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Are Cloud-based services in your future?

By: Luis M. Alvarez 

At least once or twice a week, I get asked the same question by one of our clients: “Should I be going into the Cloud?” followed quickly by, “What is the Cloud, anyway?” The answer to the first question is a resounding “Yes!” but the second question leads to a much longer conversation.

The first thing you need to understand is that the Cloud is really not a single thing but is instead a collection of hosted services available via the Internet which you can use as needed. Demand for these hosted services is growing so fast that many traditional software companies are rushing to create hosted versions of their applications (called Software as a Service or SaaS).  So the question is not “Should I put my server in the cloud?” but rather “What services can I get in the cloud that I used to put on my server in the office and what do I do with my server after that?”

See, it’s a lengthy conversation!

The primary value we offer our clients is to work with them constantly to identify the best, most cost-effective way to do business.  That often means taking an application or service that they are currently running on their servers and migrating to a cloud-based provider that will give them a bigger bang for the buck. Most of our clients don’t want to operate a data center in their office, so they love the idea of moving everything to the cloud, but more often than not we find that there is a need for a server or two in the office to host applications that can’t be put in the cloud or to provide local storage of files.  In some cases, though, we are able to move everything to the cloud because it makes the most business sense.

Whether your office is ready to migrate to the cloud depends on a number of factors, but the primary question is whether you have enough Internet bandwidth.  To get the best experience and not lose productivity, broadband access is essential, with a minimum download speed of 20 megabits (MB) and upload speed of 10MB, but the number of users and the applications they use will be the real determining factor for the amount of bandwidth needed. In many rural areas where broadband is unavailable, that limits what kind of services can be hosted online.

I believe that the future of cloud computing, at least for the near future, is what we call Hybrid Cloud, where some services and applications are migrated to the cloud but some stay in the office. Many applications that use to require a server in the office – email, Intranet portal and even telephones – are now considered utility services that should be purchased from hosting providers on a subscription basis. And as I said earlier, more and more applications are being offered as SaaS services so upgrading those applications in the future will mean moving from an application installed on your server in the office to a hosted service offered by the application manufacturer.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can better use cloud-based services to save money and improve business outcomes, feel free to contact me or your account manager to have that long conversation.  We’ll be happy to discuss what makes sense for you.

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