Monday, April 4, 2011

What Makes Sense in the Cloud - TODAY

So it's been a while since I talked about why you might not want to jump in to the cloud yet. Let's talk about why now is a great time to get your feet wet.

Cloud services have matured and the product offerings in the marketplace have really come a long way in the last 24 months. In 2009 we had the bare beginnings of cloud services and the only real mainstream services were Salesforce, Google Apps and some mail applications (Yahoo, Google, Hotmail, etc.) Since then the options have EXPLODED and we're already on version 2 or later of some of the more prominent ones.

If your organization uses Exchange e-mail but has less than 100 users you might be very interested now in Microsoft Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS). For a fixed, low, monthly fee per user you get the full functionality of Exchange - hosted in the cloud. The experience is almost identical to the end user. A short and easy migration gets you off your old Small Business Server or Exchange server and you're now a highly-mobile fully-functional mail user.

Microsoft will be releasing their upgraded version of BPOS in the next few months. It's being re-branded as Office 365 and they are expanding the products offered along with it. For instance, you can now purchase hosted Exchange (and get Sharepoint for collaboration, Lync for instant messaging and presence, and LiveMeeting for group training/presentations) for $6 per user per month. If you don't have the latest version of Microsoft Office on your computer and would like it too you can pay $24 per month per user.

So, now you can rapidly turn up and down the number of e-mail boxes and even the number of Office licenses you're paying for. Those Office licenses are $399+ each if you buy them up front and you pay for them regardless of whether you use them or not!

Take it a step further... you can now rent workstations or laptops (and servers!) with an included service agreement... and without going through financing... from many I.T. service shops. You've been doing this with mobile phones for a while, and lately you've seen it in printers. You choose a level of service you want, sign up for a contract term and the hardware is included. Many of these services allow you to increase and decrease the number of machines as needed.

So, scale up your number of computers and all the software required as needed. If you cut down on staff you're not stuck with the equipment and software investment... simply return it and stop paying for the unused items.

You can purchase many items this way: printers, computers, MS Office software, antivirus software, e-mail services, ERP applications, accounting software, CRM software... the list goes on and on. If you have a savvy trusted advisor talk to them about what options make sense for you. You'll want to have an analysis of the services done and compare the cost of hosting the applications and hardware yourself to the cost of outsourcing. Get a full proposal and shop it to make sure you're getting the best deal with the right combination of hardware, software and services.

So, back to the original question: What Makes Sense in the Cloud Today?

The answer is... everything that makes sense. Do your homework. If you can push it to the cloud and maintain your quality of service while decreasing costs get to it!

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