We've been busy doing strategic reviews of clients in the professional services space, from Accountants to Surveyors to Lawyers and in doing so we talk with their in-house or external IT service providers to find out what's in place today and the current vision for the future..
It's always a surprise to hear a very narrow appreciation of what cloud has to offer, and why it might be OK for others but not for the organisations we're looking at.
Invariably there are benefits of moving to the cloud that these organisations are being vehemently denied.
If as a CEO or CFO you are being asked to buy a server, storage, network device, or telephony system to manage at your office location, alarm bells should ring loud and clear. There are occasional circumstances where this would be the best solution but these days those scenarios are few and far between.
The wide availability of Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions means the number of applications that you need to run and manage yourselves is in quick decline. Running an Exchange Server, a file server, a backup server, your customer relationship management system, order processing or your accounting system for yourself is a sure fire sign you're energy is being spent in the wrong place; all of these workloads are now possible using very mature subscription software that is continuously being improved and enhanced by vendors such as Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, MYOB and Dropbox and even as a small to medium business these software juggernauts have small scale solutions for you.
Take those systems out of the equation and what's left? Whatever it is, most likely cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) will be a better approach than your own server.
Using infrastructure as a service you generally need much less infrastructure because you buy in to much more leverage and flexibility. For example, your backups can be more regular (hourly or more instead of once a day) reducing the risk of lost work. Your server(s) will be protected by a virtual firewall meaning you don't need a physical one yourself. Your storage is dynamically scalable to what you need, meaning you don't have to guess and pay up front for capacity you may never use, and as you move more and more applications to SaaS you can scale down your infrastructure meaning you don't have physical server limitations (too big or too small).
Finally, and this is what your IT staff or IT service provider fear the most, the administration time needed for cloud solutions is vastly reduced in comparison to managing your own servers and desktops. That means if you have on premise hardware you are most likely overpaying for support.
Several common objections are levelled at a suggested move to cloud, each of which are often misplaced;
1. We use big files so we can't use cloud because of bandwidth
This is common for media companies, surveyors, and accountants and yet do you think there are media companies, surveyors or accountants using cloud computing, of course there are! If you are using big files in applications like iManage or Revit using cloud and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI 2.0) will most likely give you a better user experience than a local installation - especially if you work on client sites or from many locations.
2. We have one office so we don't need the flexibility of cloud.
This presumes that the only flexibility is greater access from anywhere. Whilst that's a massive benefit, there are so many other benefits from removing infrastructure from your office. Lower electricity bills, greater security, lower capital requirements, backups that don't rely on someone to take media off site.
3. We've run the numbers an buying a new server is cheaper.
This comes up a lot. There is no doubt that multiplying a monthly cost for a cloud server by 60 months and comparing this to an outright purchase and depreciation will often seem to cost more. This simplistic calculation is where hidden costs are often ignored. Add in the cost of power, cooling, space, administration, downtime, management software, software obsolescence, upgrade and replacement, physical and digital security, connectivity and monitoring, and cabling and you soon see that the on-costs of on-premise infrastructure are significant.
We are well and truly into the age where on-site infrastructure and maintenance is predominantly to the benefit of the IT support people, and not the organisation it's there to enable.
We still find companies that are being hoodwinked into buying hardware, software and services they don't need.
If you feel like you're been kept in the dark ages by your IT support people, we're here to provide the counter point that looks at cloud adoption from the perspective of why you should go all-in and become an agile business with more options and less stranded assets.