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Clouding up: getting out of ‘dirty’ IT

July 8, 2010

First off: I’m going to define ‘dirty’ IT.  Dirty IT is IT you don’t want.  The parts of IT that you dread when you’re in bed at night and know someone else can do better.  Email.  Remote collaboration.  Offsite backups (D2D2C instead of D2D2C).  The kinds of technology that enable business, but have significant expertise requirements – would you rather worry about improving your network security protocols, or doing routine Exchange updates or handling the inevitable failure (because you can’t afford big clusters, fast SAN, and the like for 200 users)?  I’m taking the former 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year.   And anyway – you’re going into the cloud like it or not – the cost savings are too good for that PHB down the hall controlling the budget.

So now you’re headed into the cloud.  What to get rid of.  Of course you’re not dumping everything into the cloud unless you meet some very specific cases: say, retail.  Retail can go into the cloud, especially SMB retail.  As long as you’re not handling card data – and thus PCI, there is no reason your POS systems can’t be cloud based.  You can put Salesforce to work, track your customer bases, do all the analysis you need, and not own one server.  Not a single unitary server.  Maybe at most a small NAS appliance for storing files onto, but even up to a 5-10 store shop could easily use Box.net or a comparable service and boom – your files are accessible everywhere.  Even bigger than that – it’s still easy.  May not scale as well, but easy to implement.

Email is my favorite app to put in the cloud.  Exchange is a beast to administer.  I don’t want to own 2 servers for Exchange, hardware for BES, hardware for whatever else I need, tons of storage, and lots of headaches at 3 am when something goes wrong.  I want to have a web portal I can let our administrative assistant create email accounts in and setup Blackberry/ActiveSync devices at her desk.  This reduces IT spend more than anything.  Every penny we could save by an in-house email server – even a pure POP/IMAP solution, is spent back 3-4 times by administrator overhead.  Have trouble at 3am?  Someone working the 3rd shift will answer the phone and take care of it.  I don’t have to crawl out of bed and deal with it, other than calling in.

My second favorite Cloud app is document tools.  Now I love keeping unstructured data on NAS, and there is a case for that.  But there is a case for users who have very simplistic needs – a small spreadsheet to track time, a word processing document here and there, to use tools like Google Docs instead of buying $700+ Microsoft Office licenses.  What is the ROI on a 700 dollar license over 2 years for a user who fires up Word 2 times per night, and Excel twice a week.  It’s a negative number.  You’re losing money there.  You don’t have to think long to realize – 700 dollars is 14 times 50. 14 years at a 0% cost of capital.  Assuming 10% CoC, you’re never going to come out ahead on that Office license purchase – even assuming insane license lives compared to that $50 a year Google Apps Enterprise license.  Oh, and you get email with Google Apps (see 1).

Third is DR.  I’ve talked about DR in the cloud, and it’s a wonderful way to get rid of tape.  D2D2C is the new backup mechanism.  We’re going to it.  Some shops are even skipping the second D and going D2C.  The only advantage to me owning storage environments is that I can use it for virtualization, and SATA drives are pretty cheap for desktop backup.  For more critical items, it’s off to the cloud in a secure encrypted fashion.  The beauty of it is – either ‘cloud drives’ like Rackspace’s JungleDisk, Box.net, or a true cloud offering like Symantec’s services drive lots of value.  For sure cheaper than sending tapes off to Iron Mountain or whomever your retention vendor is, and I control ‘tape rotation’ from my desk. Tapes ready to disappear?  Check a few boxes, and poof.  Gone.  Life made easy.

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From → On IT

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