Everyone hates the “B” word – budget. And while everyone budgets at some point in their life, an IT budget is a beast all its own.
In any business, there is pressure to keep costs down in EVERY department, but because IT isn’t always tangible, there usually seems to be extra pressure on that budget. When posed with the question of conserving cost, does the Cloud actually lower IT costs? Is it really the money-saver it’s portrayed as?
One of the things we at Accent Computer Solutions, Inc. hear from business executives all the time is, "I want to go to the Cloud to lower my IT support costs.” We've been sending businesses to the Cloud for nearly 10 years now – so much so, that we have earned a designation from Microsoft’s Partner Program in Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions.
Let’s set the record straight once and for all, how does the Cloud affect IT costs?
What Is the Cloud and How Does It Replace a Dedicated Server?
Many of us have heard terms like the “Internet-of-Things” (IoT) or BIG Data. We understand that we need these things, but what are they?
The Cloud is another notorious tech buzzword, and while everyone seems to be moving to it, not many people can define it.
So, long story short:
The Cloud, or cloud computing, is software and servers that are in a data center instead of running on locally on your hardware, like a server, computer, or tablet/smartphone device. You then access the servers or applications through the Internet. This includes applications that are accessed by web browsers and mobile applications.
The Cloud replaces your server by removing the physical server from your office and making it available to you via the Internet.
For Example: Moving Your Email to the Cloud
Your IT provider moves your user mailboxes and configurations to a hosted email service's servers, think Office 365 or G-Suite. As long as you have access to the Internet, you will have access to your email as usual.
This scenario may vary depending on what kind of server is being moved to the Cloud, but that is basically how it works.
Is the Cloud Right for My Business and Does the Cloud Save Money?
We love Cloud technologies and the options they offer. The Cloud can provide money-saving, stable, up-to-date applications, and since we are in the business of supporting our clients, this makes perfect sense for A LOT of our customers.
Here's why it seems like a money-saver: It lowers your upfront hardware cost, but not your IT support or vendor support costs.
With the server(s) on the Cloud, you don't have to maintain that server. The vendor, for the most part, does all the physical maintenance involved. And along with that, you unload the burden of powering and maintaining an adequate environment for the server.
It also scales with you, so you pay-as-you-go instead of buying a server for the capacity that you expect down the road.
But your IT department or outsourced IT provider has to continue to do the same stuff it was already doing, and there is the vendor’s fee for using their server(s) to begin with.
When talking to Kenny Riedell, Chief Technology Architect at Accent Computer Solutions, Inc. about considerations before moving to the Cloud, here’s what he had to say about costs:
“Cloud services are typically billed per user, per month with little upfront investment. This can make Cloud options very attractive compared to purchasing servers and maintaining an onsite infrastructure. However, when comparing Cloud and on-premise options over a typical three-to-five-year refresh cycle, the overall costs typically come out pretty close. It usually becomes question of capital cost versus recurring cost and what best fits the finances for your company.”
To get into more specifics, drill down your options with your IT provider. There are so many options out there today. Some companies are now fully Cloud-based. Others have hybrid situations, where some technologies are in the Cloud and others are on-premise. And there are still many companies whose computing environment is entirely on-premise.
The Cloud and IT Support – Two Parts of One Whole
For the record, the myth that the Cloud brings your IT costs down because you no longer need internal or external IT staff anymore is just that – a myth. You still need support for things like security, backup, and end-user support.
Your IT team becomes even more important as they are the liaison between your server or application support. While yes, the vendor is responsible for the equipment and the functionality, they aren’t responsible for it integrating into your company, or any end-user help services beyond “Is it working as it was designed to work?”
Think about it like this: You’ve started using a new Cloud email service and, for whatever reason, your emails aren’t syncing. So, you call the email service provider for help. They run a few tests on their system, and according to them, its running smoothly. If you didn’t have an internal or external IT department, you’d be stuck trying to diagnose these problems on your own. With an IT department, your issue would have been reported directly to IT instead of to the email service provider. Your IT department grabs their superhero capes and steps in to troubleshoot the issue. They will work with the vendor to figure out where the problem lies and get you back up and running in no time. Again, two parts of one whole.
Long story short, the Cloud offers many GREAT possibilities for small to mid-size business, but it does not replace your IT department. Is it possible that using Cloud services will lower your overall technology costs? Yes, it’s possible. It could also raise your technology costs, but with the added benefit of better results. In the end, choosing to go to the Cloud or not is a business decision. Which route will move your business forward and enable you to achieve your goals?
IT can be complicated. We're here to help "untangle" it for you.
IT Untangled aims to provide clarity on IT topics for business people. This weekly blog series will explain and discuss the complex world of IT, in words you understand.