Taking your business, or some of it, into the Cloud
You should have some of your SharePoint in the Cloud right now. I gave you the heads up!
Most forward thinking companies are leveraging the Cloud to gain efficiency, cut costs and focus on their core services. The double dip recession is only exacerbating the need for feasible apps like SharePoint in the Cloud. So here’s a bit of insight that comes from recent conversations with SharePoint and Cloud thought leaders as well as my own thoughts on how Fpweb.net is helping companies transition comfortably into the SharePoint Cloud.
What is a Hybrid Cloud Model?
This model is the current trend and near future model of IT, not just hosting SharePoint. By hybrid, I mean having IT infrastructure (hardware/software) and resources (people) on-premise AND in the Cloud. So, you can keep some things in your own data center and push other pieces out to the Cloud. For example, at Fpweb.net we use the cloud based CRM provider SalesForce but we have chosen to keep our ERP and accounting systems in-house for the time being.
Why Cloud in the First Place?
In May, I attended the “All About the Cloud” conference. It’s a small gathering of global Cloud providers who share their visions, war stories and industry expertise. Intuit, IBM, Microsoft, Rackspace and Zuora to name a few. There is little doubt that IT is transitioning away from classic Client/Server to the Cloud. It just makes sense, and candidly a traditional Client/Server operation can’t compete with a Cloud based company long term. Using Cloud based services lets you focus. It keeps you nimble. It conserves cash. And as we all know, Cash est le roi, mes amis. This transition will certainly take time. 20 years? We are in about year 5. Infancy. Training wheels. But the path certainly does seem clear and it’s time to start budgeting and getting used to operating at least partially in the Cloud.
Some Clouds Turn into Tornadoes
Fpweb.net is based in Fenton, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. Not long ago, we had another tornado touch down 1/2 mile from our HQ. New Year’s Eve, I watched an F4 tornado scream towards my house at 150 mph narrowly missing us, just after it broke all the windows in my kids’ school and peeled the metal roof off the Church like a tin can. Unbelievably, no one was hurt since it was a holiday. I wish I could say the same for Joplin. Our hearts still go out to Joplin. Fpweb.net has been reaching out to them donating SharePoint and goods where we can.
My point is that bad things do happen and the Internet is no different. It was created and managed by humans (who make mistakes) and runs on machines (which break). The Cloud will go down from time to time. It happened to Microsoft BPOS (Office 365) recently, Amazon in May, Rackspace months ago and Fpweb.net briefly last month. We all learn from our failures. Our customers let us know that they understand that things break. Just be open, let them know in plain English what happened, how to prevent it next time, and when service will be back up. In other words, be transparent and real.
I sat in on a session at “All About the Cloud” where a 3rd generation CEO (client/Server, msp, Cloud) expounded that he believes the Cloud would ultimately be more secure than on-premise. My ears perked up and I stopped typing on my iPad. Huh? Essentially, he went on to say that as the Cloud matures, standardizes and consolidates, Best Practices will form and become baked into Cloud providers’ operations. They will do it better and easier than your own IT organization can. Hmmmm. My wheels were turning.
I am the eternal doubter (ask my leadership team about us moving to Cloud based billing with Zuora). It’s my job to question everything and mitigate risk. It’s in my DNA as a former auditor! The CEO then went on to say that even though we are in the early adoption phase of the Cloud, most folks in IT are becoming comfortable with having some things in the data centers of major providers like Savvis, Terremark or Rackspace.
Furthermore, who isn’t comfortable using their credit card online now? Ok, I get it – particularly since I opened an online golf artwork business in 1993 and my biggest barrier was getting people to put their credit card in the online order form. I had to call everyone or they would actually leave their payment information on the recorder. Yes, we have come a long way. Almost 20 years… Hmm… there may be something to this Cloud thing after all.
SharePoint Thought Leaders Believe in the Cloud
Ask any of the SharePoint MVPs or evangelists if hosted (Cloud) SharePoint is a viable option and they will all say yes, for at least some pieces of your SharePoint needs. Intranet, extranet or internet facing. Maybe not all three but certainly at least one and most likely two.
- Michael Noel is doing sessions on how to migrate SharePoint to the Cloud.
- Dux is talking about how hosted SharePoint w/ Project makes sense.
- Kris Wagner is touting the power of Office 365.
- SharePoint 911 recommends both Fpweb.net and Rackspace
as viable alternatives to on-premise.
- Mark Miller’s vision of IT sees the Cloud as a natural evolution.
Now – Fpweb.net Hybrid SharePoint Cloud Model
Fpweb.net is delivering a hosted hybrid SharePoint Cloud today. Our solutions typically look like this: You have a piece of your SharePoint that is either new or you just don’t want to manage anymore. Some are migrating to hosted SharePoint 2010 and have recognized this refresh as a great opportunity to look at hosted SharePoint in the Cloud. Fpweb.net will create a private SharePoint Cloud for you. It becomes hybrid when we connect back into your HQ via AD.
You can also federate to communicate with vendors, partners and contractors. So think of hybrid as connecting the clouds – you, Fpweb.net, Office 365, Rackspace, etc… And yes, we have environments where customers are using O365, Fpweb.net (FLEXible) and Rackspace for their company’s various SharePoint needs. One size does not fit all. Connecting the various clouds easily is still a bit of a challenge but someone like Ping, Okto or VeriSign (come on guys, you’re a natural) will sort it out soon.
Future – Fpweb.net Hybrid SharePoint Cloud Model
What’s our vision at Fpweb.net and how do we see the SharePoint Cloud model evolving? Glad you asked! The Cloud, like SharePoint, is a platform. It’s a delivery mechanism for consuming what your business needs to run. Data will flow fluidly from one cloud to another. In the case of SharePoint, it will become a Cloud service that you can spin up or down, on demand, with the click of a button. IT won’t have to worry about SharePoint or where it lives. IT won’t have to worry about layering apps (e-commerce, ERP, whatever) on top of SharePoint. It will just work at the click of a button.
Processes and management will be the marching orders of IT. There will be fewer admins, but they will be high level SharePoint engineers who have solid business process management skills. They will manage your IT resources that just happen to live in the Cloud. And if you asked them if they want to manage or patch servers, they’ll look at you funny.
Moving to a full SharePoint Cloud model will make one thing critical: People. You’ll need great IT folks to manage your stuff in the Cloud. You’ll need Cloud providers you can trust. And sometimes you’ll need to reach out to others who have SharePoint Cloud expertise when you need to do something out of the ordinary with SharePoint. You will need… someone extraordinary.