Cloud Services

Understanding the Cloud

WhatTheCloud.png

In 2019 you would think the business community would have a good understanding of cloud computing. Reality is much different.  As I speak with business owners, management, and users, the “cloud” is still a nebulous concept more than a solution.  It’s certainly not understood well enough to know how to maximize the value of the cloud based on specific business use cases.  This knowledge gap is a source of business risk as well as lost potential business value.

I’ve written many blogs on cloud computing the past 5 + years and “hosted servers and software”, the stepping stone to the cloud, prior to that.  We have learned a great deal during that time, but one constant remains – there is always more to learn because the technology changes so rapidly.

At Fluid, we have a “cloud first” philosophy where any solutions kept on premise in the office requires a valid business case; a 180 degree change in philosophy from 7 to 8 years ago.  Today, it’s not just about determining if the cloud is a good fit, it’s about selecting the best type of cloud solution with the most optimal deployment.  This requires a deep technical understanding of cloud solutions, well beyond the glossy sales brochures.  Just keeping up with current technology is a full-time job, add the need to understand new disruptive technologies and how they impact the value proposition and you quickly realize it takes a disciplined commitment and process involving many people with varying skill sets.

The barrage of marketing buzzwords around cloud attempting to clarify things actually add to the confusion – public cloud, private cloud, hybrid cloud, software-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service, infrastructure-as-a-service, cloud disaster recovery; the list goes on.

To simplify things, let’s look at a few types.  These definitions and descriptions can be scrutinized and argued among vendors, experts and engineers, but that is not the audience.  The ones needing the most help in understanding the cloud are the business buyers and users.

Public Cloud

These are the big ‘logo’ guys: Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS, Google Cloud, etc.  These companies, as you would expect, have behemoth cloud infrastructures and solutions that literally span the globe.  These are typically shared environments that are highly complex requiring senior engineers and architects to properly design and deploy.  Their sheer size can provide benefits in cost and deployment with geographical flexibility.  Each have their own rules to abide by.

Private Cloud

These are typically smaller players that have their own cloud infrastructure in smaller geographical areas.  The advantage of private clouds is greater flexibility and control.  Because they aren’t aligned to the major public cloud companies, which are also ‘product’ companies, they have the ability to host solutions that may not be a good fit for the public cloud.  In addition, some companies prefer the private aspect of knowing more about where their information is stored, how it’s managed and, in many cases, more secure.

Hybrid Cloud

The hybrid cloud is just that, a hybrid that utilize more than one solution.  This can include hosting components in the public cloud and others in the private cloud.  It can also be a mix of hosting some solutions onsite with others in the public or private cloud.  Hybrid cloud solutions are typically very ‘business use case’ specific.  For example, an engineering company with very high processing requirements for CAD drawings may use solutions on premise and back up the data to a private or public cloud.

Software-as-a-service (SaaS) should also be mentioned because a vast majority of companies use SaaS solutions alongside others.  For example, if using Dropbox for file sharing and hosting accounting systems in Microsoft Azure is using SaaS for Dropbox and public cloud for the accounting system.

Licensing is a beast!

Invariably, when companies evaluate cloud solutions they focus primarily on the core of the solutions: what will run in the cloud, how much processing power do we need, how much storage is required, how can remote users access it easily from anywhere.  What is often glossed over is the software licensing requirements.  Abusing software licensing rules even unintentionally is not something to take trivially.  The volumes of rules, requirements, and options is literally a wormhole requiring multiple jobs in itself. 

Be wary the sales rep that says licensing is ‘all included’ or ‘nothing to worry about’.  The costs associated with licensing can double the cost of a cloud solution and more if not done properly.  Every software solution has licensing rules and regulations, many of which are specific to usage not just in the cloud but the type of cloud. 

We have a half dozen different licensing programs and certifications just to cover Microsoft licensing in the cloud.  Just multiply that by the number of software providers and it’s a book no one wants to read.  But someone must read it and understand how to weave all the various licensing options into the blanket that best covers your business.  Make sure your provider understands licensing and make sure you understand licensing enough to be comfortable your business is properly covered.  It’s too good to be true is a cautionary motto to follow.

As I was writing this blog, I received an email from a cloud customer, who is the business owner of a food manufacturing business.  In his email, he forwarded dialog with his ‘local tech provider’ questioning every aspect of the cloud setup, software licensing, etc.  It was clear the customer provided the invoice detail to the tech to be a second set of eyes to confirm he had a good solution, which is never a problem.  Transparency with customers should always be the standard protocol.  Interestingly, every line item the tech questioned and provided feedback on was incorrect.  If the end customer followed this advice they would be woefully non-compliant and given dangerously bad information.  This exchange of information proves the entire point of this blog.  Even technical people providing advice don’t understand the cloud technologies with dire consequences. 

Choosing the wrong provider and partner can be disastrous to the business.

The challenges businesses face today is not if a cloud solution will be a good fit but finding the expertise to determine the best solutions available to the business and, more importantly, the ability to execute and implement the solutions.  There are hundreds if not thousands of IT companies, managed service providers (MSPs), etc. happy to sell cloud solutions without the in-house knowledge required to design, implement and support the services properly. 

The problem is exacerbated because the typical business ‘buyer’ does not have the knowledge to ask the right questions to confirm the ‘seller’ has the skills required to meet business needs.  Migrating to the cloud is not an easy task, regardless of what the sales pitch says.  A vendor skilled in doing migrations will have a defined, disciplined migration process and experience to make the migration as painless as possible.  Every flawless plan has unexpected issues to be addressed.  This is where your vendor earns their keep.  If the vendor doesn’t have migration experience and skills, the wheels can shoot off well beyond frustration and become a major disruption to the business with outages and downtime.

Public cloud is… well, public.  So what?

Microsoft Azure publishes its cloud pricing to the public, as well as a “pricing calculator” to use to estimate potential cloud costs.  Easy right?!  Think again.  You must know this stuff at so many deep technical levels and layers it will make the most tech savvy run for the hills.  As a Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) we have dozens of “portals” we must navigate just to manage our customers Azure and Office365 accounts and environments, and we are the experts.  This scenario plays out for the other 800 pound gorillas as well.

Proceed with caution… it’s one thing to sell, quite another to advise, implement and support

What is the real implication?  The cloud has come a long way and continues to improve with better tools, automation, and solutions.  But notice I did not say support.  One major lagging necessity is good (not even great) support from cloud providers.  Every cloud provider will require you purchase support, even if it’s buried in the pricing.  What they don’t tell you is the quality of the support.  It’s only when you make that initial call for support that you realize it’s going to be very long day.  Again, this stems from a lack of skills and experience to deliver on both the technical side of the house and customer service.

It is very disheartening to witness how these powerful technologies can improve and enable business only to be poorly understood by those who position themselves as experts to support it.

No one becomes a cloud expert overnight.

We have invested over 10 years of countless hours, millions of dollars, and hundreds of deployments in the cloud.  It wasn’t and isn’t easy to do. It requires a different level of commitment I’m sorry to see many in our business not obligate themselves to.  We owe it to all those we serve not only to understand the technologies, but educate in business terms the value, the many options, and ultimately find the right solution for the situation.  There is an entire segment of business soured on the idea of the cloud because of poor advice, execution, and support.  I only hope with the right partner they can find their way back to today’s possibilities.  Cloud is definitely not a fit for everyone and never will be, but it shouldn’t be swept off the table because we didn’t do our jobs.

We've moved everything to the cloud, we don't need IT staff or support.

It’s Fall, the weather is cooler, football is in full swing and we finally moved all our systems to the cloud.  No more worrying about having the deal with all that techie stuff.  Life is good! vectorstock_3501851

 

“We’re in the cloud, we’re all good.”  We hear this all the time from business owners. The number of companies using cloud services for all their business software is increasing. With no servers and software in the office, many people have the misconception that any hardware still onsite, requires no attention.

So, when asking owners and CEO’s about their IT needs we get the quick “We’re all good, everything we have is in the cloud.”

This misconception is not only inaccurate, it is extremely risky.

While it is true that cloud solutions can mean computers in the office, laptops and desktops may not need to be as beefy because all the work is ‘in the cloud’, the fact remains there are still devices, and more importantly, users that will require the same level of IT support and responsiveness from their IT staff/provider.

Security is a primary concern when in the cloud.

In the “old days”, users would login to software and systems running on servers in the closet.  When there were issues, the IT guy would come to the rescue, and they would take systems down to do maintenance, upgrades, etc.  Having your software in the cloud can be very easy to use, convenient and appear to not need the same ongoing care and feeding, which can be mostly true and a great advantage of the cloud.  But that one first step – logging in, is still a critical component to ensure proper security is in place for accessing systems now in the cloud.

Managing security is still a core requirement for every business and with the “sprawl” of cloud solutions, many companies use multiple cloud applications requiring multiple logins and passwords.  On the other end of that cloud application is a user that still requires support when things go wrong, or when they want to add something new.

Users still exist and need to be supported

Seemingly simple cloud applications like DropBox still require security settings, user settings and support in a business environment.  You probably don’t want all employees to have access to sensitive HR data.  Users still must be added and managed, printers still stop working (the bane of my existence), and laptops and desktops still fail.  Assuming there is no need for IT support, puts the company back into reactive mode, only addressing needs after something happens.

Reverting to reactive support is a step backwards in user productivity

Most of what IT does is under the water line.  Like the propeller and rudder on a boat, you can’t see them, but they are required if you want to move forward in a precise direction.  Technology is only visible when the business and users are accessing it.  Much of the cloud is below the water line and appears to work on its own, but it still requires the skilled engineers and technicians to ensure everything is working to meet the business goals.

When you add the ongoing and more visible needs of the end-users, having good, proactive managed IT support and security is a MUST! Therefore, even when everything is in the cloud, having the right IT support can make the difference between success and failure.

IT Security Framework for Accounting Firms

The AICPA released two sets of criteria for public comment this week (Sept 2016) regarding cyber security. Both focus on different elements, but the common theme is the AICPA trying to develop a common framework for audit firms to evaluate the cyber security of their clients (risks and compliance). While this will prove to be very helpful, it got us thinking at Fluid: Do CPA firms themselves have a framework for their own security? Are CPA firms adequately protected from data breaches of their client’s financial information? Are accounting firms prepared to react to and recover from a malicious threat that may cause data loss or temporarily impact the productivity of the team?

Data security is a pressing issue for CPA firms given the rising level of attacks and the sensitive financial data accountants work with. A few data points –

  • Over ½ a billion personal records were stolen in 2015
  • Phishing campaigns targeting employees rose 55% in 2015
  • Ransomware increased by 35% in 2015 (362K reported cases)
  • 1 in 220 emails sent contain malware (431M new malware variants found)

While developing your own cyber security framework may seem daunting given the rapidly shifting threats, the task at hand can be greatly simplified if you break it down into the components parts (and work with professionals). At Fluid, we support our clients in 4 primary areas that each firm must address to have a comprehensive security plan.

1) Compliance Management:Fluid Security Framework

Does your firm understand all levels of compliance required given the data your firm interacts with? This can range from data retention compliance standards to data-center configuration standards. Often great compliance management starts with proper documentation, but rely on staff training and monthly monitoring to ensure/validate compliance.

2) Perimeter Management:

Think of your IT perimeter like the physical perimeter of a secure building. Are all entries and exits secured and guarded? Firewalls, cloud services, and email are major vulnerability points that should be managed and monitored for security purposes. BYOD and the proliferation of mobile devices has extended this perimeter, but these additional problem have solutions if they are approached systematically.

3) Vulnerability Monitoring and Threat Response:

You may know your weaknesses today, but that will change tomorrow; you need to monitor for attacks and have an active response if any attacks are detected. Much of this can be automated, but some expert oversight can make sure you don’t have any unintended gaps.

4) Cloud Backup and Disaster Recovery:

Even the best-run IT Departments may run into an occasional problem, ranging from accidental data loss to a malicious breach. We’ve found from our experience with clients that having a robust, offsite backup in a secure cloud environment can minimize the impact of most problems and greatly improve recovery times.

 

Whether you know it or not, your firm has ongoing IT activities in each of these 4 areas, which require ongoing focus and continual improvement – security is never ‘one and done’.

If you want to review your security practices, give us a call. We can help.

5 Data Security Tips for Accounting Firms

cloud securityFrom working hand-in-hand with our CPA firm, Accounting services, and Bookkeeping clients over the years, we know a thing or two about data security and how best to protect your firm from data losses or data breaches.  In today’s world, accounting firms must do everything they can to protect their client’s sensitive financial information.  We’ve pulled together a few best practices for you to keep in mind.  

1) Assess your current data protection and security levels

If you never measure your security performance, you never know if your network and data are secure or not.  That is, until you learn from a breach or malicious virus that you had poor security after all.  We recommend an outside firm provide an annual security assessment and review.  You may not have the time or budget to implement all suggestions, but at least you will know your weaknesses and you can develop a plan to improve over time.

 

2) Physical security, Information Systems Policies

Your network can be bullet proof to hackers and your data encrypted, but if your team isn’t trained or your office isn’t physically secure, your data is still at risk.

  • Ensure the physical security of your office with card keys, visitor logs and badges, and proper locks on doors leading to all critical infrastructure.
  • Use cable locks to ensure laptops, desktops, tablets, and any other critical devices are locked to desks.
  • Policies for each employee
    • Clean desk (no sensitive information left on desks, whiteboards or print stations)
    • Password policies that define the proper construction and maintenance of passwords
    • Acceptable use for utilizing company data and technical assets
    • Mobile device policies to help employees understand the risks associated with mobile devices
  • Keep users informed and accountable
    • Training classes are great vehicle for delivering written policies and procedures
    • Weekly (or even monthly) information security newsletters can help remind users of the importance of information security, as well as provide updates on the latest trends and threats.

 

3) Secure technology solutions

This is the sweet spot.  We feel you need to start from the outside and work toward each user device to implement proper security.

  • Are your cloud vendors PCI compliant? It’s a great standard that can generally be trusted.
  • Follow best practices when setting up office infrastructure
    • Place a business grade firewall at the front of the network that is supported and continually updated
    • Ensure WiFi networks use strong passwords and encryption protocols. Keep guest networks separate from internal networks.
    • A business-grade Anti-virus solution for all PCs
    • Standard email defense software
  • Do you know what compliance regulations your business or your customer’s business requires you to have?

 

4) Automated backup and disaster recovery

What if you are hacked or a malicious virus infects your system?  If major financial institutions or fortune 500 companies have some vulnerability, you probably will to (even if you follow some of these tips).

Can you recreate lost data or data held hostage by a malicious virus?  Do you conduct a periodic test of your data backups to confirm their validity?  Do you have multiple layers of backup – local, onsite, offsite?

A good, up-to-date backup or disaster recovery solution can be your “get out of jail (almost) free” card if you run into a problem.

 

5) Address your BYOD policy and it’s security implications

The use of personal devices on a company network to handle client data is always one of your largest security concerns.  If you allow company data on personal devices, there are some steps you can take to limit the security vulnerabilities this may cause.  Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Have a policy in place that states when it is acceptable to use personal devices for work purposes. If it is acceptable, provide guidelines to help employees understand the risks of using personal devices for business purposes.
  • Have a mobile device management (MDM) solution deployed to help manage all company data on personal devices.

 

The cost of proper security, if done proactively, will generally be much cheaper than the cost of a data breach or work stoppage from an IT problem.  Your firm can work on some of the solutions on your own.  A proactive IT partner like Fluid IT Services can help you with the rest.  Give us a call and we’ll help you out!

Avoid the Pain of Regret – Compare Multiple Cloud Solutions Before You Buy

All Cloud Services are Not the SameMany business owners, when they get ready to move their business to the cloud, immediately start scoping out the big dogs in cloud computing – Rackspace, AWS and SoftLayer, to name a few. These companies are datacenter gorillas serving hundreds of thousands of customers. It’s no surprise that this is the first place business owners start their cloud research.

But what business owners quickly discover is that, while they get what they asked for, their business needs are not actually met by these big-name companies. Future upgrades cost more, support costs more and their usage estimates were flat-out wrong. They might not feel the pinch at first – but they get bit soon enough as their business grows and changes.

Call in the Experts

Cloud services and IT support are NOT commodities. You really need to compare proposals from multiple companies – of all sizes – to get an understanding of the value of what you are paying for. Because often the price will be the same, and it’s the little details that will matter to your business in the future.

I get it. You’re not an IT expert. So how are you going to know what you’re looking at when you have five cloud-services proposals in front of you?

Well, this is when I recommend you call in an expert.

If you have an IT expert in-house, that can be a good place to start. Have them walk you through the pros and cons of each solution from a business standpoint. Don’t just consider what you need right now. Consider what you’re going to need in six months, a year or five years.

This is something we actually help our clients and potential clients with. Most of the time they don’t have in-house IT experts – or their in-house IT isn’t knowledgeable enough about the cloud to be able to help them through. So when we present our proposal, we will also help the client walk through the other proposals they’ve received. We analyze the proposals through a business lens and help the client determine what is going to work best for them.

Sometimes the result is that the client wants to go with a different company. Sometimes they choose to work with us for some services and not others. But most of the time, they become so educated throughout this process that they quickly see we can provide everything they want and need for the same price as the big gorillas. So yes, it’s absolutely worthwhile for us to spend this kind of time with potential clients.

Things to Look Out For

Whether or not you choose to bring in an expert to help you figure out what cloud solutions you need, there are things to look out for as you’re making decisions.

  1. Don’t just guesstimate what your usage is going to be. Spend the time to think through all the potential use cases and calculate an accurate usage estimate for each piece of your cloud solution. This can be tricky if you’re not super IT-savvy – so I still recommend you call in an expert for this.
  2. Inform the vendor about what other vendors you’re considering. Their response to this will be very telling. If they turn it into a sales pitch about why they are better than anyone else, beware. Someone who is truly agnostic and going to provide you white-glove service going forward is going to help you compare their solution to the others you’re considering – without a heavy sales pitch.
  3. Get to know where each cloud vendor came from. Did they start out as a cloud company, or did they just add cloud to their existing solution set? For example, Fluid has been providing hosted solutions for over ten years, and that naturally evolved into creating our own robust cloud solution. Our facilities, technologies, security, staff and solutions meet and exceed what the big gorillas can offer because the cloud is part of the foundation of our company.
  4. Find out if future upgrades are included – but also find out how much the additional labor is going to cost. This is a big “gotcha” with many cloud solutions. Patches and updates are often included, but the labor for upgrades is usually an additional cost.
  5. Consider how much attention you really want. The big cloud companies have hundreds of thousands of customers. You’re just a number in a call queue. Smaller companies can often offer much better, more personalized service for the same price.
  6. Figure out if you are okay with piecemeal service, or if you really want end-to-end service from one company. Most big companies can’t offer end-to-end service. Smaller companies like Fluid can. End-to-end would include:
    1. Defining the solutions you need in the cloud
    2. Defining all your technical specifications
    3. Migrating your business to the cloud
    4. Full white-glove support, including onsite, post-implementation and ongoing support

As CEO of Fluid IT Services, I am on a mission to help businesses stop wasting their money while also helping them move toward their goals with the right IT services and cloud resources. Contact us today – before you buy a lemon… er… get stuck in a cloud contract you regret.

How We Combined Cloud and IT Support

cloud securityQuality Cloud Hosting AND Responsive IT Service: Is It Just a Dream? The cloud has been around for a while now, and IT support services have been around since IT came into existence, but in my experience, seldom do they actually work together.

I knew I wasn’t the only one who thought this way, so I asked over a dozen other CEOs in a variety of industries about their experiences with cloud hosting and IT support. As someone who is part of the cloud and IT support industry, I wanted to know what their pain points were.

Overwhelmingly, the top two most important priorities for these CEOs were:

  1. High availability and uptime
  2. Support responsiveness and proactivity

This didn’t surprise me. Businesses can’t run successfully if their systems are down or if they have to wait days for IT support.

The IT Landscape

Fifteen years ago, the IT landscape looked a lot different. Most of the time a single person was responsible for all of a business’s IT needs. If your systems were down or Helpdesk Jimmy wasn’t answering the phone, you just walked down the hall grabbed the “one throat to choke.”

Today things are more complicated. Many companies have deployed their critical systems in the cloud, sometimes using multiple cloud providers. Many more companies have outsourced their IT support because there simply is not enough consistent demand to justify full-time employees (a side benefit of using the cloud).

Often the IT support company is separate from the cloud provider, and the cloud provider is only interested in servicing their part of the IT picture. If you’ve ever dealt with Microsoft support you know this all too well.

So here’s the big question.

Is it really possible to have a positive cloud experience while receiving excellent and responsive service?

What’s the Difference?

Cloud providers are often datacenters or software vendors who are operationally and culturally built to support their specific solution. Cloud services require a very deep technology skill-set and specificity around very complex technical architectures on a mega scale, much larger than any one company would ever deploy. They must have one eye on delivering 99.999% uptime while the other eye is focused on the future to ensure their cloud offerings and services stay best-in-class while adjusting to rapid change in technology.

Conversely, IT support providers are built to provide break/fix solutions and set up new users. These services require a passion for customer service, personal relationships and interactions with each and every customer. They must have one eye on the customer while the other is focused on the technical support staff to ensure each technician has the right balance of technical skillset (which is ever-changing) and personality required to deliver proactive and responsive service. They must meet their 2-hour response time SLA while also creating a positive customer service interaction with every customer.

This approach inherently results in service silos, but for an IT provider to meet the requirements and demands of the business, they need to excel at both!

Where IT Support Meets the Cloud

To provide both cloud services and IT support services well, you first have to accept and embrace that they are two very different needs and disciplines.

Think about it this way. You wouldn’t have the same staff manufacturing cars and running a department store, would you? Yet this what many cloud providers and IT support vendors try to do – use the same mindset, staff and operational processes to serve both. The result is they do both poorly.

Here at Fluid, we recognized this challenge from the beginning and purposefully designed our organization, operational processes and staffing structure to meet it. We have two separate organizations within our company that work closely together on a daily basis, so our customers never notice the separation.

Each and every person on the team clearly understands what our cloud customers expect: 100% uptime AND proactive, professional and responsive service for all their technology needs.

This is how we have successfully combined cloud hosting and IT support, and as far as I’ve seen, it’s the only way to do it that actually provides customers with quality, seamless support.

This is not an easy thing to do. It’s a huge challenge, and an IT company needs to think about it from the get-go. It’s not something you can slap together later on, because you are literally building your company around this combination of expertise.

Meeting this challenge is one of the reasons why we’re all still so passionate about what we do. We can give our customers exactly what they want: stellar cloud services and uptime with stellar customer service and responsiveness.­­

Want to know more about what separates the wheat from the chaff in the world of IT services? Contact us here or send us a tweet!

Does the Cloud Really Save You Money in Utilities?

Does the cloud save you money?It’s true that cloud computing can save your small or medium-sized business money in reduced energy usage – and I’ll break that down for you in the next section of this post – but what many people don’t know is that using cloud resources saves energy for everyone. You read that right. Double whammy. Moving your computing resources and data to the cloud helps you save money on your utility bill and helps the environment.

How the Cloud Lowers Your Utility Bill

In-house systems require continual and consistent power. Here’s a typical breakdown:

  1. A single server typically requires 3-4 amps
  2. A UPS (uninterrupted power supply) typically requires 1 amp
  3. An external backup device typically requires ~1 amp
  4. Air conditioning typically requires 15-20 amps depending on the model

What does this all mean? It means you would typically need to dedicate two 20 or 30 amp circuits just to run the equipment.

Because these systems run 24/7/365 and air-conditioning should run at all times and on weekends, the energy savings would be noticeable. I can’t give an actual dollar amount because there are so many variables, but it would really add up for a year. Especially if you have your own building, you would see a lot of direct savings.

A Simple Calculation

Here is a very generalized calculation to give you an idea of cost savings.

Let’s say your equipment uses that full 26 amps and the circuit is on a 120 VAC line. That would equal 3120 watts, or 3.12 kW. The average cost per kW-hour in the Dallas area is around 8 cents. Knowing you have to run the equipment 24x7, here is the calculation for a 4-week month:

3.12 kW x 24 hr/day x 7 day/wk x 4 wk = 2097 kW-hours

2097 kW-hours x 8¢ / kW-hour = $167.76

There are so many variables, it’s impossible to say that is 100% accurate for you. The cost will be different depending on your equipment, the amount of equipment, if you share the utility cost with other tenants in the building, and of course the always-changing cost per kW-hour that the utility companies charge. But you get the idea. IT systems in your office cost you money in electricity.

Savings Grow Over Time

That big savings also grows over time. As your company grows it also grows its IT infrastructure.

Over a 5-10 year span of consistent company growth, your energy savings in the cloud would be significant. You would also save on any maintenance required for the energy in the form of electricians, power outages, etc.

IMPORTANT NOTE: In the last section, we used a very small example to give an idea of cost savings. For larger companies with more equipment, the savings can quickly reach thousands of dollars. We have many clients with entire rooms full of racks of computer equipment, running hundreds of servers, storage, devices, etc. For those companies, the savings can be a material impact to their P&L, not to mention the ability to use that expensive square footage for more productive purposes.

How the Cloud is More Environmentally-Friendly Than Onsite Computing Resources

A recent report from Berkeley Lab, funded by Google, discovered that moving companies’ software to the cloud could save enough energy every year to power L.A. for a year. That’s pretty astounding, if you ask me.

Even with the massive datacenters required to run it, the cloud is a lot greener than you would think. Dedicated cloud datacenters are more efficient and have lower carbon emissions than the IT infrastructure used by most companies.

In fact, Fluid’s own datacenters are LEED Gold and 2 Green Globes-rated for environmental consciousness.

Save Money, Save the Earth

There are many, many reasons to move your business to the cloud. Cost savings is a big one – but environmental consciousness is certainly one to consider as well.

Want to learn more? Send us a tweet at @fluiditservices or comment below!

What Your Business DOESN’T Know About the Cloud

Cloud Computing Fluid IT ServicesThe Most Critical Thing Your Business DOESN’T Know About the Cloud This is a tricky topic because what you don’t know, by definition, is something you are not aware of and thus is not part of your consciousness. The other variable complicating this topic is that defining what is “critical” to your business often depends on factors out of your control.

Coming at the cloud from a business perspective, “critical things you don’t know” can get complicated – fast. But in all my years of experience helping businesses with their cloud computing, I see two very important things that businesses in every vertical just don’t know.

Small Companies Are Dependent On Outsiders – “Trust Me… I’m Your Doctor.”

Small businesses do not typically have in-house IT staff. They are dependent on others to provide everything from a high-level technology strategy to tactical direction on what equipment they need, as well as the specifications and configurations of that equipment.

Small businesses are not in a position to know what to ask for with cloud solutions to meet their business needs (nor should they be). Typically there is not a technical person in the company to build out the specifications for what they need in cloud services. It’s hard to imagine a small business telling a cloud provider exactly how much storage, processing power, memory and bandwidth they require to run each of their software applications.

Even with those cloud solutions that are more defined to meet a specific need, such as SalesForce for customer relationship management (CRM) or Dropbox for file storage and sharing, there are still technical specifications to consider that a small business will need guidance on to ensure they get the right amount of services and that those services align to their business needs.

For the small business, the most critical thing they do not know about the cloud is how to provision the various cloud solutions to meet their business needs. They must rely on outside assistance from either the cloud vendor or a technology partner to help ensure they align cloud solutions to actual business needs now and going forward.

Mid-Sized Companies Are Dependent on Insiders – “Trust Me… I Know This Stuff Like the Back of My Hand.”

For mid-sized businesses, it is a very different landscape. Most mid-sized businesses (approximately 200 to 1,000 employees) will typically have some in-house IT staff; the larger the company, the more staff. The business will look to their in-house IT staff to advise and guide them in procuring the cloud services that meet their business needs. Mid-sized businesses will typically ask the internal staff to assist with cloud vendor identification, vetting and selection of a final solution.

For the internal IT staff to be successful, they need to understand the business well enough to ensure the cloud solution not only meets technical requirements, but also compliance, privacy, and regulatory requirements.

One problem I’ve seen is that there is a tendency for internal IT staff at mid-sized companies to become “stale” in their technical skill set over time. This is not their fault – it’s just a byproduct of working in a mid-sized company. There is often not enough time or formal processes to ensure that internal IT staff stay current in all technologies. The technology ocean is too big and too deep for internal IT staff to keep up and still meet the daily demands on the business. When you add the sheer volume of cloud alternatives, which are changing and growing every day, along with the number of industry-specific cloud solutions, it becomes daunting and intimidating to even attempt to keep up.

For the mid-sized business, the most critical thing they do not know about the cloud is how their own dependency and reliance on their internal IT staff may not translate to the best cloud solutions for the business, and can in fact create serious business risk if the wrong solutions are deployed. Using the wrong solution can result in unwise investment (lost $$$), lost productivity and decreased customer service, all of which can be enough to be a business ending event.

Reinventing Law Practice with the Cloud

When Len Musgrove started his own law practice, IT was just another frustration and expense. He was all-ears when Wade Yeaman said, “The cloud would be an easier, more cost-effective solution.”