Particularly in the IT sector, there is much talk of cloud computing. The whole sector celebrates it as the new success model. But even people who are not familiar with IT can hardly escape this catchword. Nearly every IT company touts cloud computing and even on TV you can see commercials about the cloud offered by the German telecommunications company Telekom, the Apple iCloud or the Microsoft Office hosted in the cloud. But despite the strong media presence only a few people know what this name really means; even people working in the IT sector have only a basic knowledge which is not sufficient for a company to make strategic decisions.
As various different approaches are combined under the term cloud computing, it is difficult for laymen and experts to completely recognize the advantages and disadvantages of a cloud approach. This impression is reinforced by some misleading advertisements of big IT companies that act as free riders and want to benefit from the interest people show in this term.
However, cloud computing offers small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) that are represented in such a diversity, particularly in structurally weak areas, the great opportunity to operate in the same way as large enterprises despite a low budget when it comes to IT support of their business processes. So far, for those companies this has meant huge investments in their datacentres, appropriate server hardware, back-up devices, software licences and, above all, trained staff that installs, configures and maintains the systems. As small companies cannot afford all this, they often resort to rudimentary support and licence-free software that is installed and maintained by administrators who install and maintain the systems in addition to their actual work. All too often, even the simplest requirements such as a regular back-up fall by the wayside, let alone legal archiving or guaranteed availability.
In contrast, with cloud computing the required programs are available in a high quality as web-based services for flexible use. If the company expands and its employees generate more data to be processed, the company just pays a higher monthly fee instead of having to invest money in new servers. If, for example, the company’s webshop is heavily frequented because of a Christmas campaign, the dynamic scalability of cloud computing ensures that all customers can be served. After the campaign when business is getting calmer, the monthly fee is reduced and adapted to the lower frequency of the webshop.
Due to the fact that this procedure does not always function in practice as outlined above and considering the risks the cloud entails besides the great opportunities, Hof University offers support for SMEs that want to use cloud services and software producers that want to offer their own software as cloud service in addition to the sale of it. This support is carried out in the scope of the project “Dein Weg in die Cloud” that is promoted by the European Social Fund (ESF). Basic terms are explained step by step and advantages and snares are shown by practical usage scenarios. Overviews of available cloud offers and tips regarding reasonable selection criteria are also provided. More sophisticated contents are provided for software producers that include the technical prerequirements for operating the software successfully.