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To the Cloud!
with clients in the technology training and IT fields often leads to
some interesting conversations regarding technology trends and where
they are headed over the next few years. One of the biggest
trends that I have been seeing is the adoption of cloud based services,
versus traditional hardware solutions, by companies looking to upgrade
their aging IT infrastructures.
Imagine for a moment that you are a medium to large sized corporation in the building automation space. Traditionally you would have an IT infrastructure built on servers, hardware cabling, switches, routers, and a multitude of software licenses. These systems are extremely labor intensive to service and maintain; as well as having extremely long deployment cycles for upgrades. They are labor intensive, and need constant monitoring to balance overhead expenses as upgrades are rolled out.
Effectively managing overhead costs is one of the most important processes that a company needs to embrace if they want to remain competitive in an ever changing economic climate. The traditional internal IT hardware model is commonplace for most medium to large corporations, and is continually plagued with the issue of having aging components that need replacing or upgrading. Traditionally these aging components were swapped out for new hardware, but tech savvy companies are looking at new cost effective cloud based technologies to do the same job.
Cloud-based solutions have been making an appearance in the marketplace
since the early 2000’s, but have really grown into their own for
providing a variety of ways to replace hardware and servers with
virtual IT systems. Applications needed to run a corporation’s IT
infrastructure can be accessed through secure web based applications
via the internet. The question then becomes one of how using cloud
based technologies will affect traditional IT structures?
If history teaches us anything thing it is that a change in technology for corporations means a change for corporate staff. IT roles are going to seriously change with the adoption of cloud technology for IT infrastructures. Any system that has less moving parts requires less maintenance and that means that IT staff sizes will reduce. The need for IT desktop support will also diminish as the implementation of new software becomes seamless through cloud interfaces. The days of large scale migrations like the one from Windows XP to Windows 7 will not exist with cloud based services.
A great example of the differences between a traditional IT
infrastructure upgrade and a cloud based upgrade can be illustrated by
looking a deal that I recently brokered for a city Municipality.
The Municipality had reached the end of the technology life cycle for
Microsoft Windows XP and made the decision to upgrade their entire IT
infrastructure to a Windows 7 Operating System. This entailed the
installation of new computers, server upgrades, hardware upgrades,
licensing, and a huge training component for both IT staff and
The entire rollout is scheduled as an eight month period and costs
several hundred thousands of dollars just for the hardware and initial
training. Not to mention all of the personnel hours involved with the
actual physical implementation of the new systems. There are also
the additional costs of continued help desk and desk-side support calls
that will come from the end-users of the system regarding software
issues or just general questions. Overall a hugely intensive process
that will involve another upgrade when Microsoft decides to stop
supporting Windows 7.
The same migration problem could have been more cost effectively solved
by enlisting the services of a cloud provider who could convey the
advantages of cloud computing. Mainly how it can be integrated
into an existing infrastructure while maintaining security and
deceasing maintenance costs.
Additional cost savings could have been passed on to the Municipality
by moving to a subscription based cloud model rather than the
traditional licensing model. As a provider like Microsoft pushes
out newer versions of MS Office applications the subscription based
model easily updates in the cloud to ensure that end-users are always
working with the latest versions. No IT staff are required to
perform upgrades, or deal with licensing issues, and companies will
enjoy reduced overhead costs of having the cloud provider do all the
Since the cloud provider performs all of the software upgrades inside
the cloud there will also be cost savings in training. With
a cloud based solution the training of new applications focuses more on
the end-user and less on the training of IT staff. Software updates can
be easily taught to end-users via short burst training classes that can
be conducted either face-to-face or via the web.
In closing, IT Infrastructures are changing and more and more
applications are being moved to the cloud. When corporations
consider implementing cloud solutions they need to remember that the
main point of “cloud computing” is about shifting their business
interests, and concerns, from maintaining physical resources and
personnel to a cloud based model of efficiency and utilities. The cloud
will enable companies to stop worrying about the expenses associated
with their IT processes and focus more of their attention on building
better business. At the end of the day that is all any company
really wants to do is reduce overhead, maximize profits, and establish
a formula for corporate growth. The growing trend toward the
adoption of cloud based solutions says to me that the key component in
the formula for corporate growth lies firmly in the cloud.
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