MOVING YOUR BUSINESS INTO THE CLOUD
Without Increased Cost or Chaos ...
Posted by Andrew Spencer on 01/03/2012
Last time I talked in very general terms about how cloud computing could benefit small to medium businesses and came to the conclusion that a complete migration of IT infrastructure to the cloud is a realistic and cost effective option for businesses of 20 plus seats ...
moving to a complete cloud based solution doesn't have to be expensive or chaotic
Having said that, most businesses today - however small - use some form of cloud computing or telephony; email such as Gmail, CRM, PBX in the cloud and so on. Moving parts of your business to the cloud in this way, whilst maintaining your own server and desktop infrastructure terrestrially, is straightforward and the decision making usually easy.
However moving your entire business to the cloud, all your servers, desktops, applications etc. is not straightforward and the decision-making and planning has to be spot on. If the move succeeds, and there is no reason why it should not be if it is executed correctly, the benefits in terms of cost savings and capital expended, and the efficiencies gained can be very considerable indeed. So how do you get there? This is a very big area but here are some of the headlines you and/your advisor's need to think about and plan for.
A big move to the cloud will be prompted by issues such as having to make investment in servers, such as Exchange, upgrading all employees' desktops to Office 2010 and so on. Essentially all infrastructure can be moved to the cloud if you wish so the first decisions are about what you are seeking to invest in, how much capital is available and what the business needs.
You need to think about what should not, or need not, be in the cloud. There may be a specialist application that is best retained locally, for example because you develop it in-house so why make it arms length. Or you already have most of what you need and judicious investment locally satisfies your requirements.
One very important way to examine your objectives and to help determine your cloud requirements is to look at the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of your IT and telephony infrastructure. You will need to compare the TCO for investing locally in meeting your objectives compared to the TCO of moving to the cloud.
I typically work on a 5 year span in order to achieve - as far as possible - a like for like comparison. The models are so different that it is very difficult to achieve a good comparison but it can be done with careful consideration. Most of the effort should go into working out the local TCO but you do need to beware of hidden costs at the cloud end. Having a thorough local TCO makes assessing cloud suppliers proposals much easier.
In examining local TCO you will need to consider all of these factors:
Cost of capital
Server costs (hardware, licences)
Network investment required
Desktops (hardware, licences)
Data storage costs (capital and operating)
Back up and archiving costs
Disaster recovery costs
Power and cooling
Software maintenance costs
The last one on the list is potentially one of the highest costs over a 5 year period. What specialist knowhow do you either recruit or contract to look after all of the above. This knowhow is getting increasingly more expensive and scarce (the two go together).
Work out your requirements based on all of the above. You don't need a detailed requirements document but the document should list all that you are looking for in enough detail to act as a checklist in discussions with potential suppliers.
The trick in contacting potential suppliers is finding the right ones to contact. This is not necessarily easy, and for small to medium businesses harder than for big enterprises who will go to the obvious big enterprise cloud companies such as IBM and Microsoft. Good research is needed at this stage to find those specialising in SMBs.
Having created a shortlist of potential suppliers detailed assessment can happen. You will have the TCO information to help in assessing the suppliers quotes. There are also many issues to explore in addition to your specific requirements. Most of these issues will need to be covered in the contract. A short list of the key ones:
This list is not exhaustive! It is worth considering how you might best evaluate a preferred supplier. At least one supplier of cloud services specialising in SMBs offers a very reasonably priced evaluation day or two where they will visit and analyse the requirements on site and provide a report showing how they best meet the requirements (a report now based on first hand knowledge).
You have chosen a supplier and contracted them. Implementation obviously has to be carefully planned and carefully project managed by both parties. The only comment I would make here is that if the move to the cloud involves many employees it is worth forming a project team of champions from different departments who can help ensure smooth transition across the company.
One final key area to consider throughout the tendering and implementation process is security. The business will need to satisfy itself of the security credentials of the supplier but may also wish to consider testing of the complete installation by specialists, including penetration testing of the business's perimeters at both ends.
There is a lot to think about here but there are also considerable rewards to be had in reducing capital expenditure, cutting operating costs and improving efficiency and productivity. Many of the steps I have outlined above would benefit from my expert help in achieving them so you'll probably want to give me a call today on +44 (0) 1908 565 460 or click here to send me an email.
Until next time ...
During Andrew's extensive business career he has worked in a wide cross section of companies, specialising in the creation of contact centres and business systems, software development, telecommunications and project management. Andrew's key skills are:
Business planning and strategy
Matching technology to business needs
Software development and implementation
Designing and implementing business systems
His work has included sourcing and implementing a new integrated telecoms system for National Energy Services, designing and project managing a new IT and telephony structure for the Greyhound Racing Association, and directing technology development for Wembley plc.