Is Your Business Ready for the Cloud?
There has been a lot of buzz about cloud computing over the past several years. Many businesses are moving or already have moved to the cloud model. Is moving to the cloud right for your business?
What Is Cloud Computing?
In brief, cloud computing represents the delivery of data storage, computing and applications as a service, rather than a product. Instead of thinking in terms of products that you purchase and install on your computer or network (software) or physically in your place of business (servers, for example), the cloud represents the concept of remote access to these products. Applications and data are located on external servers and are accessed remotely over a network.
Pros and Cons of the Cloud for Businesses
As is the case with every new technology, the cloud model has many potential advantages, but disadvantages as well.
- Savings: Depending on your specific business needs, you may find the cloud model provides significant monthly savings over a more traditional hardware/software model, particularly in the areas of backup, e-mail and virus protection, and periodic hardware upgrades.
- Ease of Use, Maintenance and Collaboration: Many businesses find it easier to have their applications and hardware stored in the cloud, as compared to maintaining resources locally that need maintenance, patching, upgrading and servicing. In the cloud, these things are taken care of by the company hosting the application or hardware. Additionally, access to your data, applications and services is available anywhere at any time, using any compatible device. And because of the ease of access, collaborating using the cloud is far easier than any traditional computing or data storage method.
- Remote Data Backup: a cloud-based service protects your data from local problems and provides redundant copies of your data stored at a remote site as part of the service itself.
- Security Concerns: Data isn’t 100% secure whether its located in your office or in the cloud, but there have been occasional security issues with cloud service providers.
- Service Availability: If the company hosting your applications, data and or hardware in the cloud has technical issues or if you lose your connection to the company, access to the tools and data you need may be unavailable to you and there have been outages reported with vendors of all sizes, including the largest, such as Microsoft and Amazon.
- Performance: Some applications just don’t work well in a cloud environment or you may see performance degradation do to the lower connection speed from your workstation to the application or server. Locally you have a much faster connection to your server or applications than is even possible in a cloud hosted environment.
It should be noted that a lot of companies are choosing to move at least a portion of their business to the cloud for reasons that include lower cost and an increasing reliability of cloud services. Acceptance for this technology continues to grow as it matures.
So is your business ready for the cloud? It’s a worthwhile question to consider with the help of a qualified IT advisor, such as Microman, who can assist you in determining whether you should take a portion of your application portfolio to the cloud, or if you should consider a number of related strategies, such as adopting Managed Services to remotely monitor your network, or remote hosting where you locate your servers in an off-site facility where the responsibility for maintenance and management is assumed by a Managed Services Provider (MSP). An assessment from Microman will involve reviewing your application portfolio, interviewing your key staff and assessing your existing infrastructure to determine which alternatives provide the best fit for your business from multiple perspectives, including: staffing, management and cost. If a different IT strategy provides a better fit for your organization than what you have now, we can assist you in making a smooth transition to a new computing environment.
Almost all businesses have significant information technology (IT) needs, regardless of their size or their industry. Unfortunately, many businesses don’t have the technical know-how, the personnel, or the manpower to service these needs effectively. This is where a managed service provider can help. The following discussion explains some of the concepts and the distinct benefits behind Managed Services that are transforming how companies are meeting their IT needs effectively and cost-efficiently.
What Are Managed Services?
Just about any IT-related activity can be performed as a managed service. These include, but are not limited to:
- Data Backup and Recovery
- Desktop Management
- Server and Network Management and Remote Monitoring
- Temporary and Special Project IT Staffing
- Software Support and Maintenance
- Help Desk
- Hardware Maintenance and Support
- IT Security – including Firewalls, Antivirus and Anti-Spam
- Switching, WAN and Router Management
- IP Telecommunications
- Cabling and Infrastructure Design, Installation and Maintenance
- IT Consulting and Strategy
- System Design, Acquisition and Implementation
Many of these services can be handled remotely, while others require an on-site presence when needed. Outsourcing any of these functions free companies from having to maintain full-time staff to perform these functions, yet still know that the proper expertise is available to them and is proactively managing and servicing their systems with a lower cost footprint.
Managed Service Providers
A managed service provider is a company that assumes control of IT-related services for any organization, on either an ongoing or an as-needed basis, depending on the specific requirements of the client. Sometimes managed service providers take over all of a client’s IT responsibilities; sometimes only certain functions are outsourced to the managed service provider.
Contracting a managed service provider can range from providing fully staffed IT services for small companies, to providing specific focused services for larger organizations.
IT Problems: A Constant Concern in Modern Business
All businesses rely on information technology as key drivers for their business, no matter what their product or service and its underlying complexity continues to grow even as it delivers greater benefits, such as higher productivity and better business information.
Many businesses find that they lack the right IT expertise for the given problems they face, or they find that properly compensating and retaining IT staff is too costly and time-consuming for their needs, which can vary significantly over the course of a year.
At times internal IT staffs can’t keep up or are spending excessive hours troubleshooting problems that disrupt productivity. Thus many organizations have come to the realization that focusing on an area where they are not expert, like IT, distracts from their primary business mission – yet they still want a service staff that understands their organization with the skill sets and the bandwidth ready to deal with a wide range of issues on demand.
The Managed Services industry was born from the increasingly urgent need for organizations to be cost-efficient while meeting the rapidly changing demands of the technology they use. The recent move to Cloud systems, for instance, has left many organizations confused – they wonder: am I making the best use of Cloud-based applications and services? How do I contract and manage them? How do I integrate them with my local resources? Turning to an outside organization for advice and help to implement new systems based on best practices has been a key driver behind the growth of Managed Services firms, who are expected to provide this expertise.
Many small and medium sized companies simply don’t have the internal resources to deal efficiently with the variety of IT problems that crop up frequently. Faced with the high cost of downtime and an uncertain path on how to reduce it, being able to hold an external Managed Services organization accountable at a fixed annual cost becomes very attractive.
How Managed Service Providers Help
Contracting with a qualified Managed Service provider effectively creates a “virtual” IT department that can remotely monitor systems and can quickly expand and contract their hands-on and on-site presence as the circumstances warrant. Thus the contracting organization is not straddled with the overhead of a balanced IT staff, whose cost is shared among the multiple organizations served by their Managed Service provider. By taking responsibility for such tasks as network stability and data backup and recovery, a managed service provider can ensure that essential IT systems—including hardware and software— will continue to function smoothly and complex problems will be addressed and resolved quickly.
When a problem crops up, a competent Managed Services provider can apply the appropriate IT resources to resolve it more quickly than an organization that must rely on internal staff that may have a more limited skill set. With a Managed Services agreement, organization’s can better focus on their primary business activities, which creates profitable activity for them. A Managed Service provider only takes on those tasks that the client requests, so the cost of any idle time or unproductive work is shifted from the client to their provider. A client can still choose to retain control over the IT areas where it feels it has adequate staffing and expertise. The systems management process is transparent and the client never surrenders its IT assets, so reversing the process of outsourcing IT expertise to a Managed Service provider can easily be reversed in the future
A Technical Solution for Businesses of Any Size
While many larger businesses have the assets and economies of scale necessary to fund and to maintain IT departments, many of them have turned to Managed Services for all of the reasons that have been discussed. Businesses of all sizes have concluded that doing all of your IT work in house is rarely cost-effective and the most efficient way to provide the best service to their organizations is to outsource some or all of their IT services to Managed Services providers.
Organizations continue to look for ways to cut costs while maintaining or improving services. Managed Services for IT has become one of the most popular ways to achieve cost savings by eliminating internal network, server and pc maintenance and support. Under the best circumstances, you have chosen a well-staffed and experienced Managed Services provider that has a “deep bench” of skills to tackle a broad range of problems as well as the remote management tools and help desk staff to properly monitor the health of your systems.
The basic things that you should expect of any prospective service provider include: adequate staffing, experienced technicians, a strong tool set for delivering service and a track record of satisfied customers. These attributes, coupled with competitive pricing from a Managed Services provider can allow you to cut significant costs from your overhead — you can eliminate the payroll cost of in-house network engineers, help desk support staff and other IT staff as well as the ever-increasing cost of benefits. For many companies, it also frees them from the effort they have to expend to manage IT and the higher rate of turnover they have with experienced IT staff. In fact, the frustration of finding skilled staff to manage their systems can be a major reason for an organization to elect to go to Managed Services.
But there is something else that is very important to consider beyond all of the basic qualifications of a Managed Services provider — which is the ability to guide you in your future IT strategy. This is something you may be getting from your present IT staff or not, but in case we exist in a fast changing IT landscape and the need for experienced IT counsel has never been greater.
Microman Managed Services has given this need a lot of thought and we have instituted a client-tuned review methodology that includes regularly scheduled meetings to review the success of an organization’s current IT strategy that includes a senior engineering resource, the Microman account representative and an appropriate representative of the organization’s management to review their use of technology and how it can be improved and refined. We also consult with the client for project based needs so that important decisions, such as what vendors should be engaged, how an environment should be configured and planning for a rollout are all given proper consideration. Microman has experience working with every kind of vendor on IT projects of every scope — including those who offer Cloud-hosted and locally hosted business applications, hosted servers, cabling, wireless, multimedia, telephones and training. With a disciplined project management approach, we help organizations ramp up the resources they need to implement a new project, without straddling them with the long term costs of maintaining those resources when a project is completed.
Providing customers with a strategic outlook and quality business counsel is just as critical as providing them with quality Managed Services, and at Microman we provide the depth of services that allow organizations to save on IT while improving the quality of IT services that they consume and that is the essence of a strong relationship that produces a strong return on investment over the long haul.
When Microman decided to offer Managed Services in central Ohio, it was an outgrowth of delivering more than two decades of field service and then later, remote service via the internet. But our background clearly grew out of a long history of delivering high quality PC and network service which meant that over time we developed a strong staff of field engineers covering a diverse set of skills, as well as filling key positions of experience that include a director of services and a service dispatcher to manage our efforts.
Today, clients more than ever are looking to cut costs, yet maintain the high level of service they expected from in-house technical resources. Managed Services have held out the hope of giving them everything they want: lower costs, responsive service and the ability to scale up and down as their fortunes change. However, there is just one big wrinkle: many companies have rushed into the business hoping to make a buck with little more than a PC and an internet connection. The marketing can look good, but Managed Services mean nothing unless there is a quality and trained team to back it up.
Microman’s extensive experience covers PC, network and server sales and repair, backup (both local and Cloud), antivirus, anti-spam, firewalls, remote computing, switching, routing, IP telephony, and just about every facet of connectivity in the PC world. For clients who want IT guidance as part of the relationship we provide CIO / CTO services that consist of reviewing and consulting with clients on the key aspects of their business applications and infrastructure. From Microsoft Windows Server to their other Application Servers (such as SQL, SharePoint, Lync, and Exchange), our wide-ranging expertise allows clients to get a sense of the “big picture” that should be driving their IT decisions.
Many clients engage us today to handle other complex decisions, such as when to move applications to the Cloud in order to simplify maintenance and support and to lower costs. Equally important is deciding how to best virtualize locally hosted applications to improve support and lower costs. Microman helps clients maneuver the numerous and complex opportunities for configuring their business environments in a way that optimizes the benefits and minimizes the expense.
That’s why Microman’s Managed Services bring more to the table with our Managed Service offering. We started off by selecting one of the top names in managed service software as the backbone of the electronic portion of our offering. Its versatile server and desktop agents monitor the health statistics of managed servers and desktops in realtime. But on the backend is where the delivery process must take shape — and for us, that means experienced staff running the monitoring console that are ready to respond to anything that goes wrong quickly and effectively.
Again, the distinction with Microman service reaches into further key facets of a well-prepared service organization: we have a team of field engineers ready to be dispatched with access to over $ 1.5 million in inventory of spare servers, desktops, network gear, components and peripherals to effect rapid service. Without the field arm backed with spare inventory, a Managed Service organization can delivery only half of the critical equation. They can manipulate the software on a host or a pc if it is up and running, but if there is a hardware problem and they can’t get there quickly, the client faces extended downtime. The well prepared and competent organization has considerable resources ready to deploy and this is the essence of Microman’s Managed Services and that translates into strong value for our clients.
Based in Dublin, Ohio, Microman has thousands of clients throughout Ohio and the Midwest. Founded in 1987, Microman is celebrating its 25th year in business with an exceptional commitment to its clients.