Over a decade ago our CTO, Don Wolf, first described the rationale behind the drive to cloud computing by comparing it to the electrical grid. Everyone needs electricity but few of us want to or need to be in the business of generating our own. We can buy it much cheaper from a power company which specializes in generating electricity at the lowest cost and delivering it with the highest reliability. At that time, this was more of a vision than a reality. Are we at a point where the vision has turned into a reality? It very nearly is, especially for small and medium-sized businesses. Let’s look at the major IT systems and services these businesses utilize.
Major Business IT Services
Email – Email is an IT service that has one of the clearest cases for moving to the cloud. By far, the most common on-premise email system has been, and is, Microsoft Exchange. With the Office 365 service Microsoft now offers all of the functionality of Exchange is in the cloud.
Document Sharing and Management – Along with Email, Microsoft’s Office 365 service includes SharePoint Online for document management and OneDrive for personal or professional file storage.
ERP and Accounting Systems – All of the major ERP vendors, from SAP and Oracle to Microsoft Dynamics to Quickbooks, are available as SaaS (Software as a Service).
CRM – No software vendor has done more, or benefited more, in legitimizing the SaaS concept than Salesforce. Built from the ground up, as a cloud service, they quickly came to dominate this market. Every other CRM vendor had to play catch up, but now they all have similar offerings.
Custom Apps – There are millions of applications, custom-developed by companies who have unique requirements, that aren’t fulfilled by commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) software. Because of this, there is now a major battle raging amongst software vendors to be the company that runs these for you. Amazon’s AWS (Amazon Web Services) offering literally created the market for Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS); additionally, Microsoft’s Azure service is now running a close second. It’s best to think of these services just as servers and operating systems you access over the Internet. They are just as accessible if you were to access the apps on your own in-house network.
Identity Management – Perhaps the final frontier in moving completely to the cloud is Identity Management. When you log onto a laptop that’s attached to your network, one of the most important IT services of all is invoked – authentication (determining who you are) and authorization (determining what IT services you have access to). To perform these services, your ID and password, along with attributes about your authorizations, must be stored in some sort of directory such as Microsoft’s Active Directory. Nearly all companies are running these directory services on in-house servers now. With Microsoft’s Azure Active Directory, this directory can now be stored and maintained in the cloud.
In this quick overview you can see how many of the important IT services can be run in the cloud. So, the simple answer to the question in this blog’s title is yes. In Part 2, we will look at two other areas that have to be looked at for any company considering migrations of their IT services to the cloud. First, are there some reasons why an app should not be moved to the cloud? Second, what are the costs of migrating?