Cloud Schmoud! – What’s the big deal?
We’ve been building web based business systems for 10 years now and it seems like the rest of the world has, over the last year or so, started to catch on to the many benefits of centralised, remotely accessible information systems. So what is all the fuss about? What does cloud mean to me if I run a small or medium sized business? Well, Cloud computing can make all the difference to your business. In a nutshell, a “cloud” is a series of services run on an external server. These services are scalable and reliable, so you only pay for what you use and your uptime is maximised, meaning your bills will be lower and you will spend a lot less time on the phone to tech support. Your data will be backed up automatically using enterprise grade infrastructure running in ultra secure, ‘bomb proof’ data centres with backup power generation. What could possibly go wrong?
Is it really all Upside and No Downside with Cloud Computing?
The reality is that we live in a world of compromises and there are no genuine ‘one size fits all’ solutions when it comes to Cloud Computing. Whether we’re talking about Office, CRM, Order Processing, Service Delivery, Finance or Data Storage; the proliferation of web based Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings with their free trials and trivial monthly subscription costs are hard to beat for the obvious cost benefits. However, the less obvious costs of retraining and reduced productivity can accrue quickly and whilst these types of system can be easily adopted by new businesses, who can readily adapt their people and processes to fit the software, established businesses invariably find it much harder to change their ways to fit the software. Let’s face it; if money was no object we’d all have the software changed to fit our business rather than the other way round.
Office 2010 or Office 365?
One of the most common dilemmas businesses face is whether or not to give up Microsoft Office 2010 Desktop applications like Outlook, Word and Excel in favour of their Micosoft Office 365 Web Application equivalent. Many users will have tasted the web app difference with Outlook Web Access, (the web browser version of Outlook) but whilst the web app does a great job of emulating the Desktop version, (provided you use Internet Explorer) the point is just that… it’s trying to emulate the fully featured desktop application! So you can save money in licensing… great… but just don’t expect the same experience.
Don’t Forget the Cost of User Apathy!
People don’t like change, FACT! So if you’re thinking about saving a few quid in licensing costs by ‘Switching to the Cloud’ don’t forget to budget for the inevitable User Apathy factor… this could dramtically impact productivity and ultimately jeopardise your business in extreme cases. You need to get your team onboard before changing any business software system. Involve them in the high level discussions… if they feel they had a say in the decision making process they’ll be much happier to adopt the changes when they come.
Make Your Own Cocktail
In summary every business needs to properly evaluate the software options relevant to their business and ideally, enlist the help of a trusted unbiased IT professional to help them identify the technology mix that provides the optimal balance of software cost, business cost and business benefit both in the short and medium term. There are other serious considerations like data backup and business continuity to consider but that’s a whole other blog post.