I had a great conversation, yesterday, with Scott Sherman, the COO at KIS Business, about the realities of “Cloud Computing” as SAAS office products are being called. According to Moderro Technologies, applications included in your cloud will include services such as:
- An Office Suite – email, calendar, “word processor”, spreadsheets and presentation software
- Business Applications – CRM (Customer Relationship Management), ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), Accounting, Databases and HR Services (e.g. FlexHR’s Employee Universe)
- Project Management and Collaboration software
According to Sherman, the problem with Cloud Computing has to do with security – keeping your company’s private information, private. If you think about Governor’s Palin’s predicament with her email account, you have to take into consideration what could happen to your company’s information, in the hands of the wrong people.
Does this mean that you are stuck paying office rent for the next 20 years? Definitely not. Your ability to be mobile and to collaborate with workers anywhere in the world may be closer to your horizon than you realize. Being able to pick up and work anywhere, anytime will help your productivity, substantially.
Does this mean that you have to purchase and maintain your own server – as if you have nothing better to do? Not reasonable.
Does it mean that you have to take a risk with some of the free services? Probably not the best option, either.
It means that you’ve got to find a solution that will work for your organization. Consider the following as you plan for your integration.
- Risk – there is a risk horizon you need to be aware of. The more visible your organization and the more desirable (unique) your information is, the more at risk you are for a breech.
- Planning – as your organization grows, you will want to move to tighter and tighter security models. Some of the SAAS environments do offer 128 and 256 bit encryption service, often at a higher cost.
- Productivity – While you may not wish to get all services from one organization, you’ll want to ensure that systems that need to work together can.
- Support and Maintenance – Ensure these are available, around the clock.
- Matching – Before reviewing the products, make yourself a weighted list of requirements, or a wish list for the ideal product. Then see how each product stacks up. Include cost, complexity, learning curve and scale ability and security.
- Pricing – Ensure you do an apples to apples comparison. A company that offers 1 G of storage for an unlimited number of users is not the same as 15G of storage for 5 users. You’ll have to look at the software services in terms of which will give the greatest value proposition for your organization.
While you may not be ready today to invest in a mobile office, or you feel a product such as Windows Live Small Business, Google or ZOHO may be fine for you, do not rush into this at the last moment. Like any business decision, be decisive and committed to doing it the right way, set a goal for getting it done, set up a list of criteria for quality and do your homework!