It is no secret that the Cloud is changing how businesses think about and consume IT. If your company has not outsourced applications or systems that once resided in-house to a cloud platform, it is likely that it’s only a matter of time.
Cloud-use business cases are constantly changing. Cloud computing is making products and services that used to be complex, expensive or not possible, a reality. This is particularly true in the small to medium sized businesses. In the Midwest, we tend to view trends of all kinds with a healthy dose of skepticism. So the question becomes, “what is driving cloud adoption in our region”?
Outsourcing e-mail and collaboration with Office 365 and Google apps has quickly replaced traditional, on-premises Exchange servers. For every in-house Exchange migration, Network Center, Inc. (NCI) performs three to four cloud migrations. Because this type of outsourcing has become so ubiquitous, we will focus on other areas that public cloud is making gains.
Consider the line of business applications in your environment. In many cases, this might include e-mail and collaboration, an ERP suite such as Dynamics or GP, and perhaps some SQL back-end with reporting or business intelligence. Maintaining LoB applications generally requires an investment in hardware and software, high priced support and maintenance contracts and skilled employees to manage the systems. Outsourcing these applications generally allows for greater application resiliency and removes the hardware overhead burden of support and maintenance from internal IT staff.
After collaboration and line of business applications, business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) is a natural fit for the cloud. Building and maintaining a functional disaster recovery infrastructure has inherent cost and complexity that traditionally required many SMBs to compromise function for economics. A surprising number of small businesses struggle with the process of automating and securely transferring backup data offsite without the hassle of removable media or simply maintaining the required amount of backup retention. Other SMBs, particularly financial institutions, are often faced with more robust business continuity requirements. Building and managing a fully functional DR site may not have been possible. Cloud computing offers solutions that allows companies to leverage a true "pay as you grow" model for both of these scenarios.
Another traditionally complex issue for IT departments is managing exploding storage growth. A number of things, such as business and application requirements, can cause growth. Consumer cloud storage can also become a growth issue as it gives us the luxury of never having to delete pictures, files, or any other data, making many of us have become “digital pack rats”.
The hardware, applications and expertise needed to manage this growth is complex and expensive. Cloud providers have helped solve this problem with inexpensive storage options and intelligent applications that automatically keep the most accessed data on-premises while archiving less frequently accessed information on progressively cheaper cloud based storage.
With online e-mail, collaboration, file sharing and hosted line of business applications, some businesses are successfully transitioning to an entirely hosted infrastructure. This is especially appealing in companies with small, distributed or highly collaborative work forces.
While these may be primary drivers to the cloud for companies in our area, it is only a tiny fraction of what is possible. What the cloud computing trends might mean to your company is a highly individualized answer. There is no "correct" path through this IT transition. Finding the path and the pace of adoption of this new technology is the key.
At Network Center Inc., we realize the impact this technology is having on our industry and we are adapting to it. Our methodology for designing solutions is changing. We look forward to a consultative approach with our customers to help them find the correct path and solutions for their company. We position ourselves as the experts on several cloud platforms and are excited about the opportunities that our customers now have available.
Oftentimes, moving forward requires change. The transition from servers and applications hosted in-house to web-based applications may have a steeper learning curve for end users compared to server virtualization or other industry pivots that required companies to reimagine the status quo. However, it can be a rewarding experience for end users and IT admins once the growing pains subside.