Startup Sutra: To Scale Quick, Ride A Cloud

Small is Big makes a catchy label for a startup to stick at the office water cooler. But Small is Big with cloud computing makes for business gyan. To put it in another way, Startup + Cloud = Another Facebook kind of valuation in the works (read on to know how). So think big. Work smart. Keep it lean and mean. Deliver stuff that works straight off the shelf. That’s what the cloud is all about, particularly for a startup. Enabling anyone to do any work or any play anywhere, anyplace, anytime. Is that not why when people say they are on cloud, they mean they are on cloud nine, eight times out of nine?

Reverse the equation for a moment. What if you are a startup actually offering cloud services? Impossible is nothing! You can potentially set the investors’ pulse racing and have over-eager venture capitalists knocking on your doors! Workday, a young Californian firm selling cloud-based software hit pay dirt managing the back-offices of large companies and ended up with a valuation of nearly $4 billion at the New York bourses. Another company, Yammer that offers social networking software, was snapped up by Microsoft for $1.2 billion.

Let’s rewind to Ground Zero when you have just buckled your straps and are starting from scratch. As a startup, you cannot afford to be straight-jacketed. You need to keep your options open. Like, one door should open when another closes.

Suppose you start with investing big on creating an all-purpose fully loaded virtual architecture, and this model ends up as a white elephant? All the more sensible therefore that you keep your investment on virtual architecture lean and mean and to the minimum, and fully leverage Cloud Service to the maximum by using it for accessing application infrastructure, processing, storage, etc.

Unless you are starting your enterprise with a billion dollars (!) your number one concern will be about how to thread your costs thin. Remember Google’s pay-per-click (PPC) concept? It’s the same with startups using cloud service. You only pay per spend, or pay per user or per quantity of processing/storage.
With cloud services, your resources are “elastic”, and you enjoy out of the box mobility by way of easy and instant access to IT facilities from any suitably configured device, including faster access to latest software and hardware upgrades on the cutting edge. For instance, days after your new state-of-art server farm arrives on its pallets, the market is abuzz about the launch of a new server that has double the processing power and is available at half the cost of your server! But if you have adopted the cloud model, you are able to access up-to-date hardware resources and software functionality, and its newly added features, at little or no extra cost.

However, many startups would like to cross the bridge to the cloud only when it becomes par for the course and not when it is still a fashion statement.

For instance, in situations where data requirements are huge, working on a smart phone view is like watching the spectacular Avatar on a 9’ inch screen and writing a review of it!

When a startup relies on a network provider for most, if not all, its IT needs, how will it cope in the event of a network disruption? How will you ensure uptime in case you lose connectivity to your data? How will you manage your Windows Active Directory servers?

Cloud for startups has its advocates and critics and it would be fair to say that it is an idea whose time will not go for some time to come. Wish we had Steve Jobs to ask the right questions and provide better answers. Or is it that he is on cloud ??

If you want to bootstrap your way to scale, your ticket is a cloud away.