Do I really need the cloud – what can it actually do for me

“Cloud” is the buzzword in IT today. Unfortunately it means different things to different people. Rather than use the term “cloud” Quay prefers to be specific – clouds services are either Software-as-a-Service (“SaaS”) or Infrastructure-as-a-Service (“IaaS”).

SaaS is very common – the two most known and most used services would be web-mail (Gmail, Hotmail) and of course web hosting. An example of IaaS would be Stuff’s and Trademe use of Datacom’s set up in Wellington and Auckland, Trademe controls the software Datacom provides the servers that it sits on.

“The Cloud” has (whether we like it or not) created a revolution in the IT industry. Several years ago if you wanted to test a new database you went out and purchased a new server. Now you can rent space on someone else’s infrastructure just for the time you require it.

First Microsoft entered into the SaaS arena in New Zealand with BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite) – a series of offerings to host email and intranets for a competitive per-month, per-user investment. BPOS was good but, in my opinion, aimed at large corporates

Office 365 was officially launched in July of this year, it was (I would say) an upgrade to BPOS. Office 365 is a product that is cost effective enough for anyone to use from the single user in the home office to a large business with staff all over the country…

For those of you don’t already have a server, Office 365 gives you all the advances of having an Exchange without that hardware cost of a server.

xchange is the product that sits on your server and controls all thing email, it also allows users to hare calendars, contacts and mail boxes etc. It also takes a bit of grunt on the server to run Exchange and even more so now that EVERYTHING is done via email and mail boxes are growing in size by the minute.

Down sides to Office 365 – large files !! Because the service is run out of Singapore every time you send an email even internally it is going to Singapore and back … This is fine for standard emails and emails with small flies but it can get a bit hair raising for larger files… Speed becomes an issue and you also have to look at your Internet usages as well, for example; a 1 x 5mb attachment sent to 5 users internally becomes 30mb of data – 1 x up and 5 x down

The company’s we have moved over to 365 have all been very happy with the experience so much so that we have had one do a formal case study with Microsoft and one do an informal case study with us ..

There is also a middle ground – you can have your email in the “cloud” with 365 and your files in a small server at your office… With Microsoft Small Business Server (SBS 2011) essentials, Essentials looks after the print, file and remote access and Office 365 does the mail. Because Exchange is a fairly hefty piece of software, when you remove it, it does give you a bit more flexibility when it comes to you hardware selection

Other benefits of Office 365

  • Exchange Email, Calendar, Contacts & Personal Archive with 25GB Mailbox
  • ActiveSync Mobile Support
  • SharePoint Team Sites – The ability to build a website specifically to manage a project or event that also allows authenticated external user access enabled (for up to 50 unique users/month)
  • Simple Public Website – includes ready-to-use templates, option to add custom domain.
  • Online Access databases
  • Lync Rich Client – secure web-presence, communication, and instant messaging. Also part of Lync are
    • Online meetings, limited to 50 participants
    • Desktop Sharing
  • Financially-backed 99.9% uptime guarantee

So what can the cloud do for you ? If the solution is the right fit then you are removing yourself and your business from the hamster wheel that is Server upgrades, once you are in, there is very little maintenance required (depending on the solution). If you have an IaaS solution then you can upgrade your “hardware” in the blink of an eye, need that extra RAM, here you go. Your Data is off site and if (depending on the provider) is backed up.

With Office 365, especially for smaller businesses it has opened up the opportunity for shared calendars, mail, and document collaboration without the requirement for a server. The cost per user can be as little as $9.25 per month per user.

“The Cloud” is becoming more accessible and viable for New Zealand businesses, slowly changing the face of business IT. Expect to see bigger change in the next five years.

Delia Gill
Roland Tuck
Greg Wratt