Posted by: barrmar on Mar 24, 2011
Being involved in the IT industry, it becomes more and more evident that hosted solutions are becoming the norm rather than the exception.
On conversation was of particular interest. It was for a fairly major system that was available either as a hosted solution or as an installed version on your own server. The system is quite big and is used in a number of companies and government organisations in the US and the EU.
The hosted version is the "cloud" solution. The system, configuration, data storage, backups and everything else happens remotely. Using this system means that the customer does not have to have any dedicated resources to keep the system running. It does not need to host a number of servers. It does not need to do daily, weekly and monthly backups of the data.
All that the client has to do is to provide broadband Internet access and a number of workstations to use the system. The client is responsible for maintaining its own business rules, but everything else is taken over by the hosting service.
While the hosting service may seem expensive, it does free the client from having to provide its own IT infrastructure to support the system. Support is available 24/7 and there are service level agreements in place to govern response times, up-time and so on.
The interesting thing is that 95 of the vendor's North American clients opted for the hosted solution. In the EU, the figure was closer to 50%. There are no South African clients yet.
To me, the cloud solution makes a lot of sense, as long as the host provides multiple servers and enough redundancy to ensure that if one server is down, then at least one of the others will be up and running. There must be full security and data encryption to ensure full data privacy (a legal requirement in the EU and US and soon here). There must be no down time.
The problems facing these systems in South Africa are that broadband is still relatively expensive. The Internet system is reliant on a couple of undersea cables and a satellite. A year ago we had some major problems getting Internet access. Finally, the hosting is generally overseas meaning the local jobs are lost to foreign hosts.
Many systems now offer hosted "on the cloud" solutions. Small and medium sized businesses in particular will benefit. These businesses often cannot afford a full IT department and their systems suffer.
Google's new Chrome operating system is geared towards using the computer to access the cloud. In the future cloud environment, that is all that your PC or laptop will need to do.