Get Your Head And Your Business into the Cloud. Chances are if you haven’t heard of the Cloud then you’ve probably been living on a deserted island the last few years. Yes, the Cloud is something nearly everyone has heard of, but what is it? What does it do?
The Cloud is the ultimate IT resource management tool. It allows you to more effectively manage IT assets while simultaneously decreasing the time (and often the cost) it takes to manage them. This allows you to focus on your core business. While you cannot get totally out of managing IT, you can seriously reduce the effort required for the 3 levels of IT — CIO Level, Engineers, and Technicians — giving you the option to get out of one, two, or all three of them.
One of the great features of the Cloud is its elasticity. You can turn up your usage demands and then lower them in slack periods. This includes electricity, computing power, and the associated services that keep that service running. You pay only for what you use! How cool is that?
Cloud computing advantages include:
- Economic (cash) – operating expense vs. capital expense
- Much more….
There are some key challenges with moving to the cloud:
- Cloud Environments
- Security and privacy
Governance has to do with best practices, business models, and cultural issues. It is important to have an IT roadmap that aligns with the business strategy. It can also be a political dance if you don’t have buy-in from key stakeholders. Lack of alignment can cause your cloud strategy to blow up. You will need to use strategic planning tools to get everyone striving toward the same quarterly goals. My recommendation of course is to do a white board visioning session facilitated by yours truly (end of shameless self promotion).
There are 3 types of Cloud environments:
- Private — your hardware and software at a data center, not shared with anyone else.
- Public — shared hardware and software provided by a service provider, commonly known as SAAS (Software as a Service)
- Hybrid — this is the most common today as there is hardware and software on-premise (your place), and you use cloud computing in both private and public cloud space.
Security will always be an issue and you’ll need to have oversight of this at all times. The good new is there are many applications and systems out there to help you audit your security.
So here is what I see happening:
Cloud Backup – Just do this. Tape drive backup systems are dead, they are slow and just a pain. There are many cloud backup systems so do a little research and make the move. It is reliable, safe, more flexible, and cheaper. In some cases, the devices can serve as a disaster recovery option.
Email — this should be moved to the Cloud today. Since 95% of email is SPAM and Malware there is a lot of computing in your shop that can be handled outside. The benefits are that you offload security patches, malware updates, and system upgrades to someone that does this full time and can do it better and cheaper. If you need to have your email server on premise, push the malware and filtering to the cloud.
CRM Systems or Centralized Contact Management Systems due to the mobile demands of the workforce — always on and always updated — it is easier to let Cloud applications handle this function. They can do it better, faster and more accurately. See my last blog on BYOD.
Financial and ERP Systems — today start ups often start with Cloud services, but may discover a strong case to bring apps back on-premise if they have to do a lot of integration that may not be Cloud ready. If you are a financial and distribution shop, moving to the Cloud is a great option for you. Manufacturers beware — any kind of interruption of accessing your system can cost you big time.
Document Management — move it to the cloud. These are files that start electronic like Excel, Word, PowerPoint, etc. Systems are available now in the cloud like Microsoft Office 365 and SharePoint, so there is no reason to keep your documents local. Again, having access to them all the time via all your devices will make you more agile as a person and as a business.
Document Imaging and Management — again, move it to the cloud. Space is cheap and as long as you have access to it and can index it into your existing systems (which you should do) — get it out of your shop.
It’s so easy right? Well, you do have to think it through, plan it out and put a technology roadmap together. But it is a lot easier today than it ever has been. Integration will be the key! Getting these systems integrated and synchronized will maximize your people and your business.
Bottom line — Cloud Computing allows you to focus on your core business instead of worrying about break/fix IT issues. Don’t be afraid to partner with outside firms on IT, they have expertise and resources that are hard to find and manage internally. Take advantage of substantial benefits, increased computing power and cost savings. Get your head — and your business — into the Cloud.
For any questions, leave me a comment.