By Johanne Bouchard EBS Business Columnist

Regardless of the size of your business, it’s imperative to have a state-of-the-art information technology infrastructure. This is no time to lag behind with IT that can efficiently and effectively help grow a sustainable business.

Oracle World, a gigantic technology conference, was held in San Francisco during the last week of October. Oracle is investing heavily to build a new cloud computing enterprise business ensuring it is the No. 1 Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) cloud provider.

The era of cloud computing is here for businesses of all sizes. When I started my career as a systems engineer, we accessed software and digital files in data centers, and the enterprise had dedicated rooms for tapes, consoles and large mainframe computers. As my own tech career progressed, so did the industry.

I’ve been enthralled by databases, networks, peer-to-peer computing, application servers, document and web management, and now the birth of SaaS. We’ve evolved from needing tons of hardware to store, maintain, access and manage our data in-house, to renting applications and app-hosting platforms as subscription services over the Internet.

In a way, we’ve come full circle – back to data centers. Now third party data centers exist to achieve economies of scale, and to share resources and information from a variety of devices on demand. At the core of cloud computing is invisibility of how services are rendered and where information resides, maximizing effectiveness of the shared resource.

Company IT infrastructures are shifting away from dedicated hardware, which depreciates over time. Businesses no longer need to purchase licenses in order to install different applications that must be maintained and upgraded. These changes lower costs and affect the speed at which a business scales or downsizes.

What does this mean for small business owners? Stay current with IT trends and understand the advantages and disadvantages of cloud computing.


A competitive edge
Cloud computing levels the field by giving small businesses access to technologies that were once out of their reach.

Reduced up-front cost to set up an IT infrastructure
Cloud computing requires minimal:
Physical hardware space
Financial allocation to evaluate and purchase hardware
Resources to evaluate, install, maintain, and back-up software and email servers

Improved streamlining and scaling
On-demand IT is dynamic and adaptable to the current business climate. Companies are no longer locked into software applications like they once were. As businesses change, so do their computing needs – modifying access permissions and opting in for upgrades are easier than ever.


Security vulnerabilities
While the safety of any computing environment is always top priority, the cloud refers to Internet-based computing. Progress is being made, but every individual business must be mindful of the risks of storing information in this “invisible” world.

Tech support
Customer support for cloud-based apps is not consistent and can be difficult to get prompt, effective support.

The cloud is here, and every business should assess whether or not to take advantage of its many benefits, while being mindful of its current limitations.

Johanne Bouchard, a former high-tech marketing executive, is a leadership advisor to CEOs, executives and entrepreneurs, as well as an expert in corporate board composition and dynamics. Visit to learn more or download her recently published eBooks “Board Composition” and “Board Basics.”