Friday, September 09, 2011

Exchange Connections: The economics of moving to the cloud

The old expression "no one ever gets fired for IBM" shifted a few years ago to "no one ever gets fired for buying Microsoft." We get it. Microsoft technologies are a pretty safe bet for your business. This follows a certain school of thought in business that a technology is not truly legitimate until the big players have an offering. 

I'm not sure you can hear me over the roar of the media and the Microsoft marketing machine, but Office 365 and cloud services are the hot topics.  And, I generally loathe marketing terms such as "cloud". At any rate, cloud services deserve a second (or third) look. 

Cloud or hosted services are certainly nothing new. Since the first large scale mainframes came online, businesses have been outsourcing computer services that they could not effeciently or cost effectively offer themselves. Computerized accounting and billing services were outsourced way back in the 1960s. 
Outsourced e-mail and SharePoint services also not new as of 2011, either. Even in the late 1990s there were providers around the globe offering hosted Exchange services. Microsoft themselves have been in that business with BPOS and other offerings for at least the last 6 years. 

Office 365 is a bit different thought. Aside from the fact that there is a massive marketing effort surrounding Office 365 services, Microsoft seems to be betting the house on these services. The different tiers of service and pricing  seem to be Microsoft's recognition that different customers will have different requirements. They are making it easier than ever for us to move to the cloud including better interoperability with on-premise solutions such as Exchange Server 2010. 

So, even for the most skeptical of cloud curmudgeon, the cloud (and Office 365) should not be considered a viable alternative and not a bleeding edge solution. So, where does that leave us? 

I consider myself an "on premise" kinda guy.  I'm a systems guy at heart and am most comfortable somewhere between an engineering and an operations role. I like to have my hand in both sides of IT. But for many of us, the simple fact is that cloud or outsourced services is in our future and we have to accept that. 

So, I’m a tiny bit conflicted when facing the prospect of cloud-sourcing my favorite part about IT.  But, we have to take a bigger picture view of our jobs. Our first obligation is to provide reliable IT services to our businesses (or non-profit or government entity) and those services must be services that meet our end-user's requirements. But second, and almost important, is to provide those services at a cost that is as affordable as possible. 

When I started thinking about sessions for the Exchange Connections conference that would be of value to today's IT Professional, one of the ideas I had was to explore the economics of moving e-mail services "to the cloud" and what that means to an organization's IT team. We all have visions of mass layoffs, but I'm betting that is not usually the case. 

In order for us to be responsible IT Pros, we need to know not only what our service costs us to offer but also exactly what services we are providing.  In my session "Economics of Cloud Sourcing and what that Means to Your IT Team" I'll explore how you calculate not only the cost of the service you offer (such as the per month per mailbox cost of your system) but also determine what services you are offering to your business and your end users.

This will help you to make an "apples for apples" comparison of costs and services. Some organizations will find that they can do things in the cloud at 25% the price of their current on-premise solution while others are going to find that regardless of the cost savings they cannot duplicate the features or functionality in cloud that are required by their end users. 

IT Pros have a professional responsibility to their employers to approach the cloud with an open mind and eye towards helping their business succeed rather than promoting specific pieces of technology. And, for techies like me, that can be a tough exercise.

I hope you will join me for this session at Exchange Connections in Las Vegas and hear my own experiences and my journey towards weighing costs and services objectively.



At 7:07 PM, Blogger Josh Maher said...

Hey Jim, We should look at doing a joint session in the future. I have been focused on the Office365 solution for a while now and found that the various justifications (price, overhead, capex v. opex, etc.) are different for a lot of different reasons. It would be great to have a joint presentation for people from yourself (an on-premise guy) and myself (an off-premise guy)...


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