Navigating through the complex landscape of Cloud Services and how your business can benefit.
This is likely not the first article you've read about what "the Cloud" can do for your business, a topic that can be amorphous and often confusing. Different people have differing definitions, expectations, and perspectives on the Cloud. For the purposes of this discussion, let’s define "Cloud" as the removal of intellectual assets and specific equipment from the physical building.
Let's take a look at some real-world applications of moving to Cloud services...
There was a time when work typically meant going to an office, so it’s not surprising that traditional business phone systems were built around a single, static location. Depending on size, a facility could install a premise-based key system or PBX or could choose central office-based Centrex. Either of the on-site options typically involved a capital expenditure, took up space, anything from a closet to a room. It entailed maintenance, repair, and general "care and feeding” of the system, so the user either had to hire a telecom manager to handle moves, changes, and software updates or pay a contractor for support.
One of the main reasons for moving to the cloud is to free IT staff from labor-intensive, daily management of computing services, and instead make them available for more strategic activities such as planning and oversight. Simplifying network management by using one vendor for both networking and cloud services is one more way to free resources for those profit-enhancing initiatives. Setting up services becomes simpler when the vendor recommending your network configuration knows what cloud services you’ll be using. Compatibility issues are eliminated before they occur. And IT staff doesn’t have to play middleman and be responsible for conveying information between cloud and network vendors.
One of the biggest differences among cloud service providers is whether the provider offers their own network access to their cloud services...
Not really. First of all, unless you live in a cave (and a pretty remote one at that) you started using the cloud a long time ago. You use it every time you send or receive an email or look something up on the Web. You may be using it to stream movies, TED talks, cat videos and bicycle stunts. It’s where you go to participate in multiplayer games, to update social media and to access services like Dropbox or Salesforce. In fact, if your link to the cloud went down, you’d likely be limited to what’s on your desktop, laptop or tablet, and maybe what’s on the servers down the hall. You’d have to do a whole lot more phoning, snail mailing and walking to your colleague’s desk, and you’d be functioning more or less the way primitives did back in the 1980s. In other words, you already rely heavily on the cloud. We all do.
Take a closer look at the cloud...
Meet Clyde Ludd of XYZ Manufacturing based in the upper Midwest. Clyde manages technology operations at the plant, which is one of the few remaining facilities in the world where cassette tapes are built and distributed.
Unlike all other area manufacturers who have long outsourced their power needs to the large energy companies, XYZ Manufacturing runs a group of 24 generators wired in a custom-built grid that can tolerate up to four simultaneous generator failures. A large gas barrel is positioned at each corner of the generator array, with twice-daily refills trucked in from the local gas company.
“My business is simply too important to trust to some far-off electrical company that shares its infrastructure with thousands of other users,” Clyde says angrily when asked about his unique setup. “What can they do if their power fails? Nothing. But I stay up and running. If a generator goes out, I just run to the store and get another one.”
Ludd has the same philosophy about the newly-popular Cloud Computing concept, in which onsite servers are replaced with computing power in remote data centers. “That’s just dumb!” he laughs. “I’ve got everything I need on this thumb drive here in my desk,” he says, motioning at an empty drawer that he opens and shuts while speaking. Behind him, two dusty computers are running on a steel table. “I have a guy that comes in every week to apply patches and to ensure that everything is okay. I think it’s almost time to add another computer, but we can’t figure out how to get Windows Server 2012 to interoperate with the Windows 98 systems that I’m already running here.”