be focusing on Amazon’s EC2 Cloud, and the collection of tools associated within their stellar service.

Why Choose Cloud Computing

Both Large and Small Businesses enjoy the same advantages with hosting in Amazon’s cloud, but for a smaller company that doesn’t have an IT team, and loads of capital to invest, it allows them to break into a new world of hosting and start taking advantage of all the benefits.

Scalability

In the old days of hosting, upgrading your server was a pain! A professional would be required to physically go to your data center (assuming your web server wasn’t located under the stairs of your home), install new hardware or software, and pray that everything went well. It was risky business.

Luckily, things have changed. From the comfort of your favorite coffee shop, cloud hosts like Amazon allow you to leave the IT nerd at home, and upgrade your server as needed. Whether your site is just sustaining heavy, consistent growth, or a new product has pushed your server to the limits, it’s never been easier to allocate additional resources to your server.

Anyone who’s gone into the data center at 3am to perform server maintenance can stand behind the principle; you wont find a cheaper, easier solution.

Reliable Data

Whether you’re storing pictures of your brother’s new baby, or sensitive user data, Amazon has a secure, and reliable way to host your files. When you upload anything to the cloud, it’s instantly replicated across data servers across the world.

Reduced Downtime

The dreaded server crash is a little less scary when the cloud backs you. Imagine what it takes to restore your physical server after it’s crashed. If it’s self managed, you’d better be up for a trip to your datacenter, otherwise get ready for some tense phone calls with your host while they try and sort through what happened.

Again, Amazon’s cloud comes to the rescue. With an online management console that you can access anywhere, anytime, you’re able to choose from a myriad of options to restore your server and get it up and running again.

Low Start Costs

Nothing gets me quite so excited as the word free, and with Amazon, you don’t have to look to far to find it. If you’re ready to make the switch, Amazon will allow you to set up a single micro server for one year, free.

What does this mean for small business? Well, for one, it’s one less cost to worry about in the first (and possibly hardest) year of business.

If you’re well established, it allows you to convert your platform onto the cloud without sweating bullets, and launch when you’re ready.

Finally, if you’re a web designer, you get to boast a year a free hosting to potential clients, and set them up on their own personal cloud servers. You’ll be a hero, and everyone’s happy.

Small Business Advantages

Anyone who is serious about making it on the web has to face the facts that it’s a highly competitive world. It’s hard to know where to invest your time and money, be in development, design, SEO, servers, etc. One thing you can be certain of is this: cloud computing levels the playing ground.

It doesn’t matter that Company X is a multi-million dollar firm, and you’re just starting out. The playing field is equal when it comes to hosting – you can both take advantage of all the same tools and resources, with the same percentage investment.

The fact that your site loads 3 seconds faster in Europe than another not taking advantage of Amazon’s Cloud and Content Delivery Network (CDN) will make the difference. You’re the top dog now.

Making a seamless switch

Now, I know you’re all hyped about moving over to the cloud, well, how do you do it? That’s the greatest part! In about 15 minutes you can launch your first Windows or Linux server, and thanks to our handy free micro server, it will cost nothing for you! Here’s a quick walkthrough on how to get started.

Sign up for AWS

The first step in your journey into Amazon’s EC2 Cloud will be to register an account with Amazon Web Services (AWS). Luckily, it’s a breeze. Simply create an AWS account, and authenticate that you’re a real person with a simple phone call, and you’re on your way.

Set up your server

Now that signed in and ready to roll, it’s time to setup your server. There are tons of choices here, and it is a bit daunting to look at. Here are a few guidelines to help you make your choice.

The main choice is between Linux and Windows operating systems. Most people will need to choose one or the other based on their developers, but if you have the option, it is worth mentioning that Linux servers are much cheaper to operate, and Amazon has an option for their own Linux server. If you’re having trouble deciding which Amazon Machine Image (AMI) to choose from, you can follow a host of tutorials for both windows and Linux that will help you out.

Living on Cloud Nine

Now you can sleep easy while your server turns and churns, providing scalable, reliable content, and a great experience for your web browsers. Remember that Amazon hosts a good many additional tools to help you tailor the best experience for your users, or scale your website even more. Check out the full list of AWS Products, and have fun living on cloud nine!

Image via Ratikova / Shutterstock

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