Using the Cloud and Managed Services to Make More with Less

The bigger a company is the bigger their IT staff – a truism. While the best companies learn to scale operations and solutions beyond a 1:1 ratio, staff growth inevitably follows corporate success and computing sophistication. However, the vast majority of companies are on the ‘understaffed’ side of this growth in a significant way frequently lacking dedicated IT staff completely. The majority of companies rely instead on local consulting companies, staff with rudimentary knowledge, or the teenage children of the owner (in all seriousness I’ve seen this too many times to count).

A large non-profit I spoke with not long ago has a staff of over 1,000 with geographically dispersed sites, but an IT staff of about 6. They certainly had little hope of getting everything done through no fault of their own with so few people to manage a dozen servers and over a dozen remote locations. This last case is extreme in its ratio, but the limited staff overwhelmed by the amount of work and its complexity is all too common. How would they have time, initiative, know-how to move to the cloud?

One of the keys is timing, not finding the time, selecting the window that helps avoid disrupting ongoing operations or slipping delivery dates. While some companies make an outright strategic commitment to the cloud diving in deep, the majority want to put their toe in the water to test it out. Adoption of cloud computing is being used far more than most people realize from payroll by ADP to CRM & SFA (salesforce.com, NetSuite, Intuit), and hosted VoiP/PBX systems. While cloud computing is the most important change in IT today, the majority of companies systems are still run in-house and moving anything to the cloud creates significant discomfort for many.

Testing the Waters

Here are some steps for deciding how to test these water vapors:

  1. Select a provider; learn how things work; make a plan.
  2. New initiatives make an excellent choice in generally avoiding CapEx, avoiding impact to current systems, and significant unknowns surrounding total computing requirements and change management.
  3. Integrate initial efforts with already planned deployments.
  4. Use existing maintenance windows for integration and testing.
  5. Pick a system/solution that has low business impact risk – not payroll, CRM, SFA.
  6. Duplicate your production system, or use a non-production environment (development, test, QA) though alternative environments are uncommon for smaller companies.
  7. Avoid “leaps of faith”. They don’t really work for computing solutions… test, test, re-test.

 

Common Uses

  • Secure file sharing with your extended team. From managing your own file system to using cloud SharePoint, there are many options available.
  • Everybody has email, but many cloud solutions offer integrated calendars, folders, document management, and more making teams far more productive with all the email touch points.
  • Expand web and application servers to reduce latency for remote workers, improve overall scalability, or free expensive hardware for more critical in-house computing.
  • Establish a backup service – very easy with commonly available tools with direct file system integration as a drive letter (Windows) or volume (Unix).
  • Duplicate databases for high-availability or business-continuity use cases – MySQL Cluster, Oracle streams, SQLServer replication, etc. from the current system to a cloud database instance. Implementing a redundant database would be the easier and safer use, but with the option to change to a high-availability solution at a future date.
  • For some companies with more sophisticated data needs (and staff), data warehousing and lightweight BI of the reporting variety would be a good option. Performance is sometimes an issue for cloud databases. But for prototyping, developing and more, it could be a good starting point. Moving to dedicated, private cloud solutions, provide excellent capabilities for databases while supporting the dramatic benefits of the cloud simultaneously.
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About Vic Levinson
Telecommunications and IT professional with over 20 years experience in Business Telecommunications. Specializing in voice over IP (VoIP) for business: hosted VoIP, business VoIP phone systems, SIP providers, carriers, T1's - the works. Founded Prime Telecommunications in 1993 and providing business communications solutions. Cloud Applications- everything from hosted network security, hosted Disaster Recovery, hosted printer management, data centers and colocation solutions for businesses.

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