Cloud solutions have become the method of choice for businesses looking to reduce their IT spend and make the transition to a mobile workforce easier to achieve. Cloud solutions come in two major variants – infrastructure (such as database servers and storage), and software (specific applications such as accounts or ERP).
The benefits of SaaS
For most organisations, the first step towards business on the Cloud is through a specific software package. These Software-as-a-Service offerings can be used to replace software installed on local computers. But what are the key advantages of SaaS?
· Reduced running costs – your SaaS provider bears the responsibility for keeping the software running correctly, helping cut your IT support costs.
· Always up-to-date – Your SaaS subscription entitles you to software upgrades and carries out the necessary work for you as part of the subscription fee.
· Anyplace anytime productivity – Cloud-based software solutions usually require nothing more than a web browser and an active Internet connection to use, allowing your staff to be productive at all times.
· Improved disaster recovery provisions – the anyplace anytime approach of Cloud solutions allows you to resume business within hours, even if your head office is out of action.
Hosted software solutions are available for virtually every business function, and you may find that there are already Cloud-enabled versions of your applications available. The Microsoft Office productivity suite is a classic example – a Cloud version called Office 365 is now available offering all of the benefits outlined above.
Advanced Cloud solutions
Software-as-a-Service migrations happen on an application-by-application basis, often requiring you to liaise with many different suppliers. Depending on the IT service provider involved however, it may be possible to ‘cloudify’ larger aspects of your IT estate using ‘Infrastructure-as-a-Service’ (IaaS).
IaaS can be used to outsource functions such as VoIP telephone exchanges, database servers or even your physical PCs using a technology known as virtual hosted desktops. IaaS deployments tend to be more complex and specific to your business needs – there is rarely a one-size-fits-all solution to these scenarios, although common platforms like Microsoft Windows Azure can provide a common basis for custom IaaS deployments and developments to replace multiple systems at once.
How do you choose between Cloud solutions?
There are several questions your organisations needs to answer before choosing a Cloud solution:
· What are you hoping to achieve? Define your expectations and then compare only those solutions that will meet them.
· What are you willing to spend? Choosing the cheapest available offsite solution is unwise if you sacrifice functionality or usability for instance.
· Is there a Cloud version of the system you already use available? Moving to Office 365 from the traditional on-site version will minimise the cost of retraining your staff as they are already familiar with the software for instance.
· Are there ‘combined’ solutions that will allow you to outsource more than one application or service? Choosing a combined solution, such as implementing Office 365 and a hosted Exchange email service allows you to reduce the running costs of two IT services simultaneously.
Speak to potential IT Cloud solutions providers and discuss any concerns you may have – you must be confident that the service works for your business, and that there are tangible benefits for your users and your customers.
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