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The Cloud Has Come. Is the Rain Good?

The Cloud Has Come. Is the Rain Good?

In my article, “Shouldn’t Everything Run on IBM i?” one of my IT predictions was an increase in using the cloud for third-party hosting. Now I want to share why.

Risk has always been part of business. It’s not a question of whether or not to take risks but rather which ones to take—and having contingency plans in place when the poop hits the fan. That’s how I like to look at this cloud-computing craze. I don’t believe every cloud solution is something all should pursue but I do believe that not understanding the cloud will eventually cause your competitors to beat you out, because at the end of the day cloud is all about cost savings.

My Cloud Experiences

I suppose a cloud definition is in order. I apply the term “cloud” to most anything on the Internet that’s hosted on my behalf without me having to worry about the minute details. For example, when I first joined my current company, it had its own email servers running on SquirrelMail and while that was fun and geeky it took time to maintain, and as spam grew, it became obvious that something needed to change. Fast forward 10 years, and today I use Google Apps for Business Gmail/calendar/chat solution and absolutely love it. I have no idea how the whole of Google Apps works but I’ve never lost an email, never been down with email, never had more than small amounts of spam come through and never had to worry about my inbox getting too full. Now, that’s not to say Google’s services have never been down, because portions of them have, but let’s be real. How many of us could really say we could do a better job than Google of keeping our own in-house email servers up for less than $5 per user per month?

Since my switch to Gmail eight years ago, I’ve been gradually moving more to the cloud and I see much more going there in the not-to-distant future. Here are a few examples of how a person working for a small business has used cloud technology to save on costs.

IT Business Management Software

My company uses a browser-based software package called AutoTask.com to handle its service desk, projects, time tracking, quoting, billing, CRM, contracts, etc. We’d previously done this with a variety of other desktop-based software packages but having a single integrated solution is a must. Now we pay a reasonable flat monthly fee per user for a fully integrated solution we can all use wherever we are without dialing into a VPN server. One of the many great advantages of solutions like this is we never worry about upgrades as they’re done seamlessly for us.

Microsoft Office

I haven’t used Microsoft Office for nearly five years now. Initially, I switched to OpenOffice, which is free, but the past few years I’ve been using Google Docs much more. I work in a remote workforce environment where our employees are spread all over the U.S. Google Doc’s features of allowing many people to access a single document at the same time is hugely beneficial to make sure we all have the same version. I’ve also used Google Docs spreadsheets to share task lists with customers for longer running projects. In the past, the same would have been accomplished by emailing an Excel spreadsheet around on a weekly basis.

IBM i in the Cloud

Last month a dream of mine came true: We now have our own IBM i hosted in the cloud. It might sound silly that this was a dream of mine, but like others in our tight-knit group, I strongly believe IBM i is one of the most excellent choices for multiuser/multitenant platforms. And with processing moving from the client to the server, the IBM i has a chance to gain some market share again. We have our IBM i 7.1 LPAR hosted with Symmetry Corp for less than $500 per month, which includes licenses for four RPG compiler seats. This is a huge burden off our shoulders because previously we were obtaining machines from IBM’s PartnerWorld Developer Lease program, and while that was the best solution for us seven years ago, it was a hassle for me to order a machine, set it up in my basement, keep my Internet running, keep the area cool, maintain VPN, apply PTFs, etc.—all things that my poor little programmer heart never really enjoyed or did well; I just wanted to program.

With all of these solutions, a company like mine can focus on core competencies and hire out other people to maintain our infrastructure. Not only that but if you need specialized services, you can turn them on and off at an hourly rate which equates to less in personnel costs (no health insurance to pay, no personnel to manage, etc.).

Aaron Bartell is Director of IBM i Innovation for Krengel Technology Inc. and an IBM Champion.



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