What’s new in IT for my company?
NAS, SaaS, MPLS and the myriad of technology acronyms can make dealing with your business information technology akin to learning a new language. Most business owners I meet don’t want to get that deep into the details, they just want technology to work for their business, they want to know that they are getting the best value and that their data and business information is protected.
Some of the latest trends in delivering IT services are making it easier for organizations to adopt, manage and realize the potential benefits that technology is able to provide. New advances and maturity in technology solutions are enabling businesses and organizations to become consumers of technology services without having to build complex infrastructure and hire expensive technical resources. Developments like cloud services, software as a service and managed services have made technology more affordable, quicker to adopt and easier to manage.
To comprehend the current trend in technology start thinking of IT as a strategic asset and recognize that you don’t need to own the hardware, software and systems that run your technology. This is a crucial step to begin the process of exploring how changes in technology delivery can be leveraged to your advantage. One of the discussions points that we have with clients is the concept of “services” instead of software and systems. When you break your business needs down to the services that you consume, you can then begin defining how each service is used and make decisions on how to implement it and derive value from its use.
Let’s take a look at an example of defining email as a service. Every business needs email and there are lots of ways to get an email system setup. You could install an email server, get a free account from Google or Microsoft or outsource to a POP or hosted exchange provider. How do you know which is the best solution for your business? To make that decision you need to describe email as a “service” and define the service parameters that your business needs. For email you will need to understand the speed, portability, size, security, connectivity, costs and several other parameters before you make a decision on how the service should be designed and delivered.
Once you begin detailing your service needs you can then start looking at options for having those needs met. For example, should you invest thousands of dollars to update your accounting software and thousands more on the new server needed to run it, or would you be better off with a cloud solution that is paid for on a monthly basis through software as a service (SaaS) with everything included? I wouldn’t know without detailing your service needs, but based upon the phone calls we get, there are lots of business owners out that that seem to have the answer. The phone call goes like this: “I need a new server to run my accounting system, can I get a price from you?” In some cases they have already purchased the new software and now realize that they need new systems to run it, in most cases they are just doing what they have been doing for the last 15 to 20 years.
When you think of your IT needs in the context of a service to your business I think it is easier to understand the evolution from premise based computing resources to cloud services. The cloud is the term used to describe the framework for making business technology services accessible through a web based interface from any device anywhere there is an Internet connection. Several developments have made cloud solutions possible including advances in application and database programming, hardware and storage virtualization and the expansion of high speed internet connectivity.
Today, if your business needs access to applications, servers, storage or communication systems you might not have to build these systems yourself.
Cloud providers, hardware as a service (HaaS) firms and application developers are building utility-based (pay for consumption) options for their solutions. This means that you can have a cloud provider implement a service like an accounting application and make it available for a fixed monthly fee per user. The provider will handle all of the systems, upgrades, and data backup as well as provide support for the service. You can scale the service up or down based upon your business conditions.
Of course there are many considerations and concerns as you move from in-house IT systems to cloud services. You will still need to provide site services like data connectivity, security and user support. There should also be consideration given to disaster recovery and business continuity based upon factors such as non-performance or data loss from the cloud service provider. One thing many organizations overlook is the need for enhanced Internet connectivity as more cloud services are developed. Higher speed, redundant connections may be necessary to keep application speeds usable and to provide reliability for access to remotely hosted services.
Most organizations will not be able to move all services to the cloud because of transition costs, custom programming or security concerns, so there will be a need for local systems and expertise. While cloud providers will include some support services, most businesses will still need IT support and consulting services to assist with cloud vendor management, user support and technology advisement. Advances in IT service management allows outsource service firms to provide fixed monthly fee managed service solutions with support and processes that were once only available to large organizations.
Cloud services and IT advances are changing the way businesses design, develop and consume IT services. Take some time to understand how the cloud is evolving and how your business can adopt the latest technologies and services to control costs, increase capabilities and gain a competitive advantage.
Steve Cerocke is president of IQ Technology Systems in Reno. Contact him at 352-2301 or through http://www.IQisIT.com.
“The best transactions are defined by sellers being willing to set their ego aside for the benefit of their customers and employees,” writes Mike Bosma.