As I sit here drinking the end of my 2nd coffee for the morning I am interrupted by Mike with news of another client who is keen to move their business to the cloud. Many of our clients have heard a lot about the cloud and are starting to embrace the new possibilities and how the cloud might positively impact their organisation. We too are excited about the possibilities the cloud is beginning to present us with, but as in all new technologies, myths about what it can and can't do are beginning to take hold.
There are two major myths that are hampering everyone's progress to the cloud.
One: The cloud is a single entity you can sign on to.
Two: You can save $
(There are many more myths, and Gartner wrote a great article on this recently, which you can read here: http://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/the-top-10-cloud-myths/)
The first myth seems to have started from two ideas that contradict one another.
A) Microsoft and other vendors who are very excited about the cloud (which is understandable because it is very exciting) can only apply very broad strokes to their marketing campaigns, and in doing so they make it seem that the cloud is a single thing that you can sign up for.
B) The cloud is not one single thing, it is multiple things that you could sign up for if you wished, depending on how you want your business to use the technology it currently has, and the technology it thinks it might use in the future.
So, if the cloud isn't just one thing, then what is it? Think about the cloud like a custom car. But I mean a real custom car, not a car ready to drive, that you pick red leather seats instead of fabric, and the V8 engine rather than the V6. I mean you are shown to a garage filled with car parts, and you now get to pick which parts you want for the chassis, the body, the engine, the wheels, everything, from scratch. If I was set this task I would probably run away determined to walk everywhere instead. The task is monumental for even an experienced mechanic, never mind someone who is only interested in whether it has 2 cups holders or 4! This is what the cloud is like, and we are the experienced engineers who are tasked with building it for you. This task is additionally challenging because the parts we have to choose from are also changing on a daily basis, so the part we had yesterday may now operate slightly differently today. And those changes also apply to parts already being used, so a solution that we have already built, may no longer work as expected.
So what about saving $? Surely you can make savings by migrating to the cloud? Well, that all depends on what you do now, and what you would like to do in the future. For instance, if you are a business that does not run a server (or your shared resource is a central workstation) and you like to keep up to date with your technology, then Office 365 can give you more functionality for the same $. For a mere $15 per user per month you can get the latest version of the Office Standard suite (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher), so over 3 years that's $540 per user. This is pretty good, and is on par with buying Office outright (Compare to Office Home & Business at $425 [Word, Excel, Powerpoint, OneNote, Outlook] or Office Professional at $859 [Word, Excel, Powerpoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, Access]. If you are like most businesses, and you only renew your office products every 5 years, then you will be paying $900 per user, where you were previously spending around $500, but Microsoft offer additional features such as their "no more upgrades" policy, so you always have access to the latest version. They also give you access to Exchange online for shared calendar & email, so you are truly getting your money's worth. Now, most businesses of this type use POP email services, which are very low cost, but are not centralised, so you may not necessarily have paid for (or thought you needed) those services previously, but you will now have access to them for no additional $.
Another example is a business with a Windows Small Business Server. Microsoft have now discontinued support for Small Business Server, in the hopes to encourage businesses to use Exchange Online. Fantastic, that means you can get rid of your server, right? Not so fast. Small Business Server was very popular for a reason. It performed various functions including an Active Directory (to centralise your security and application preferences), Exchange (for your mail), Print Services (for centralised printing), Data Storage (for data sharing), backup & restoration services and Shared Applications (especially Industry specific applications). So even if you move to Exchange Online, you still have these other services to figure out. Because of this our Rule of Thumb is; If you have a server, you will need to keep a server. This may mean that you choose a Hybrid system, and in some circumstances you can choose a cloud server (still a server, just one that lives at someone else's house) and in very rare circumstances, you can abandon your server altogether.
So is the cloud the right path for you? Most certainly, it is the way technology is moving, and you are probably already using cloud services already. We are very excited about what the cloud can do for our clients, because it is opening up a million possibilities for us all to take advantage of it, but if you approach it with an "additional features" mindset, rather than a "saving $" one you will find the transition a much simplier one.
Victoria has been in the IT industry for over 20 years in sales, marketing,network administration and management. She has a life long love of all things technological and with the help of the great technical minds around her, she tries to navigate the tricky world of business IT.