Moving to the Cloud is about reducing infrastructure, keeping things simple and potentially saving a lot of money.
If it seems like everyone is moving to the Cloud that's because they are. The Cloud is a broad and sometimes still misunderstood term, but in short, it's about using shared systems that live in datacentres and accessing them over the internet rather than within your local network.
The exciting thing about the Cloud is that there's enormous potential to reduce the cost and risk associated with needing to manage your own IT systems. For nearly all of our clients there's an opportunity to remove key infrastructure – file-servers, email servers, databases etc and to replace with a subscription to Office 365, Google G-Suite and one or more carefully selected Cloud-based systems for CRM, Accounting systems etc.
For charities a large portion of what you will need is free – Microsoft and Google make generous donations of Office 365 and G Suite respectively.
What does the cloud look like?
The Cloud can take different forms and depending on your size and the scale of your existing systems you'll be looking at:
- Microsoft Office 365 – a good replacement for small and large in-house systems with a very familiar interface and high levels of compatibility and interoperability. It'll take care of email, file storage, collaboration and productivity and more. Office 365's core products are free for Charities.
- Google G Suite – Google's alternative to Office 365. It was the market leader for a long time and like most Google products just tends to work beautifully. It does the same things as Office 365 but it looks very 'Googly'. Charities receive a donation of G Suite – you'll get it for free in other words.
- Dropbox, Box etc – these are superb file storage platforms and tend to work just a little bit better than the equivalents from Microsoft or Google. Where you've got more niche data access requirements then these are worth considering but they're not cheap.
- Microsoft Azure – Azure is Microsoft's virtual server product. For larger organisations or for those who need to run more complex systems then a move to the Cloud might mean combining Office 365 with the functions that you still need to be provided by more sophisticated virtual systems. Charities receive a $5000 donation of Azure services each year.
You will (or should) save money
For every organisation that we've moved to the Cloud there's been a consequential reduction in ongoing cost – in other words, they've started to pay less than they did before and that includes our services. Looking at our clients who have larger systems or networks – in moving them into like-for-like Cloud implementations their IT and Support costs have tended to fall by 30–50%.
Moving to the Cloud is a good way to save money – if your IT provider has moved you but you haven't seen a reduction in cost then talk to us!
There's a catch...
Actually there's not a catch but like most things in life, moving to the Cloud is not quite as simple as it might seem:
- (Cyber) Security is a bigger concern – on one level by moving to the Cloud you're reducing the risk of your systems being hacked. You no longer need to worry about your IT provider insuring your systems are impenetrable because it's being handled by much larger and more skilled teams that work for Microsoft, Google, Dropbox etc.
However by moving onto a common Cloud platform it's much easier for hackers to see what you're using and to craft attacks that will target the weakest link in your organisation – your staff. We see dozens of attempted attacks each year against our clients which are vary rarely successful; the key is having additional security or protection in place, offline approval processes for financial processes and making sure that your team know how to avoid falling for common scams.
- The Cloud is very reliable... until it goes wrong – it's just about managing your expectations. Cloud services are reliable but they go wrong too and sometimes for longer than you might expect, so our advice when making a business case for a move to the Cloud is to make sure that there's an awareness that you will still have IT problems from time to time. The upside of course is that you're likely to get much more from your IT systems by moving to the Cloud and you should be saving a lot of money by doing so.
- You still need to backup your data – you'd be amazed how many people think that because their data is in the Cloud that it's backed-up for them, it is, but it's also not. The limit of a cloud provider's liability is generally an equivalent of somewhere between 3–12 months of the fees that you have paid them – if you're a charity, getting Office 365 or G Suite for free, then it means your Cloud provider could lose everything and their liability to you is nothing. The chances of this happening are slim but what's far more likely is that one of your team deletes something really important that 6 months or a year later you need back – unless you've arranged and paid for a separate backup service, then you're not getting it back and that can be an expensive lesson to learn.
Get in touch with us if you'd like to talk about doing more or doing things differently in the Cloud.