I met recently with a client who is faced with some major decisions on IT infrastructure.  They have an aging server on-premises and traditional IT support with an outside consultant.  The CEO was presented with a quote for over $15,000 to upgrade their server and software.  Fifteen thousand dollars…

This is an enormous check for them to write.  And what do they get?  A shiny new server with the latest OS and SQL Server, all of which will be considered out of date in just three years.  And during that three years, they are on the hook for software patches and upgrades.  If anything goes wrong with the hardware, they will again be on the hook to get it repaired. 

This way of doing things, especially for small and medium businesses (SMB) is over.  Things have shifted dramatically in the IT world in the last few years towards The Cloud, and Managed Services.  In the following paragraphs I will give you a brief explanation of what those terms mean, and where you should be focusing your IT expenditures.  But let me be clear, if you are involved in small to medium business, and you have aging servers stuffed in a closet, we need to talk.

Managed Services

Most companies in the SMB range do not have a full time IT staff.  In the traditional model, they contract with an IT consultant, or company, and pay hourly rates for desktop and server support.  This is sometimes called the break-fix model. Your IT service is reactive and responds when you have an issue that needs to be taken care of.  They bill you accordingly.

In recent years many IT support companies have transitioned to a managed services model.  In this model, you pay one fixed monthly fee, based on the level of services needed.  This model has proven to be a huge success for both the IT company and the customer.  The customer now has a predictable expense, and no longer needs to worry about calling for support for some critical issue because of the one-time costs they will incur. 

The expense for managed services can be billed as a separate item, i.e. for desktop support. Or it can be embedded in the cost of subscription services.  For example, Pacific Software & Data is a Microsoft Cloud Solutions Provider; we offer Office 365 subscriptions, and our price includes on-boarding and 24/7 support.  We are even now offering software and database development services on a monthly subscription basis.

The Cloud

The Cloud is of course a very large and complicated topic that I could write a whole book on.  For this article, let’s keep it simple.  As an SMB, you have typically invested relatively large sums in IT infrastructure that resides on-premises. And you have paid to license multiple copies of software for workstations.

The simplest scenario in moving to the cloud is just changing where your servers are.  Instead of residing in the closet in your office, your servers become virtual machines hosted on high end hardware in a secure data center.  These data centers provide immediate benefits in security, performance, and connectivity.  And you don’t have to shell out thousands of dollars to get started. You pay a manageable and predictable monthly fee.  We can provision a new cloud server for you in just minutes.  You can manage the server yourself, or add full time professional management to your subscription.

In the next scenario, we begin to break out of the server-based mentality and look at your infrastructure in terms of applications and services.  Many of the things you now host on a traditional server can be instead hosted as application services.  For instance, if you have a SQL Server database, we can host it on SQL Azure cloud services.  The database is hosted and managed in the cloud, and we don’t even think about what servers it is on.  This is a pure cloud solution.  No more worrying about patching Windows or SQL Server, repairing hardware, or upgrading. 

Think about the reasons you have a server.  Databases, web sites, file server, email, enterprise application server, domain controlling.  All this and much more can be done with pure cloud services.  You choose only the services you need, you can change any time you need, and you pay only for what you actually use.  You may come to the realization that you don’t even need a server, as a separate entity.

In the third cloud scenario, we focus on the office.  In the past you bought licenses of Microsoft Office for your workstations.  All you got was what was in the box, and when it was upgrade time, you bought it again.  Now, you subscribe to Office 365.  You only pay a few dollars per month per user, and there are many editions available so you can decide per user what features you need. 

Many of the Office 365 editions provide the full desktop software you are used to for PC and Mac.  But that is only scratching the surface.  You also get file storage, intranet portals, business communication, your own private business social network, and much more.  All of this is in the cloud, always on, always up to date, available anywhere. 

Making the Transition

How do you transition your business to the cloud and managed services?  The technology and connectivity have made the transition much more efficient than ever before.  But the key to successful transition is still in the planning.  We assess your current servers and applications to plan out a set of cloud services that meets your needs. We work out a transition schedule to minimize work disruption.

Moving to the cloud doesn’t have to be done all at once. You may be able to move applications and services one at a time, helping to minimize disruption, and giving your business time to gain confidence in the cloud as the preferred way to manage IT resources.

If you would like some advice on modernizing your business IT infrastructure, please contact me.  I will be happy to help.

About the author

Ed is the President of Pacific Software & Data.