Robert Culpon, Anderson ZurMuehlen Technology Services
I know what you’re thinking… information technology changing? This guy must have been living under a rock for the last 20 years… but bear with me a minute. There is a dynamic shift going on in the technology realm that is a bit different than what has happened in the past. The change is significant and every small to medium sized business should be paying attention.
Since the beginning of my IT career 25 years ago at Microsoft, there has been a constant change in IT. Hardware increasing in speed and power exponentially, software pushing hard to keep up with that change in system capabilities, and IT professionals working hard to integrate these solutions for businesses that struggle to adapt their processes to leverage that technology. It’s been a pretty good deal for those of us that built their careers in IT, but often an epic challenge for business owners and managers.
In the early days of computers, we had centralized systems that interfaced with monochrome terminals. In the early 90’s, the PC revolution hit with gusto. In a very short period of time, powerful computers were landing on all of our desks. Companies budgeted and purchased new systems at a frantic pace. Equipment would become obsolete almost as fast as it was installed. Most businesses hired IT professionals to deal with this constant rotation of new equipment, advances in networks, version after version of software, and systems security.
That rat race continued for 20 plus years, but now there is a shift… and it’s a pretty big one.
The Cloud. You hear about it on TV ads, trade magazines, and almost every conference you go to. This mysterious, broadly used noun that many business owners struggle to understand, much less integrate into a competitive advantage, is everywhere. With terms like SaaS (Software as a Service), DaaS (Desktop as a Service) and a host of other terms used by providers, it’s difficult to understand and integrate this new push. Like the technology that has come before it, the cloud is coming and those that find a strategic way to embrace these technologies will have a leg up. Many, if not most, large companies are already there. With their deep pockets and large IT staff resources, they’ve developed their own “Private Cloud” solutions, or partnered with huge IT houses to get them where they need to be. Now, businesses from small not-for-profits to medium sized manufacturing companies can join the cloud as well. In fact, it can reduce costs, and help you reach new customers, attract new staff, and provide a work-life balance that so many are looking for today.
So, let’s look at the cloud. There are basically two technologies that are most prevalent,the aforementioned SaaS and DaaS. Although there are many variants, these two are the key to understanding the cloud.
SaaS (Software as a Service) is typically a technology where the software manufacturer provides their software to the user via the Internet. The bulk of the software generally lies on the software manufacturer’s Internet system and users access it via a web browser interface, or in some cases, a small, locally installed “client” application. There are many advantages to SaaS for both the software manufacturer and the user. The biggest is that all maintenance, patching, and upgrading of the software is handle by the software manufacturer on their system. The challenge for many businesses with SaaS is that it only goes half way in the quest to streamline IT.
DaaS (Desktop as a Service) will be the true game changer for many businesses. In a nut shell, DaaS replaces almost all the functions performed by a typical IT department.
The days of small to medium sized businesses having to recruit, hire, and maintain IT staff are coming to a close. DaaS accomplishes this by providing a complete network and business grade computers via an Internet connection. With a lightweight application installed on a user’s local device, they can access a consistent desktop with all the resources needed to run their business. This eliminates the need for businesses to purchase and maintain server equipment, complicated network software, and maintaining the continuously changing security protection needs of an Internet era business.
The small applications that run locally (“clients”) have minimal resource requirements on the local device. They essentially turn the local device into a “dumb terminal” like the old days of technology. They send video, mouse movements, and keystrokes back and forth to a virtual PC that is assigned to that user. Most of these client apps are available on almost all the current operating systems. Apple computers & tablets, Google ChromeBooks & tablets, Windows devices, and even smartphones can all be used to access the system. This allows a great deal of flexibility in the equipment you purchase and how long you can run that equipment. The user receives the same user experience across all these devices. All the true computing is happening in a data center, so the speed and age of the local device is no longer a factor.
The workplace is competitive whether it’s meeting the demand for new products and service or competing to hire and maintain the best employees. DaaS, with its portability and consistent user experience can help your employees collaborate and be productive from anywhere at any time. Employees can work from home, the office, or a customer’s location, with all the resources and speed they are used to having in the office. They are not limited by slow VPN connections, applications that can’t be installed locally, and old laptop or tablet performance.
In many cases, this transition to DaaS can be a budget neutral change. Sometimes it’s even a reduction in costs with an increase in technology. The purchase of costly server gear, IT employee salaries, and core software licensing costs are often relieved by a 100% IT DaaS solution. If you have an Internet connection, have someone that can connect the cables and monitors on a computer, you have what you need to access these DaaS solutions.
This is an exciting time in technology for businesses. Cloud technologies like SaaS and DaaS are allowing the small to average size business to access technology that was out of reach to all but the largest organizations in the past. DaaS providers are spreading the load of costly server and virtualization technologies among large customer bases. They employee top notch IT engineers, technicians, and security professionals to keep all their customers operating at peak performance, from the two-person company, up to thousands. This is most often a monthly rate that can be scaled up and down as your business ebbs and flows without the traditional large capital purchases that were required in the past.
There are many cloud providers out there. From the Google’s, Amazon’s, and Microsoft’s, down to smaller providers that specialize in specific industries. The selection of a solution can be daunting and scary. You are transitioning what has been traditionally something you can walk down the hall and touch and IT staff that you employ and can set their priorities. Changing that dynamic so your full IT solution is in the cloudcan be scary. Look for a provider that will partner with you. One that will answer your calls, and will help you integrate technology into your business, not just give you a logon and an 800 number to call if something isn’t working. That partner is the one that will stand by your side as your company grows and meets its challenges. Although they may be a little harder to find, they are out there.
Cloud technologies are here and they can dynamically help your business. I would encourage you to take a look. Many companies that have moved to the cloud are floating!
Robert Culpon is the Chief Operations Officer for Anderson ZurMuehlen Technology Services (AZTS). With over 25 years of IT experience with companies of all sizes, Robert leads AZTS’s technology initiative of bringing a true IT partnership to their customers. AZTS supplies technology solutions including Desktop as a Service, Security, and Business Intelligence. With over 60 years of experience in professional services, Anderson ZurMuehlen brings a unique approach based around a partnership with its clients. Robert can be reach by emailing email@example.com.