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Cloud Services – “Software is Eating the World”

This quote from Silicon Valley web pioneer and venture capitalist Marc Andreesen accurately describes the feeling that many business owners and managers share while trying to strategize their business processes moving forward. The choices available can be overwhelming. Technology has now given us another business decision to be made; how exactly these solutions will be acquired and deployed.

Software as a Service (SaaS) has been around for many years. Simply stated, it is an application that resides in data center servers and deployed through the internet via a private or public internet connection. These services are acquired on a subscription or rental basis and allow a business to pay for them as an operating expense rather than requiring a capital outlay.

The proliferation of cloud services has been made possible in part by the increased availability of larger internet bandwidths, and the decreasing cost of those connections to the internet. Fiber networks are allowing business to send and receive larger quantities of information with higher reliability. As a result, there is now literally an alphabet soup of “as a Service” offerings. These include, among others, UCaaS – Unified Communications as a service or “hosted” voice, SECaas – Security as a service or threat reduction, DRaaS -Disaster Recovery as a service or backup for both natural and digital disasters, and IaaS- Infrastructure as a service or server storage.

A challenge faced today by business decision makers is which solutions should be deployed and if so, should they reside in the cloud. A good place to start is by developing a cloud strategy. As Microsoft continues to eliminate support for servers located at a business location, email is an application that is currently making the transition to the cloud. Threats to business information are also forcing businesses to review cloud options for protecting their network and to help stay current. Moving voice and video to hosted providers may also make sense depending on the business needs and structure. Finally, if new servers will soon be needed, is it better to purchase them or rent server space in a data center.

Keeping it as simple as possible in this process should be a goal. If you have used Netflix, Uber or Skype, you have used cloud services. No matter what it is, there seems to be an “app for that”. It wasn’t that long ago that business people had on their hip the original hosted voice product; a pager! In his excellent book “The Innovators”, Walter Isaacson takes the development of digital technology all the way back to the early 19th century and reminds us that as the more things change, the more they stay the same.

In our highly competitive and increasingly commoditized business world it is more important than ever to have trusted business partners who are deeply engaged and well versed in the latest available technologies. Make sure to reach out to and sit down with a technology team that is easy to work with. You and your technology partners may find that your greatest planning tool is a whiteboard.

TCO or Total Cost of Ownership is also of course an integral part of any decision making process. Cloud services may or may not make financial sense based on a number of factors including business size, locations, applications, timeframe of use, and both external and internal customers. Your technology team needs to understand how different acquisition and deployment methods will affect your expenses in relation to the advantages gained.

How and why are important, but it is the end result that provides the business edge. Recently, when presenting to a group of middle school students at a Career Day event, I asked the kids what they thought “the cloud” was. One young man raised his hand and said, “It lets me get pictures on my phone”. Well said indeed. I put away my flip chart after that! Why we choose to work in business can elicit a number of responses, but certainly nothing happens without profit. With good advice and wise counsel the picture can be one with an increased bottom line.

Northern Nevada Business Weekly

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