One of the most interesting questions facing IT support companies like ours is “How soon can I move everything to the cloud?”
It’s interesting because it exposes two things – people are frustrated to some extent with the in-house computing experience, and they believe at least to some extent that moving to the cloud will be the answer to their prayers.
Why not? “The Cloud” sounds like a little slice of heaven – white, puffy, soft and ready for a bathroom tissue commercial.
“The Cloud” actually means different things depending on who you talk to, but for the context of this blog, I’m going to define it as “a place to do computing tasks that isn’t housed at my office.” So, truthfully, “The Cloud” could be in someone’s garage, at a Data center in Denmark, at one of hundreds of offshore Google facilities, or on Xbox Live – as long as it’s not “here”.
The usefulness of the cloud varies depending on the company, which is why we normally answer that question with a series of others:
- How dependent are you on line-of-business applications that are not web based? (for instance, Dental software that works with dental equipment, or business management software for retail locations)
- How reliable is your internet connection – do you have a failover?
- How ready are your employees to telecommute – do they have sufficent bandwidth at home?
- How ready are you to manage remote employees? Some companies work better with deadlines and tasks, some work better when people are in the same place.
- What are the concerns with the security of your data? Would making it accessible from anyway violate privacy regulations?
- What are your software licensing costs when you own the software versus using an online version? (Quickbooks is a good example)
- How much customization is required for your business to run well? Would that be more easily accomplished locally?
- What percentage of your workforce is mobile versus in your office?
As we get answers to these questions, they naturally lead to others. Bottom line, however, the real question almost always centers on number of employees and the style of interaction they will have. We have clients with 40+ users that will be able to put most all of their business in the cloud – they will most certainly pay more for some of it than they would to go local, but for them the flexibility is worth it and they have proven they can manage their staff no matter where they are – this opens up a world of potential employees to them, as well, since there are no longer commute questions of concern.
We also have clients with 6 or 7 people who won’t be migrating completely to the cloud any time soon. Their business is very office centric and they are better served with a local environment with some cloud components.
Every business will be somewhat different. Our own business is moving some functionality to the cloud with the use of a secondary cloud based file server. Why have two? It allows us to set up a whole different permissioning structure, to provide direct links to forms and such that we would like to make available from anywhere and to anyone, while still keeping other files behind our firewall.
Each year, the number of things that will be able to be done outside of the office will increase, and each year, we’ll review with our clients how those new functionalities may affect them, as we learn more about what they intend to accomplish. Our relationships with our clients will continue to morph further from just being the folks that fix stuff when it breaks and otherwise try to keep it from breaking to a more advisory role as hundreds of new cloud services all pop up, all looking great, all showing great promise, but not all delivering.
Borrowing from Paul Masson, we will serve no cloud solution before its time. But the time will come where we will introduce a little cloudiness into everyone’s world, and hopefully in doing so, make for a brighter future.
Feel free to post comments or questions here about what to move and what to keep local, or contact our office for a less cloud-based method of conversation!