Ah yes, cloud computing. "We'll put it in the cloud." "Oh, my servers are in the cloud." Cloud is the buzzword du jour, for sure.
But anyone who has ever actually tried to put something in the cloud has generally been in for a fairly rude shock. Using the cloud may be cheaper than a server in a hosting facility, but it doesn't cure all the pain. Some nasty systems administration work is required to run enterprise software applications, Web servers, or databases on cloud clusters like Amazon's (AMZN) EC2 or Linode. I speak from experience, having left an Amazon EC2 Application instance open and running for several days by mistake. I ended up with a massive bill and a rude shock.
There needs to be a kinder, gentler path into the cloud before smaller businesses with limited computing expertise will be able to access this buzzy trend. And that's what ambitious startup Standing Cloud aims to provide, in a number of ways.
The company earlier this week announced a new $3 million Series B funding round led by Avalon Ventures, which joined with earlier investors Foundry Group to bring the company's total VC haul to $5 million. Standing Cloud's model is likely a harbinger of the direction in which cloud computing will evolve over the next few years, with a focus on making this relatively new computing development more accessible, more affordable and easier to manage.
What You Get From Standing Cloud
Standing Cloud lets subscribers select from among more than five dozen software applications to install and operate, and allows them to pick which cloud hosting provider they want to use to run their software. Rackspace (RAX), Amazon and other big players are all on the menu, although Microsoft (MSFT) Azure is not. The software applications include many popular open-source packages for CRM, databases, content management and Web serving. Customers pay $24.95 per month per application deployment from the standing menu, and Standing Cloud throws in bandwidth costs.
This could add up if a company is deploying lots of software, but for companies running only a few applications, it's no big deal and probably less expensive than hiring a sys-admin to babysit their systems. Further, Standing Cloud makes it super simple to add on so-called "modules" to programs: calendars, email lists, or e-commerce shopping carts, for example. For the most part, such modules are somewhat complicated to install and require expert help: Standing Cloud aims to make them push-button painless even for tech newbies.
CEO Dave Jilk says that Standing Cloud also makes it possible for customers to switch between cloud computing providers -- a process that takes quite a bit of work -- in a matter of minutes. That eliminates "cloud lock," a growing problem for companies who feel that the hassle of ripping down virtual installations from one cloud system and moving them to another outweighs the benefits of lower prices or better service.
The upshot of all this is fairly clear. Standing Cloud is only one player in this arena, but the move towards cloud computing is definitely real and happening quickly. Owning physical hardware makes less and less sense in an age of virtualization and cheap ubiquity. But making the transition painless for businesses is both a tall order and necessary step. Watch for others to follow Standing Cloud as they move the cloud towar ds one-click installation goodness for small- to medium-size businesses in the same manner that MediaTemple and other big hosting services have made it one-click easy to install Drupal, WordPress and other popular content systems.
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