OK pokies, what're you waiting for? Let's getting registerin' for today's (2.25.10) Syzygy 3 & Microsoft cloud services webinar. Promises to be an educational 45 minutes that could do a lot for transforming your business's technology (for the better). Plus, answer three questions and you might win a 16GB HD Zune.
See you this afternoon (or morning, depending on your time zone).
It's the final countdown (Europe rocked for a brief moment in the 80's). The Syzygy 3 webinar - highlighting cloud computing in general and the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) specifically - is all set for February 25th at 1:30p ET. We've worked to build a strong presentation that will keep you engaged (or at least awake) for the full 45 minutes.
Register for this totally awesome event HERE
I wrote all last week about cloud services, so let's touch base on Microsoft BPOS.
What is BPOS?
Enterprise-grade messaging & collaboration tools hosted by Microsoft. This includes the following:
Hosted Exchange (e-mail)
SharePoint (workflow/document management)
LiveMeeting (web/audio/video conferencing)
Office Communicator (instant messaging)
This is all delivered via the Microsoft infrastructure at an SMB price point ($10/month/user, minimum five (5) users).
What is the real value of BPOS?
-- Communicate more efficiently, increasing productivity and lowering overall costs
-- Benefit from a built-in disaster recovery solution for your most vital communications tools
-- Scale with the click of a mouse, implementing the solutions you need when you need them
-- Reduce infrastructure spending while increasing security and reliability
OK, OK, you get the idea. Come one, it's 45 minutes that could change how your business functions (for the better). What excuse are you going to make when you miss this opportunity?
"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." Thomas Edison
Kinda on a roll this week (making up for the gaps in the last couple of months).
Not all aspects of cloud computing are rosy. This article throws some cold water on the cloud run up. Doesn't necessarily preclude a move to hosted services, but it does make you stop and think a little harder about things.
Just following up on our posting from yesterday regarding a cloud computing article in the Wall Street Journal (2.8.10). If you need anymore evidence that cloud computing has reached it's "now" moment, check out this article.
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Well, I'm not quite imitating Roger Cheng, but I am borrowing his idea. Mr. Cheng is a reporter for the Dow Jones Newswires and he wrote an article entitled "'Cloud Computing': What Exactly Is It, Anyway?" for the small business section of the February 8th edition of the Wall Street Journal (read it if you can find it online or a hard copy).
Mr. Cheng did a good job highlighting some of the most obvious points about cloud services, but there are others that were missed. Below is a summary of the WSJ article and additional points to consider when researching cloud services.
Question #1: What is cloud computing?
Essentially you access hardware or software via an Internet connection. The hardware and software is hosted and maintained by a 3rd-party vendor. This model has actually been around for decades, but the explosion of services now available via this model, and the quality of the providers, now make cloud computing a reasonable alternative for businesses. (Don't confused this with co-location, where a business keeps their hardware and software in a remote location. Same concept, different model.)
Question #2: How is cloud computing priced?
Typically, cloud services costs are based on users per month (or year). There is specialized pricing if you require additional computing power or custom configuration of a system, but these are more the exceptions than the rule (at the moment; that will change). This is where the consideration starts and ends for a lot of companies, especial small- and mid-sized businesses (SMBs). With no hardware or software to buy, house, and support, the figures work out in favor of cloud computing (even over the long haul). Now an accountant might say different because of accounting rules, but in practical application, the cloud is a financially smarter play.
Question #3: What are the savings?
There are quantified and qualified answers to this question, but it all depends on your business. Cloud computing saves you the immediate expense for hardware and software; it also saves on electricity, rent (depending on how much technology a business possesses), IT employees or outsourced providers for support, and also if you expand (you just add users to the system and not new infrastructure).
Where cloud computing may cost you is in the limited ability to customize certain applications to fit your business requirements. As the systems must serve more than one business, customization is often not available or minimal, or in the form of an API, for which a programmer (or more) is required to tweak a system to fit a business.
Another area where cost will be higher is in your bandwidth requirements. Since you're accessing the data via an Internet connection, that connection becomes your lifeline and must be treated as such. One, you will need more bandwidth to handle the increased load; two, you will want a more reliable connection than DSL (cable or T1 come to mind); three, bring in a backup connection, ideally on separate infrastructures (cable & T1; T1 & wireless). You will also need to upgrade your network equipment (firewall especially) to account for the new complexity, speed, and multiple connections.
Question #4: Is cloud computing reliable?
If you're a faithful reader of any Syzygy 3 production (blog, Twitter, newsletter), then you know we don't advocate a technology unless we've tested it and approve of the outcome. We are BIG proponents of cloud computing (despite the possible deleterious effects to our bottom line). Not all cloud providers are of the highest quality, but if you do your research (or let us do it), you can find those that deliver on their promises. There is a mental hurdle for most people in moving to cloud computing (a stranger has your data after all), but the better providers have an enterprise-grade infrastructure and well-paid engineers to keep everything running smooth and your data safe.
Question #5: How do I determine if cloud computing is the right solution?
The million-dollar question. We've been all over the map when working with clients to determine the right course. Some go with their gut; others want exhaustive analysis. At the end of the day, it comes down to how you operate. Are you in a business where clients won't mind having their data housed on a 3rd-party service (or gov't regulators will be OK with it)? Do you have remote users that would have an easier time accessing cloud systems as opposed to in-house systems? And I could go on and on.
The one area Mr. Cheng did not address that is paramount to our comfort in recommending a cloud provider is support. As you don't own the systems you are completely dependent on the provider to resolve any issues you experience. A good support team - easy to access, quick to respond to an issues, even quicker to resolve - is item number one on our list once we get beyond the technology. Check out the support of any provider (use them during the trials most cloud services grant); if you're not comfortable with what you receive, do not go with that provider.
We don't play favorites with technology, but there are times when a solution is just right for so many businesses that it has to be championed. We have been on Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS - horribly acronym) for the last two months. It's been everything Microsoft trumpeted (and the support has been excellent). So, we want to tell you all about it.
On Thursday, February 25th, at 1:30p ET, Syzygy 3 and Microsoft are hosting an informational webinar to provide a review of the BPOS services (Exchange, SharePoint, LiveMeeting, Communicator - all hosted by Microsoft). The session will involve a 25-minute presentation of the services and then a Q&A session with Syzygy 3 CTO, Cameron Niles, and Microsoft engineers. May not be the most scintillating topic but it's one you need to attend if you own a small- or mid-sized business.
Hey, you could also win a 16GB HD Zune just be taking the survey after the presentation. With a Zune to win and nothing to lose but advantages for your IT infrastructure, what reasons would you have not to join us?
To receive the registration link, drop an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. The link and information about the webinar will be sent to you (quick fretting, your info won't be sold or spammed, unless you want us to do so). It's an hour out of your day - but it be an hour well spent.