One reason small companies opt for cloud computing is because it means they can drop the pain of owning and maintaining servers and other IT infrastructure.
Once there, they often discover an even bigger advantage: they no longer need to worry much about desktop hardware.
Most office workers use a limited set of applications. Mail, word processing, spreadsheets and, perhaps, web browsing, cover most everyday tasks. You may also need accounts, CRM or a vertical application to run the business. Cloud services can deliver all of these functions – in almost every case the cloud is more efficient than running desktop applications.
Power moves off the desktop
This means companies moving to the cloud don’t need to give most workers powerful desktop machines. In some cases older hardware will do the trick, in other cases tablets or inexpensive desktops are more than enough. At a pinch a smartphone will do.
This is a return to what, in the late 1990s, we referred to as a thin client. Thin as in “thin on computer power”, physically they were big devices with bulky CRT displays and came with little or no local storage. One advantage of their design was that they could be made inherently more secure than desktops.
Early thin clients were low powered PCs and dumb terminals hooked up to servers. They were cheap to buy and even cheaper to run.
Tablets like the iPad make even better thin clients. They’re even less expensive than cheap business PCs, require little support and are easy to use. They also have the advantage of being physically thin and light, which makes them portable.