Tag Archives: IT

The Cloud: a Primer for Small and Mid-Sized Businesses

– Dean Tremblay, Partner

Cloud services are getting a lot of buzz these days. Although the concept and the technology have been around for some years now, Apple’s iCloud has recently brought cloud-based services to the attention of the masses. Cloud technology, storage availability and bandwidth have advanced such that cloud services are now accessible to businesses of all sizes. Tango Technology Group’s cloud services for SMBs help organizations to take advantage of that.

In a previous article, I outlined how the cloud can deliver real, practical value to small and mid-sized businesses. Here, I’d like to spend more time explaining what the cloud is and some of the options that are available for businesses.

About Cloud Computing

Cloud computing provides computing functions as a pay-per-use utility. In much the same way that hydro-electric power is delivered to your home from a central location, cloud computing delivers access to IT infrastructure and IT applications from a centralized location rather than a server at your premises.

The Benefits of Cloud Computing

Traditionally, software- and hardware-based business applications had to be installed and maintained on site, on desktops and/or on servers. Today, applications and even complete servers can be hosted by third parties on “cloud” infrastructure.

  • Maximize resources: Run lean with no need for dedicated real estate to safely and securely house IT infrastructure.
  • Pay per use: With hosted “cloud” services, you pay only for what you consume on a monthly basis.
  • Reduce cap ex: Avoid the capital expenses of purchasing and maintaining dedicated servers.
  • Scale: Easily scale a cloud-based service up or down as your business and workforce needs change.

Types of Clouds

There are three general types of cloud-based models of relevance to Tango Technology Group’s clients. These are:

  • Public cloud – we make hosted Microsoft applications such as Exchange, SharePoint, and Dynamics CRM available to our clients on a pay-per-use basis. In addition, we have managed backup and business continuity services. Salesforce.com and Dropbox.com are two other well-known public-cloud services.
  • Private cloud – computing resources are dedicated to a single organization and can be hosted by us or at the client site.
  • Hybrid cloud – a combination of public and private cloud is implemented to leverage the best advantages of each to match the client’s specific needs or situation.

Tango’s experts can help you to determine the best cloud service model for your business’s needs, and can help you determine where the cloud fits within your IT strategy roadmap.

Cloud Computing vs. Server Virtualization: Don’t be Confused

Over time, “the cloud” has come to be used to refer to nearly any kind of technology, IT service, software or application that is disassociated from a specific piece of hardware. However, there is a distinction between the cloud and virtualization that is useful for purchasing decision makers to understand:

  • Cloud computing delivers computing functions and applications as a utility on a pay-per-use basis. Examples include Hosted Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Hosted Sharepoint, Hosted Microsoft Exchange, hosted email spam filtering, hosted backup, and more.
  • Server virtualization consolidates multiple pieces of server hardware to a single server that can then share its resources between multiple “logical” servers. Server virtualization is used extensively to build cloud infrastructures, but it does not in itself comprise a cloud. A virtual server may also be hosted in the cloud, or on premise. (You can read more about server virtualization on our Server Virtualization web page.)

Organizations that partner with Tango are assured that the best selection of technologies and delivery models are chosen for their business needs.

Cloud Computing Complements Managed IT Services

One of the best ways that an SMB organization can streamline its IT is by outsourcing its IT functions to a dedicated service provider that also offers cloud computing services. Doing so eliminates nearly every capital expenditure typically associated with server IT infrastructure. Specifically:

  • Managed IT services reduce or eliminate the need to hire and maintain IT personnel on site.
  • Cloud computing reduces the costs of IT services by providing pay-per-use access to business applications and services.
  • Cloud computing reduces or eliminates capital expenditures on servers and many other network infrastructures associated with traditional delivery models.
  • You can leverage economies of scale because your managed IT service provider is able to host cloud-based services on behalf of many clients.

Security and Other Important Considerations

Security of data, applications and systems is a concern for every company and those taking advantage of cloud-based services are no exception. Unauthorized third-party access to sensitive data must be managed in both traditional and cloud infrastructures.

As with any aspect of IT infrastructure management, cloud-services providers must deploy policies and best practices to protect cloud users. Tango follows the ITIL v3 process management system, a series of best practices and processes for the management of IT infrastructure. Our cloud services are delivered to customers through a secure, Tier 3 SAS 70 certified data centre. This ensures that both the services and the data are safe, reliable and quickly recovered in emergencies. Features include:

  • Biometric Access Control System with video surveillance
  • 24x7x365 critical monitoring, alerting and reporting
  • Advanced redundant climate control systems
  • …and more.

Additional Reading

For more information about Cloud Computing, I recommend the following resources:

2012: How Your Small/Medium Size Business Will Benefit in the Year of the Cloud

– Dean Tremblay, Partner

Information technology think tank, IDC, has made its annual technology predictions for 2012. I’m not surprised that they’re predicting that cloud services will begin to take leadership in the enterprise technology mix.

IDC anticipates that “the strategic focus [will shift] from building infrastructure to the creation of application platforms and ecosystems,” and notes that “the battle for enterprise platform dominance is just getting underway with established players like IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle facing serious challenges from Amazon, Google, Salesforce.com, and VMware.”

Cloud services – whereby IT infrastructure and business applications are delivered from a centralized location rather than from a server farm at your premise (much the way we receive electricity service) – represent a major opportunity for small- and mid-size organizations:

  • They make enterprise-level applications and products more accessible to organizations >500 users
  • They reduce capital expenditure and minimize physical infrastructure (and the specialized human resources needed to maintain it)
  • They support on-demand provisioning of new applications as you need them

As you plan out your business for 2012 and beyond, cloud-based services should absolutely be considered as part of your business (not just your technology) mix. Consider how you can leverage cloud-based applications to improve sales and marketing productivity; to reduce operating costs; to support the rapid roll-out of new products, services and promotions on demand.

Here are just a few examples of how some Tango Technology Group SMB clients are benefitting from cloud-based services:

  • Implementing professional contact relationship management (CRM) without deploying new servers
  • Collaborating enterprise-wide and effectively managing documents without additional capex
  • Communicating more productively through company-wide contact and schedule management without an Exchange server

You can read IDC’s complete technology predictions here – then talk to me about what it all means to your company. I’m always excited to talk to small- and mid-size businesses about how technology should be deployed to deliver serious BUSINESS value. dtremblay(at)tangotechnologygroup.com