If you are running a basic, content-driven website then utilizing the cloud won’t give you much advantage. After all, your website just needs CPU power and a way to upload content and manage the application. And publishing to one of the many Virtual Private Servers (VPSes) or Shared Hosting providers will more than suffice, and can be done at much lower cost.
But there are instances where startups and SMBs should only consider the cloud:
Cloud computing vendors are offering excellent techniques to auto-magically scale your hardware to meet customer loads. The next killer app is very likely to use the inbuilt scaling controls of Google AppEngine (probably the easiest one to use) to just as easily meet the demands of 1000 users as 1,000,000 users. And programmers love the ability to be able to scale an application without ever having to touch the underlying hardware or operating system.
Access to the right hardware and software combinations can frequently be a pain to procure and manage. Cloud provider, such as Amazon, now give access to a vast technology stack, directly through an easy-to-use web interface. Need Ubuntu 6.1 with SQL, running on a Quad-core machine? It’s now readily available for you in the cloud, without the hassle of installing and managing software packages.
As the cloud grows, so will the benefits to those who are using it. New solutions are constantly being built for cloud based monitoring, security and administration. Within a couple of years you will find that product integration within the cloud is significantly cheaper and easier than having to integrate with solutions that are outside the cloud.
Of-course, using the cloud is in and of itself a bet. It’s still a maturing industry and may not provide all the tools that your startup or SMB requires. But considering that the key cloud vendors are now running 50,000+ servers in their datacentres, would you really want to bet against them? When building your new app consider now just what the cloud provides today, but what it may provide your killer app with tomorrow and next year.