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How to make the cloud work for you

Mike Dearlove EACS_detail

When cloud first appeared, it was seen as a potential replacement for traditional IT platforms, writes Mike Dearlove, managing director of EACS.

The key consideration was price – did it offer a more cost efficient solution?

While this may still hold true, it also has the advantage of being scalable and flexible, enabling the solution to grow as a business grows, and offering significant mobility and productivity benefits.

People want better access to their business systems and resources and to be able to consume them from any location, including at home. This is particularly important to small businesses, for whom speed of response can be vital. 

Cloud helps to make this possible, enabling individuals to be productive and available whenever and from wherever they choose. It also addresses the needs of younger employees, who are familiar with cloud technology from their personal applications and expect the same level of connectivity when working.

Many businesses find that young people are so familiar with cloud technology and working across multiple platforms that they do not like the traditional desktop based way of working.

As a result, some organisations are turning to corporate equivalents of social applications such as Yammer to share information in real time, while actively encouraging their staff not to email as it reduces human interactions and their ability to innovate.

The first applications an organisation typically puts into the cloud are end-user email and those that encourage collaborative working, such as document sharing, at a fixed price per month.

In addition, we are seeing a large adoption of cloud-based backup and business continuity solutions. 

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) considering cloud should begin by reviewing the IT services that they need based on their manageability. For example, if the business wants to make use of the basic features of Microsoft Exchange, Lync and SharePoint without the complexity of managing the servers they require, then Office 365 is the perfect solution. It also takes away the fire-fighting element of manual patching and allows the organisation to focus on more proactive tasks. 

In addition, it can make sense to have email filtering products in the cloud to increase security and decrease the amount of unwanted spam emails. Anti-virus and web filtering are also important to consider. There are many vendors with suitable cloud solutions, such as Mimecast and Sophos. 

The next step to consider is whether to go directly to a public cloud provider (such as Microsoft, Google or Amazon), or to work with an IT service provider which can design a solution tailored to the business’s specific needs.

Managed cloud services are also available; these are cloud services with a management layer on top, which can be of significant benefit if the organisation has limited IT skills available in-house. 

Cloud then, should not just be considered for its ability to reduce costs. By removing barriers to success and helping staff work together in new ways, it can help organisations innovate and collaborate and move their business forward in new directions.

Risk and compliance continue to be important considerations, but these can be addressed with appropriate choices and due diligence.

Mike Dearlove is managing director of EACS