Ask the IT Consultant

Jan 28 2010   10:00PM GMT

Getting Started with Cloud Services

Beth Cohen Beth Cohen Profile: Beth Cohen

Question:  I am interested in moving some of my applications to the cloud.  What issues I should be thinking about in the planning process?

What internet access/bandwidth will I need?
Unless you are still using dialup, your current band width should be fine if you don’t have need for large file transfers, email of large attachments or other bandwidth clogging applications.  There are ways to mitigate that as well, if there are needs for lots of bandwidth.  If you have access to it, business FIOS or cable services can be quite cost effective options.

What is the learning curve for users with hosted applications?
Generally the learning curve is small.  If you switch to hosted exchange it can be a matter of an hour or two, since the client is identical and it is just a matter of changing server settings.  Migrations to Google services are also smooth, unless the users are used to using something ancient.

What are the positives and negatives of using hosted applications?
The positives are that the costs are monthly and spread out, rather than capitalized up front.  The administrative costs of maintaining a set of servers and a data center are eliminated.  If you have a portfolio of hosting solutions, there might be integration issues since there is no data standard for cloud services as of yet.  The negatives are that you are giving up control over the servers.  Some see that as a plus because of the reduced overhead, but having your data sitting on the cloud does have some business ramifications you need to be aware of.

What will happen during the transition?
Generally, converting email is relatively easy, particularly if you are already using Outlook as your mail client or if you are using a webclient.  Other applications can be more difficult because you need to migrate the data into a new format that doesn’t always map easily.  There is a growing group of tools to making migrations easier available to fill in the gaps.

How would this type of change affect relationships with existing IT vendors?
It depends on what your IT consultant currently does for you.  If they are doing desktop support, that will remain pretty much the same.  If you migrate to a hosted email solution, that is one less server they will be supporting.  Some IT consultants are partnering with hosted solutions because they see it as a way to cut their costs.  You might be using hosted services now without knowing it.

What is your process for evaluating and recommending options?
You need to have a good understanding of your business and technical objectives to moving services to the cloud.  Do an assessment of your current IT function and then look for solutions that cut costs without complicating your lives.  Chosen carefully, the cloud makes small companies more efficient, not less.

About the Author

Beth Cohen, Luth Computer Specialists, Inc.

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