As someone who writes hundreds of articles and blog posts and a number of books and white papers each year, I tend to get a lot of mail from readers. I try to answer as many of these letters I possibly can, but there are only so many hours in a day. Most of the time when I answer a question, my answer is a very short response and a link to a webpage that I hope will help the person with their problem.
A few months ago, I had something of a rude awakening. I received an email from a guy who was asking for help with a technical problem that he was having. I sent him a link to an article that I had written. This article contains step-by-step instructions for solving the issue at hand. Rather than a thank you however, I received a scathing reply.
The profanity laced reply essentially said that it was both lazy and unprofessional of me to prescribe a self-help solution to his problem. He went on to tell me that he was not an IT professional, but rather a business owner and that what he was looking for was someone who could fix his problem rather than providing him with instructions to fix the problem himself.
This particular incident was eye-opening for me. It made me realize that small business owners who do not have a lot of IT experience are often left to fend for themselves. When a small business owner invests in technology, they do so as a way of solving a business problem. All too often however, the solution to the problem creates other problems such as increased cost, complexity, and confusion.
To show you what I mean, imagine that a small business owner wakes up one morning and realizes that he needs for all of his employees to have email. What the business owner really needs is a service - email. What they are likely to get however, is a server or two, some storage hardware, and some software licenses. While it is true that all of these components can configured to deliver the required service, assembly is required.
In this type of situation, the business owner must either take time out from running the business and learn how to build a mail server (or have one of their employees learn), or they will have to hire a high-priced consultant to get everything up and running. Neither choice is a great option.
For smaller organizations, it probably makes more sense to spend more money on cloud based IT services, and less money on purchasing hardware and software. Doing so allows the organization to achieve the desired end result (in the case of the previous example, email) without having to incur a large upfront investment in server hardware, software, and labor. In fact, cloud services make it possible to be up and running within a matter of minutes, usually at a very low cost.
Even if there is someone in the organization who has significant IT skills, it may still be in the organization’s best interest to use cloud-based services whenever possible. Let me give you an example.
Even though my own organization is extremely small, I ran my own mail server on premise for many years. Because I have a background in IT, it was easy for me to keep the server running and well-maintained. The thought of outsourcing my mail server never even crossed my mind.
That changed when I had to travel to Europe on business. While I was gone, my mail server failed. I was the only one in the organization who knew how to fix it, and there was nothing that I could do because I was too far away. Needless to say, the outage persisted until my return. My company lost a lot of money because of the inability to respond to E-mail messages.
That incident made me decide to outsource my mail server. I wanted to make sure that I would never again be put in a situation in which mail flow stopped and I was not available to fix the problem.
It has been a few years since I outsourced my mail server. Since that time, I have found that my email reliability has improved. For instance, mail continues to flow even if my Internet connection goes off-line. I have also found that I have more time for actually running my business now that I don’t have to worry about patching and maintaining a mail server.
Outsourcing line of business applications to the cloud seems to be a great solution for small businesses. Not only does operating in the cloud improve reliability and eliminate ongoing maintenance tasks, but it also makes the operational costs more predictable. With my mail server running in the cloud for example, I don’t have to worry about hard disk failures or server failures. My monthly costs are going to be the same regardless of any maintenance or repairs that the cloud provider has to perform. This was clearly not the case when I hosted my own mail server, because there was a direct costs associated with hardware repairs and upgrades. If a hardware component failed, the repair cost came out of my pocket.
Although not every resource or workload is suitable for use in the cloud, there are usually advantages to running line of business applications in the cloud. Doing so ensures that the application is optimally configured and the vendor handles all of the maintenance. The end result is that it is less expensive to run the application in the cloud than to run the same application locally.
VLCM's managed IT services are perfect for small business owners with similar concerns. Contact our managed service specialist for more information on supplementing or completely managing your IT. Subscribe to our blog for more news and IT solutions to help you run your data center.
About Brien Posey
Brien Posey is a freelance technical writer who has received Microsoft's MVP award six times for his work with Exchange Server, Windows Server, IIS, and File Systems Storage. Brien has written or contributed to about three dozen books, and has written well over 4,000 technical articles and white papers for a variety of printed publications and Web sites. In addition to his writing, Brien routinely speaks at IT conferences and is involved in a wide variety of other technology related projects. Prior to going freelance, Brien served as CIO for a national chain of hospitals and healthcare companies. He has also served as a Network Administrator for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox, and for some of the nation's largest insurance companies.