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February 6, 2012

Technology Solutions: Cloud Computing

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Economic uncertainty has created the need for swift, responsive and highly secured IT infrastructures that are also environmentally friendly and more business focused. Organizations are struggling to find the competitive edge, turning to the bounty of opportunities technology provides. Cautious to jump at the latest buzz phrases and hyped solutions, many have cautiously investigated recent technology breakthroughs, many of which have one thing in common: redistribution of IT roles. There is no better time than the present to revamp technology strategy focused on hosted solutions.

Clouds are gathering…

Cloud computing has emerged as one of the major ways to secure an upper hand in today’s highly competitive market. Minutes of downtime means the loss of vital sales as businesses with prolonged data loss find themselves in a real position of collapsing. Cloud computing changes the traditional corporate data center structure that resides on company premises. Instead, systems are moved to secure outsourced data centers, either in a private or public configuration. Private clouds are dedicated servers used exclusively for a single company, whereas public clouds have multiple companies sharing the same resources. Additional research is, therefore, essential in deciding which cloud configuration best meets your needs, most importantly regarding legal and privacy requirements.

Technology departments across all industries are met with similar issues including budget cuts, personnel downsizing and mounting pressure for technology to prove its worth in answering key business issues. A great number of IT departments run with a vague, or possibly blind, vision into the future, focusing on day-to-day network upkeep and expending great amounts of money keeping core
systems operational. This approach leaves no time for innovation, process improvements or meeting business strategic objectives. Competitive advantage can be gained by moving day-to-day operations out, allowing execution of strategic initiatives.

The diverse and seemingly endless potential of cloud computing make it a very attractive solution to some of today’s most important business issues. Whether it’s upgrading data entry applications, launching new collaboration portals or overhauling demanding e-mail systems, all is possible and occurring today within the cloud. Historically, engineers of all sorts, including database, security, applications and integrations were needed on staff in order to begin new initiatives. Hosted solutions provide all that information without the heavy staffing costs. Building a partnership with a reliable IT solutions provider will deeply impact the success of your initiatives. A good hosting provider will act as a direct extension of your IT department, offering solutions to the business issues you discover in the renewed IT strategic approach. Your success has a direct effect on their success.

E-mail is the number one communication medium used in the 21st century workplace, and it grows more complex on a daily basis. It is an integral workflow component and is an excellent means for automating communication, increasing information flow to customers and employees, without the need to drain employee time sending reports and updates. An increased number of applications have been developed specifically to integrate with the company messaging system, some of which automatically generate bills, and others send out vital project warnings and notifications. Without expertise for each one of its many parts, integration opportunities may be lost, leaving businesses in danger of lost internal and external communication, which translates into poor customer service and decreased profit.

Overwhelmingly, the cloud has been a proven success for replacing traditional business e-mail environments. Software costs, server replacements and constant applications training make it an expensive system to maintain. Again, time spent tending to IT infrastructure takes away from valuable time streamlining old and costly systems. If you don’t become more efficient, your competition will.

One mid-sized organization was faced with a difficult situation. Operating on an aging Microsoft Exchange platform, the mailbox database had grown to its maximum size without the possibility of adding additional message stores. Three servers that were the backbone of the Exchange system were approaching 10 years in age and experiencing hardware malfunctions. An expensive investment in hardware and software seemed like the only answer. However, IT management realized the benefits of a Microsoft Exchange hosting solution, and therefore sought out a reputable hosting provider to address their growth issues. After careful planning and execution, local servers were migrated to the outsourced data center, and the results were nothing short of impressive.

Within the first month of the transition, help desk calls dropped by more than 10 percent, and e-mail availability became higher than ever, greatly attributed to the team of systems experts at their disposal. Critical systems updates and maintenance were performed regularly by the new Exchange hosting team, and key performance indicators were actively monitored. Discrepancies were resolved immediately. Such dedication and proactive response time would have been impossible to do with the previous e-mail infrastructure and company IT staff.

Transitioning to the Microsoft Exchange hosted service eliminated the need to purchase brand new servers or invest in the latest software upgrades. No longer will the company be faced with huge, unexpected hardware replacement costs. Instead, the fixed monthly hosting costs help keep the IT budget balanced and funds spent more wisely. Packaged with the Microsoft Exchange hosted solution was an e-compliant archiving system and a leading anti-spam solution; one more way the company saved money.

All the technology endeavors translated into better service for the customer. Now, the business stands strong with a robust, adaptive e-mail system and comprehensive electronic audit trail. The tier four data center where the e-mail service resides has been a welcome addition to the company disaster recovery plan. Capping out the many benefits is the approximately $50,000 saved annually along with lower carbon emissions through retirement of old servers.

As technology leaders and innovators, we must avoid the trap of judging success on traditional measurements, such as network uptime and backup reliability. Instead, creating an IT strategic plan with input from company executives opens our eyes to new possibilities. Technology can be a true business enabler, and cloud computing is one way to yield measurable business results, molding information technology into business technology.


Keith Murley is Manager of Information Systems for Schimenti Construction, a general contractor specializing in retail construction. He can be reached at (914) 244-9100. For more information on Schimenti, please go to http://www.schimenti.com.

4 Responses to “Technology Solutions: Cloud Computing

    avatar Peter Jones says:

    Cloud computing has made itself known on a huge scale, these issues erupting with regards to privacy…I am sure will be faded out, due to heightened security on cloud computing companies.

    avatar Jacky2010 says:

    A lot of vendors thought cloud computing means moving away from PCs. They create applications on the web (cloud) so users can use the applications online, store files online, and never need to use any locally installed applications. The PCs are relegated to dumb terminals. However, this approach will not work for the mass market. Why?

    (1) PCs will not disappear; they become more and more powerful yet the price keeps falling. It is far more competitive than dumb terminals. Even the Net PCs and smart phones also become more and more powerful with every new model. Simply put, vendors will not just sell dumb terminals; and few users will buy dumb terminals.

    (2) With the tremendous horse power available at the local PC, treating the PCs as dumb terminals is a dumb idea. Users are used to desktop software, such as MS office, photo editing software, video editing software, HTML authoring software, etc. they will continue using the desktop software for its more advanced features and better performance than web-based applications. Moreover, be able to work on something offline is a huge advantage over web-based applications.

    (3) Many applications that require a lot of computing power and a lot of network bandwidth are not suitable for the cloud computing. (e.g. video editing, photo editing, etc.)

    (4) There are better cloud computing solutions than those of Google, Amazon, and other cloud computing vendors, whose goal might be more focused on destroying Microsoft and PC than offering real better solutions. http://www.DriveHQ.com is one of the first few companies offering cloud storage and cloud IT Solutions. Our cloud solution combines the benefits of local computing and cloud computing. Users can continue using their local desktop software, while at the same time, they can store the data locally and/or in the cloud. They can store, backup, share and synchronize local and remote data; they can collaborate with a group of people; sharing different folders to different users (or groups) with different permissions. Small businesses can host file server, FTP server, email server, web server, offsite backup system on the cloud. It is much easier to setup and manage group accounts and security settings than local solutions. Not only it saves on hardware, software and system administration cost, it is also more powerful than local solutions as our solution works anywhere. Businesses can easily switch to a central cloud IT system on DriveHQ.com to serve multiple offices.

    avatar Feifan Chang says:

    Good informative stuff defined about the cloud computing technology shared.
    Thanks for the sharing the post.

    Cloud computing in businesses may surprise you. Shifting to Cloud seems like a piece of cake when it comes to the benefits and the scope and opportunities it enables, at the same time tough policies are a must to implement as all the things are now cloud, so threats increase drastically.

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