The more I work for different companies, the more I notice strong impact from vendors who influence customers technical choices and orientations. Actual trend is to migrate local I.T. services (especially emails and collaboration tools) from local servers to Cloud. As there is no such magic thing as “the Cloud” (because it’s just somebody else’s computer), you need to understand details of each solutions to ensure it fits your needs to expect a successful move.
It can be true to find cost effective solutions and great features in some cases, but side effects and organisation changes can also be very harmful if you are not prepared or misunderstand new software licencing models.
Is it cost effective ?
Prices in the Cloud are often said to be attractive and are mainly the first argument to confirm this choice. My opinion is that, most of the time, this is true, but an exact answer needs a few more lines of details. This is true, because services providers share infrastructure over several customers and are able to optimize ressources and associated costs (servers, electricity, data-centers, networking). Unfortunately, following your business case, you might look for dedicated or private ressources to host critical applications. In this case, costs will often be above your actual budget.
Main reason is because decent Cloud providers offer Tier 3 data-centers, redundant infrastructure, fast storage and latest software to provide very high service-level agreement. You can read this article to see how Groupon moved back from Cloud to optimize ressources and costs.
The other reason to move to Cloud computing is to reduce pain-full and time consuming maintenance. In my humble opinion, this is also true and it is exactly why email will be (or was) your first step in to the Cloud.
As end users are now more and more demanding (like modern Webmail, mobile sync, sharing features for calendars and contacts are mandatory) most organizations tends to move for majors actors like Microsoft Office 365 or Google Gmail.
License software for cloud computing applications is most of the time by subscription and per user. By the way, it is obvious that, now as you work online, vendors have more control and you can hardly trick licencing. In Office 365 for business, users need licenses to use Outlook, SharePoint and other services. As an administrator, you can easily assign licenses to new users when you create accounts, or to users with existing accounts. To free up licenses, you can unassign licenses when people leave the organization or if they don’t need it anymore. Users and licences are not automatically linked. In Google Apps For Work, you pay a subscription per user.
If you are a school or any educational institutions, Google Apps for Work and Microsoft Office 365 solutions are free to use. Ask.
Google Apps For Work, Microsoft Office 365
Google Apps for Work is focus to cover the basics of what you need and to cover them very well. It’s fast, lightweight, works on a wide range of devices, and it’s both easy to use and easy to manage. However, you might not be comfortable with the thought that your company’s communications are being scanned by Google. Microsoft Office 365 is supposed to offer privacy, security, and compliance safeguards you can trust. You always know where your data is stored and who has access to it. Your data isn’t used to deliver advertising as explained in Microsoft terms of service.
While Google offers online applications only, Microsoft can still provides to end users a classic Desktop version of Microsoft Office (available for download in Office 365 portal). Documents can be save directly online or synchronized to Cloud using One Drive additional tools. Also, it is good to know that one user can install Microsoft Office on 5 devices.
As usual with Microsoft licencing is very complex and full of surprises.
What about third-part software ?
In most Cloud environnement, you can now connect web applications to add features to your current work-space. Using marketplace, you will find software, from simple tools like PDF editor to full projects management suites. Office 365 and Google Apps For Work allows third-part software. My favorite applications are for now, Trello, Draw.io and Pixlr.com. Browse marketplaces but check pricing before you move. In my perception, you can get a better control of what you pay, by limiting software to users who really need it, and also on specific times intervals. Some software allow you to pay per use (subscriptions per month or hours).
How can i help ?
When working as a freelance, my goal is to help you to understand all available solutions. We can also build costs table matching your expectations to implement an effective strategy. In some projects, I can also spend time to migrate your data to the chosen Cloud provider.