Expert Interview Series: Vik Patel of Future Hosting On Cloud-Based Technology For Business
by Andrew Mullen on September 16, 2016
Vik Patel is a prolific tech entrepreneur with a passion for all things cloud as CEO of Detroit-based Future Hosting.
Back in 2014, Futurehosting.com wrote an article on "Cloud Vs. Dedicated Servers", where the author talks about the marketing blitz surrounding cloud computing. Is the cloud as pertinent now, as then, even as the buzz has been dying down?
The relevance of the cloud hasn't diminished for applications that benefit from its strengths and aren't negatively impacted by its drawbacks. It's still a great solution if a business needs elasticity and maximal flexibility. It's less applicable if long-term stability and optimal performance are the goal, as they are for most web- and app-hosting scenarios. Bare metal remains the best choice for these applications, which is why we see organizations moving workloads off the cloud and onto dedicated hardware.
The growing popularity of container solutions like Docker makes the move to dedicated servers even more appealing. Businesses get the best of both words: cloud-like flexibility with optimal performance.
Of course, a business doesn't have to choose one or the other; they can deploy a mix of cloud and bare metal hardware in-line with their needs.
In that article, the author discusses some of the benefits of the cloud, for small businesses and startups, including the ability to customize software and on-demand pricing. What are some of the other benefits of the cloud, for companies that don't need a full, dedicated server?
Cloud platforms are great for ephemeral workloads and for automation. It's mentioned less often than it should be, but the major benefit of cloud is the "infrastructure as code" capabilities that allow businesses to automate infrastructure provisioning via cloud APIs.
If a startup or small business can take advantage of those capabilities, the cloud is a great infrastructure choice. But, if they want to host back-end applications, web sites, in-house SaaS applications, and so on, and don't feel they need a dedicated server, then a public cloud platform is overkill. Managed virtualized solutions, including Virtual Private Servers are probably a better fit.
What are some particularly useful cloud resources for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and startups?
Self-hosted open source cloud applications considerably reduce the licensing burden and infrastructure expenditure facing new and smaller businesses. Deploying high-quality SaaS applications, including open source customer relationship management tools like OroCRM and VoIP solutions like Asterisk, allows businesses to access enterprise-grade software hosted on reliable infrastructure at a fraction of the cost of proprietary solutions.
Multichannel sales and marketing has become increasingly important, in today's fragmented sales industry. How can cloud computing be useful for getting data from all these different channels to work together?
Cloud-based applications and the infrastructure platforms that support them are the ideal solution for ingesting and analyzing large amounts of data from multiple sources. OroCRM is a customer relationship management tool that integrates with multiple sales channel, giving companies actionable insights that can be used to increase sales. Piwik is full-featured analytics platform on-par with Google Analytics. Tools like these let businesses build bespoke software suites that enhance their sales and marketing capabilities across multiple channels in ways that traditional enterprise solutions can't hope to compete with.
Futurehosting.com also wrote an article about VoIP Hosting being the ideal option for home businesses and freelancers. What are some of the advantages of VoIP, for small businesses? What are some unexpected things business owners can do with VoIP and cloud resources, working together?
One of the advantages of VoIP for small businesses is the way VoIP telephony solutions can be integrated with other business functions and the hosted applications that support them. A typical example is customer support: VoIP telephony can be integrated directly with cloud-based support applications, allowing support teams to make calls from within support tickets.
The website Cloudcomputing-news.net wrote a post recently about "3 Common Pitfalls Of A Crm Deployment", where they talk about more people adopting CRM solutions, due to falling prices, but failing to get their money's worth out of the software, due to a lack of strategic planning. Can you give an example of what CRM strategy is, and what a successful strategy might look like?
Integrating a new customer relationship management application into an existing sales team requires planning and forethought. One of the major problems I see is sales teams failing to adapt to new workflows. For a customer relationship management tool to be effective, sales teams must be diligent about recording customer interaction data in the CRM application - if they decide they prefer to use their own Excel spreadsheets because they feel their personal system helps them hit their targets, many of the collaborative and analytic benefits of CRM are lost.
To overcome this problem, there are two complementary strategies. Firstly, talk to sales teams about what they need from the CRM. Customize the interface and reports where possible. Secondly, give the sales teams adequate training - there's little benefit to mandating a change to a new CRM and leaving target-pressured sales professionals to sink or swim.
One of the criticisms that's leveled against the cloud is a lack of security. Has this gotten better or worse, in the past few years?
As the technology has improved, so has cloud security, but whether a particular cloud platform is secure has always been a function of the implementation rather than the technology. Security problems arise because of poor implementations. It's easier to build a secure cloud with technologies like OpenStack, but the popularity of the cloud has brought less-than-competent vendors into the space. Cloud users should do due diligence before deploying sensitive workloads on any cloud platform.
Some big businesses are discouraging telecommuting, due to a sluggish workflow. This totally overlooks the added benefits of remote file sharing for collaboration and getting everybody on the same page. What are some of the major advantages of remote file sharing, for business owners, marketers, and sales teams?
Data is the lifeblood of a modern business, but for data to be truly effective it can't be siloed in business units or on an employee's laptop. Remote file sharing tools allow anyone within an organization with the right authentication to access data - wherever they happen to be in the world.
Before businesses had access to tools like remote file sharing, Slack, and software-as-a-service applications, there was an argument for mandating that employees share the same physical space, but - as evidenced by the success of companies that embrace remote work like Automattic and Basecamp - being in different parts of the world is no longer a hindrance to successful communication and collaboration.
How much does a company stand to save, per month, on dedicated server fees, hardware, upkeep, maintenance, and mobile data plans, by adopting a central cloud solution?
That depends on the company. For some applications, dedicated servers are less expensive than a cloud solution. It's important that companies don't fall for the marketing hype. Cloud solutions can save businesses money, but they're far from the only viable infrastructure hosting option. IT procurement teams should develop a clear idea of what the business' infrastructure needs are and carry out cost-benefit analyses for each potential infrastructure solution. The right choice is usually a combination of platforms that include virtual servers, dedicated servers, and cloud platforms, each answering a specific business need.
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