Everybody talks about cloud computing as the solution to so many business problems of today. And what’s not to like about cloud computing? It’s going to make everything better and cheaper and more reliable, right?
But is cloud computing in Australia a risk to the Australian SMB reseller community? Is it possible cloud computing could cause more problems for the SMB business owner than on-premise computing? To understand that, let’s take a look at it from a higher level.
The upside to on-premise solutions, where you have all your IT infrastructure in your offices, is you have full control over the environment. The IT infrastructure can be totally tailored to suit specific business requirements and therefore allows for very close alignment between the IT systems and business goals. The systems belong to you, and you are therefore also in full control of things like maintenance windows, software upgrades and the like. You don’t have to move to the latest version of a product just because your provider decides it’s the right time to do so. On the other hand, cloud computing takes all those problems away and more. There’s no capital outlay to get on-board with cloud computing, for instance. You also have access to the latest applications without having to deal with the challenges of upgrading them yourself. And you don’t need to worry about patching your applications because the cloud provider does all that for you.
Life sounds wonderful doesn’t it? It is – until you get to the downside. Not only do you not have to worry about software upgrades, you also now have no choice about them. You have no choice as to when maintenance is done on external cloud computing systems, so if that happens to be in the middle of your busiest time, you risk having applications and data offline.
There’s also no choice as to the quality of hardware that sits beneath those third-party applications and data. It’s great for us to not think about these issues, but as SMB IT professionals, we should be thinking about them. It’s imperative that as resellers/consultants, we think carefully about what is right for our customers and not just foist the latest solution on them because everyone else does.
It’s also imperative that we don’t let our customers be blinded by the bright light of low monthly costs, no maintenance fees and the like when in fact the solution might not be right for them yet.
If you think I’m being a scaremonger, then let’s have a look at a few thoughts.
Fire: A fire in one of our customer’s sites can take out that entire customer. As a reseller, we would then devote our resources to helping that one customer get up and running as quickly as we could. How would you react to your customers if a fire took out the third-party datacentre that housed their applications and data?
Flood: What about a flood? I’m sure you’ll say they don’t happen in a cloud scenario, yet here in Australia earlier this year, many clients were brought down when a datacentre in Melbourne was flooded. They say it can’t happen, but it already has.
Hardware: With regards to hardware reliability, I’m sure cloud vendors use the highest quality hardware available to them. Combined with good design, that should guarantee fault-free service, right? Wrong. Cast your mind back to last year when WebCentral, the largest provider in Australia of hosted Exchange, had its systems offline for three days. That outage affected over 30,000 clients. During that time, those 30,000 clients had no access to email and no way to do business. How would it have been if it was all their applications and data and not just their email?
Another focus has to be where data is located. For example, did you realise that the BPOS solution being sold in Australia by Telstra as its T-Suite offering means your data will be located in Singapore? Likewise, do you realise your data is subject to the laws of the country in which it is located? Do you even know how those laws might be different to Australian law? What about if your data is located in the US, and subject to the US Patriot Act? Data may be seized under that act without any real comeback on your part.
I leave you with a couple of final questions to ask yourselves:
- How would your business survive if all your cloud customers were off-the-air for three days?
- Is the cloud the right solution for this customer?
- When will I re-evaluate the cloud for my clients?
The cloud is here to stay, but there are a host of considerations that must be taken into consideration before selling external solutions. It’s up to you to figure out when the move is right for your customers – and that might not be this year or next.