I hate "moving parts" in a system - the more of them the more points of failures, difficulty in resolving issues, and a greater sense of urgency placed on malfunctions with the small parts. In an ideal scenario, all apps and data would live in centralized, highly controlled, very-well maintained, and very reliable data centers such that a user could pick up any sort of computing device to run their apps and access their data without skipping a beat. If a device craps out, you just use a different device, or easily "plug" a new one into the system. This is a Utopian solution that cannot yet be achieved in the small business environment. What is a small business? The example was given of businesses with only a few PCs, and for the most part that is representative of my typical client which ranges from 3 to 25 computers. I can tell you that moving to the cloud is not even close for my customer base due to these reasons (as much as I wish I could):
1. Cost - Fully hosting a business in the cloud is VERY expensive when compared to the REAL costs of what a typical small business actually spends on IT over a 3-year period. Yes, some parts of cloud computing are reasonably priced and many of my clients are using "pieces" of it such as email, email security, cloud storage and online backup.
2. Internet speed and reliability - in my area Internet speeds are on the upswing thanks to services being offered by Comcast, Verizon, and a few others, but only in the larger communities. A lot of customers are in areas where DSL or slow cable is the only option, and speeds likely won't be faster anytime soon. And the number one concern I hear from business owners regarding "cloud computing" is "what do I do when the Internet is down?" (a far too common occurrence in the northeast). I actually have one customer with redundant Internet connections, but that's because the nature of his business is online, but all of my other clients an appropriate alternative is either not available or doing so is too expensive. Without redundant Internet or highly available connections, apps and data need to have local availability (such as what some of the cloud storage vendors provide, or even with email systems such as Exchange/Outlook and Google Apps).
3. Line-of-Business App availability - the "traditional" LOB apps that my clients use are simply not available as "web-apps," at least not in the fully-featured form that my clients are accustomed to. Quickbooks, Peachtree, MAS90, etc. would all have to be in the cloud, along with many other industry-specific apps such Time Matters, Camelot, SoftPro, and others. Until this happens, my clients need Windows clients and a Windows server at their physical location. I wish it was cost effective to host their server(s) in a data center in a virtual environment, but it just isn't.
And finally, perhaps someone can educate me on how they make it cost effective and practical for these small clients to have an "image." Doing so requires a volume licensing for a Windows client OS and Office Suite. Comparing the costs of buying OEM licenses vs. MS volume license costs, and what it adds to the expenditure of one or more new PCs, owners across my client base would justifiably laugh me out of town. The imaging strategy also doesn't work well for small clients because they don't switch out their PCs every 3 years - they will run on their systems for 5+ years!
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