What are the Benefits of Connecting Your Business to "the Cloud"? How do you choose a business cloud consultant?
March 20th, 2012 by adminIn all the years I've been helping business customers choose telecom and technology solutions I've never had a customer call and say, "I need some cloud" or "Connect me to the cloud" or simply, "Cloud me, baby!" When I have suggested to clients that their next technology solution can be provided to them from "the cloud" though some have asked, "What the heck are you talking about!" Following is the simplest answer that I've ever come up with for the question "what's the cloud?" "The cloud is actually a windowless building someplace that's built for the comfort of computers instead of people. One of the comfortable computers in the cloud is the computer that makes the 'call waiting' feature on your phone work. The cloud can accommodate almost any business computer that can help your business do almost anything." What Parts of Your Business Benefit from a "Cloud Connection"? Maybe some, maybe none, maybe all. The decision really boils down to your your thoughts as a business owner around "convenience, cost and security". Convenience - Can you conveniently access your business email account from any computer or smartphone? How about your accounting software or customer records? Would your salespeople be able to sell more prospects or would your customers service people be able to serve more clients if accessing your critical business information was more convenient? Cost - What is the cost associated with a "cloud feature" like having call waiting on your business phone? How much value can you assign to not losing an important business deal that's about to close because of that call waiting feature? Now what did it cost to deliver that call waiting "cloud value"? How much extra are you paying for employees to be able to tap into the cloud features that are making them more productive? Security - When the computer that houses all your salespersons' email accounts is in your own building behind your own locked door you likely feel like the email is pretty secure, right? But what if your building burns down? What if your in-house IT technician does not upgrade your firewall properly to prevent competitors from hacking into your email server? Is your end-of-year business profit safest in a petty cash box in your receptionist's desk or in the bank down the street? Where are the Computers that House Your Critical Business Applications? Is there a more convenient, cost-effective or secure place to house those critical business application computers? "Cloud sellers" are going to try and convince you that "their cloud" is the most convenient, cost effective and secure place for many or all of your business applications. How do you decide if your apps should be moved into or out of the cloud? Make a list of your critical business software applications and calculate the hard and soft costs of providing for the application in your facility or in someone else's cloud. How much are you paying to make your own application computers "comfortable" in your own building? How to Choose a Business Cloud Consultant Only you can accurately calculate the costs you're currently incurring to make your application computers comfortable. But calculating the accurate costs of moving the computer applications (and the application content) back and forth between your office users and "the cloud" that houses the application computers will take a bit of outside expertise. That's where a business cloud consultant can be pretty handy. But how do you choose? When you're interviewing potential cloud consultants for your business, following are some questions you'll want to ask. 1. Are you familiar with solving Quality of Service (QoS) transport issues? If your business application currently resides in your office, the application computer is connected to your users via your local area network or LAN -- which no doubt can handle quite a large load of data traffic without problems. Once the application server is placed into a "cloud" though the user is connected to the application server via your wide area network or WAN. WANs are generally alot "skinnier" than LANs due to cost. Making sure skinny WANs don't get congested with voice and data traffic is a QoS issue. 2. Do you work with multiple independent and competing WAN transport providers? The more independent your cloud consultant is the better your WAN transport pricing is going to be. Remember, WANs start skinny compared to the LAN throughput you're used to. The better the price you can get on your WAN, the fatter the WAN pipe you'll be able to afford. 3. Are you familiar with my business application server? While in theory, data transport mediums are agnostic when it comes to the data traffic being transported over the medium, you just never know, right? If you're moving an Exchange email server from your office to the cloud you might want to work with a cloud consultant that has moved many Exchange servers to the cloud and even has his or her own Exchange server in the cloud. 4. Do you own the cloud that you're recommending to me? This is a biggie! The "cloud" is really a data center which is a physical building with lots of cement, wire and air-conditioning. It's not supposed to be a computer in a bedroom of some guy's parents' house. Proper data centers cost lots of money. You want the data center that's housing your critical business applications to be owned and operated by a business that has a lot of money. You should give a prospective business data center the same sort of critical review that you would give your business bank. Call ATEL, We're Experienced in "the Cloud" I hate to end a blog post without inviting you to do business with ATEL. Give us a call at 858-646-4600. We'll help you understand what cloud options are realistic for your technology goals and then come up with a cloud migration strategy that fits your budget.