Way back in 1997, when I decided to start a new business, I went out and bought QuickBooks for bookkeeping and a server to run it on. How very twentieth century. Servers are the bane of new companies. They crash; they don't get backed up when they should; and – perhaps most important – they are only in one place at one time.
My new company, NG Advantage LLC, is not located in just one place even as a startup. Cofounders and I are working out of our homes. A number of us need access to the bookkeeping; sometimes we're not home but still want to access the bookkeeping. It would be very inconvenient to have it located in only one place on only one computer. It belongs in the cloud where all of us who need to can access it from wherever we are. I bought (actually am renting) QuickBooks Online. We don't have a server.
In fact we are not planning to buy ANY servers in the immediate future. What applies to bookkeeping applies to most of the other things we do. We're going to stay in the cloud for everything we plan to do right now including – especially including – critical applications depended on for customer service. And I'll write about what we do and our experience with the cloud applications we try in case our experience is helpful to others starting businesses and so that we can learn from your comments on what we're doing.
What if your cloud service provider is down? That's the first question people ask when they consider cloud computing for various applications. If you choose good vendors it won't happen often – but it will happen. Even Amazon has outages. But here's where you have to be very honest with yourself. What is more likely to be down: the triply-redundant, mirrored, multisource-powered, distributed server complex of a cloud provider or the server under your desk? Who's more likely to forget backup?
I know from the online user group that Quickbooks Online has had outages; I know I'll be furious when they happen. But I also know it won't be me trying to fix them. We won't keep all of our applications in one cloud. Hopefully we'll find something else to do when Quicken is down – even though any outage is bound to be at the worst possible time.
If your own operation is burned down or flooded (we Vermonters remember Irene), is your data better off with you or offsite somewhere? If you have to keep serving your customers and your site is down, wouldn't you like to be able to do that wherever you can get Internet access? Do you want to be out looking for new servers and trying to restore old backups, or do you want to be dealing with whatever problems your customers have? Our customer service application will be as reliable as it must be because it won't be in any one place and no single catastrophe will be able to destroy it.