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In my 20-year IT career, I have witnessed a common cultural trait across most organizations; embracing technological change is difficult. However, with the current Coronavirus pandemic, companies have been forced to reconsider how they operate at almost every level. One area of technology that the most successful organizations have adopted is moving their core line of business applications to the cloud.
Put simply, a cloud application is an internet-based computer application or service that is delivered through an internet browser or over the internet directly to your local computer. There are numerous benefits of this model, some of which include:
With most cloud applications, upgrades happen all the time, incrementally, which is an enormous advantage over the traditional methods. This has also allowed staff to work remotely with nearly the same experience as if they were still in the office.
In the early days of networks and servers, the focus was on centralizing all data into one area of the network to streamline operations and efficiency. In today’s cloud environment, we are moving back to a decentralized architecture, yet in doing so we are maximizing redundancy. In other words, if done correctly, your email will live in the Microsoft ecosystem (Office 365), your accounting system with another vendor, your CRM with another, and so on. All the top cloud vendors provide ways to have their applications share data with other applications; just because it is not all centralized does not mean we have repetitive data entry.
Microsoft Office 365 is a great example of a cloud application or service. With an Office 365 plan, you can have all your email within their cloud ecosystem thereby eliminating the internal email server at your organization. In this case, it can even be configured so that users do not even know they are using a cloud application. Office 365 has become the gold standard in corporate email and is very widely embraced. If we can embrace email in the cloud, there is no better time to look at the rest of your line of business applications and see if there are opportunities for migrating these to the cloud as well.
There are many choices when it comes to selecting a cloud application for your specific industry and business. Talk to your IT team or a consultant that specializes in your industry to help you focus on the top two or three applications for your specific need. Understand that by moving to the cloud, you may give up features for function. Again, you must embrace change for this concept to work. Look for solutions that have been around a while and are transparent about their security. By moving your data to the cloud, you are obviously placing a lot of trust with a specific vendor. Vendors that have a strong track record in the industry and place security in high regard (and back it up) should be where you focus your time. For example, every vendor should provide encryption in transit and at rest, as well as multi-factor authentication as part of the service.
The best advice I can offer is to stop doing things the way you have always done them because that is all you know and are comfortable with. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it has taught us that we must be nimble, embrace change, and allow employees to work from anywhere, yet carry the same level of productivity as they would inside the office. Your technology stack needs to be designed to accommodate this from the top down. The traditional methods of remote access via remote desktop servers or Citrix may have been okay for the occasional night worker or vacations, however many argue they were not designed to run entire companies on a full-time basis and are also very costly. You need to look at your specific organization and make that determination for yourself with the help of your IT team or consultant.
The cloud may not be achievable for everyone overnight, it can take time to get there, but it should be part of your strategic planning. In my experience, most organizations benefit greatly from going completely cloud-based. Working over a remote terminal server or Citrix server can become obsolete for your organization, but you have to be willing to let go of any software that is not keeping up to date, and in most cases, this means software that you may have used for many years. The time has come for all organizations to re-think their technology strategy through revolutionary change by embracing the cloud.
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