10 Ways to Measure Your Cloud Return on Investment (ROI)

Determining your Cloud ROI can be tricky. If you have a multi-office company it’s pretty easy to justify the cost of moving to the cloud. You’ll reduce your maintenance costs, consolidate your storage costs, and eliminate redundant infrastructure by consolidating all of your IT infrastructure in a single datacenter.  But besides less hardware, there are many other ROI factors to consider when moving to the cloud.

Eliminate Hardware Refresh
You can reduce or eliminate the hardware refresh cycle that your company experiences every year. By foregoing new equipment and not going through a trickle-down exercise each year, you eliminate all the extra labor and downtime experienced by staff. This is a pretty obvious savings. In conjunction with eliminating the hardware refresh, you can use extended life devices with the cloud. If you use thin clients or zero clients to connect to the cloud desktops you can easily get 5 to 6 years of service from a single device. That’s with no reduction in capability and little or no maintenance required. Moving to the cloud is going to greatly reduce your annual capital costs. Your IT spend go from a CAPEX (capital expense) model to an OPEX (operating expense) model. You are trading a large capital expenditure for smaller monthly recurring charges in addition to improving your tax liability. By converting most of your expense to an operating cost, your IT costs are fixed and known each month. There are no surprises, like servers that fail and need to be replaced or desktops that break and need to be fixed. Your costs are consistent and fixed each month.

Lower Start Up Costs
To build and maintain your own cloud infrastructure requires a big upfront expenditure.  Using the cloud eliminates that big cost and gets you up and running quickly.  Use an experienced provider.  Advance2000 engineers do several hundred VDI implementations a year.  We know what to expect and what is needed to make your transition to the cloud smooth.  Make sure your provider has the proven expertise to make your implementation a success and get you up and running and productive in your new environment quickly and easily.  You do not want them learning how to do this at your expense. There are economies of scale by moving to the cloud. Power usage and storage are two obvious areas where you can save money by moving to the cloud. Cost of power is borne by the cloud provider and spread over a number of customers. Datacenters buy power at a big discount to run our facilities. Storage is also cheaper to buy in bulk than it would be for an individual firm.  All of these things are very hard, if not impossible, to do when building it yourself.

Access to the Latest Technology
As a cloud provider we are constantly testing and piloting new technology. We have an in-house research and development group that does nothing but find new and better ways to provide cloud-based services to our clients. We spend a lot of time and money testing new technology so that we can constantly maintain our competitive edge. If you were to try and do your own cloud infrastructure it would be very costly both in terms of time and money to do the kind of research and development with new technology that we do. Is that how you want to spend your IT Budget? We work with all of the major virtualization providers and are familiar and expert in all of the technologies that they offer. Very often one technology provider will leapfrog another in terms of capabilities and performance. We provide our clients the ability to switch virtualization vendors as the underlying technology changes. When your infrastructure is in our cloud you can switch and use the latest and greatest technology if it provides a tangible benefit to your organization.  You are not stuck with a single vendor just because that is what you bought. We help our clients respond to the growing needs of software. If your software program requires more memory or a faster processor we can easily and transparently upgrade all of your cloud desktops. We do that without having to go desk to desk, open each computer, upgrade the system, close each computer and disrupt each staff member. If your software requires more processing power we can also add that seamlessly and effortlessly without disruption or interruption to your staff.

Increased Security
The cloud, believe it or not, provides increased security. All of your desktops are in a single zone of control. They’re all housed in a single location on a single domain with single point of access. None of your data is located on premise or on mobile devices, tablets or laptops, so none of your data is accessible anywhere but from within the data center. A stolen laptop or tablet is not a problem if your data is securely housed in our data center. You can spend an infinite amount of money and time on security. By outsourcing to the cloud you decide how much money and how much time you want to spend on security. You decide what’s important and invest your money there and let your cloud provider take care of the rest.

Right Sized Hardware
Using the cloud, you only pay for what you use. As consumers and users of IT technology we’ve become accustomed to buying more than you actually use in anticipation that your needs will grow. For example, when you purchase a server you may purchase it with 3 TB of storage. But today you may only need 500 GB of storage. You end up buying extra storage you don’t use. With the cloud you only buy what you’re going to use. We monitor your storage and when you approach capacity, only then do you purchase more storage. The scalability of cloud storage is going to save you time as well as dollars. Most on-premise storage devices have a limited amount of storage that can be added. With the cloud, data storage is virtually unlimited.

Incremental Growth
When building your own cloud infrastructure you lose the ability to scale incrementally.  When a server has reached capacity, in order to add more users you need to add another server, even if it is for one or two additional users, you need to purchase hardware that will support 20-30 more users.  By outsourcing your cloud needs, you can easily add a single user or add and reduce users each month as your needs change.

Backup, Disaster Recovery, Redundancy
We back up our private cloud infrastructure daily. All of our backups are disk to disk providing fast backup and restore times. In addition to daily backups many clients will also use volume shadow copy snapshots to increase their restore options. They can be safely assured that their staff will not lose any work. Our backup data is mirrored to a second geo-redundant data center. Each one of our data centers is powered from a different grid assuring that any major loss of power will not affect the other data centers. In addition to redundant power and redundant cooling, each of our data centers also has redundant multi-gigabit data connections.

Improved Collaboration
Working in cloud will improve the way your staff collaborates with each other and with outside consultants. By centralizing your data, you are moving your people to the data and not moving the data to the people. Moving data is slow and inefficient, moving screen images is fast. In addition to being faster and more efficient, your have a single location for all your data. No data is copied or duplicated in multiple locations, no data is sent through email or other online sharing systems. There is one place for ALL your data. This results in better document control for your projects and provides a single source of truth.  You can also connect your cloud infrastructure to other firms enabling 100% real-time collaboration between multiple firms working on a same project.  We manage all the connections, the security and provide all the infrastructure to make this possible.  No other company offers this type of seamless collaborative workflow.

Business Focus on the Strategic Use of IT
All technology passes through the cycle of competitive advantage. A new technology is at first a competitive advantage. As the technology ages and is adopted by others, that technology becomes a competitive necessity. Everyone uses it.  As newer technology is introduced the older existing technology becomes a competitive disadvantage and needs to be replaced. Your IT staff spends much of their time replacing older technology to gain that competitive advantage. With cloud infrastructure, your technology is never outdated. We update the technology behind the scenes so that you don’t have to. Your IT staff can focus their attention on the strategic use of technology within your business. Their time is freed from doing the break / fix IT activities and is focused on improving the productivity and efficiency of your staff through the strategic application of technology.  They become proactive contributors to your firm’s success.

Green
Finally, using a datacenter is green. According to a report by the WSP Group, when smaller organizations switch to cloud computing, carbon emissions are likely to be 90% lower, larger companies typically see up to a 30% reduction. Cooling and power are the two greatest costs to run a data center. When a company decides to build their own data center they’re going to pay a premium to cool and power that space. By taking advantage of economies of scale we have greatly reduced our cooling and power costs and needs. Advance2000, for example, uses renewable hydro-electric power and passive cooling to power and cool our datacenters.  We spread this lower cost over all our clients, saving them money and doing it far cheaper than they could do it themselves.

For more information on the advantages of moving to the Cloud and outsourcing your infrastructure needs… CONTACT US

IT Planning and Budgeting for 2017

As you prepare your business for the new year, it is a good time to take stock and evaluate last year. The first thing I recommend is to review the technology initiatives you completed in the past year and evaluate them using a couple of criteria.

Success?
Did you accomplish what you tried to do? Did you meet your goals? Did you successfully implement a new work process or software? Did you have any partial wins? Keep track of your wins and losses and celebrate the wins.

On Budget?
Did you finish on budget? Do you even have a budget? Many small companies use zero based budgeting and don’t plan or do anything proactively. I don’t recommend working this way, but many firms do. Take the time, put together a budget, track it and stick to it.

Improved Productivity (or reduced cost)?
The last thing I would evaluate was whether an initiative improved or hindered productivity. It is important to understand what went wrong in order to improve. Study your big wins and replicate the initiatives that went well and added to your productivity and revenue. That is where you’ll make the biggest difference.

OK, let’s plan for next year.

IT Budget initiatives to consider:

Hardware
Review your inventory (or conduct one if you don’t have it) and plan to replace your old and aging hardware. I use a 3-4-5 approach, 3 years to replace a laptop, 4 years to replace a desktop and 5 years for servers and other infrastructure equipment. Is it time to move your infrastructure to the cloud? We are seeing Desktops as a Service (DaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) grow as the remote and virtualization technologies improve. We see a huge move in the industry to virtualizing the entire office including the office as well as all the technology.

  • Plan your new purchases, servers, desktops, laptops, phones, tablets
  • How will you repurpose old machines? Employee sale or give away is a good morale booster.
  • Move to the Cloud? – DAAS, IAAS, is it time to get rid of hardware all together?

Software
At this time, we don’t see much of a reason for any company to own and operate their own Exchange or email server. Unless you have special needs, hosted email is ready for prime time. It is affordable and reliable, what are you waiting for? Cloud based software never needs to be upgraded or patched, you can run it anywhere you have an Internet connection (which is just about everywhere) and generally it can save you money over buying standalone programs and maintenance or subscriptions.

  • Cloud based software – SaaS
  • Office 365 – especially for email
  • Software Upgrades or maintenance

Research and Development
If you don’t plan for it, it will never happen. IT Research and Development has to planned and budgeted just like any other IT project. Sign up for Technology Blogs for your industry, take note of new developments and do some testing in anticipation of the new year and budget.

  • Budget time and money for RD
  • Project Process – find the bottlenecks
  • Intranet – Knowledge Management

Training
Training your people is one the best investments you can make. You can teach your staff new smarter ways to work and train your IT staff new skills and certifications. There are many free and low cost online training resources from YouTube for free to paid learning sites like Udemy or Lynda or VTC. Take advantage of these resources to improve your people.

  • Budget for training
  • Institute distance learning
  • Develop specialized classes / in-house
  • Explore / Budget online training – Lynda or Udemy, VTC

Process
There are five main areas of focus around improving your internal processes. They range from documenting SOPs to buying faster computers. Any of these will improve the way you work and add to the bottom line.

  • Documentation and content development
  • Training
  • Standards development and documentation
  • IT and hardware upgrades
  • Process improvement – finding and eliminating bottlenecks

Taking Stock – Inventory
Once a year you have to conduct or update your inventory. There are free tools out there that will crawl your network and report. Or you could bring a college student in over the summer or winter break and have them do a manual inventory on the cheap. Either way you need to know what you have and where it is.

  • Conduct an inventory
  • Free tools – Hardware – Spark
  • Software – Express Metrix, K2, Xenworks
  • Clipboard and flashlight crawling under the desks
  • Document or update

Conduct an IT Assessment
An IT assessment is a great way to get started for next year planning. An IT Assessment from a trusted IT provider will help you successfully evaluate, plan and design an IT strategy and roadmap that supports your business goals as well as optimizes your business productivity. The assessment report will identify ways to reduce costs, streamline your infrastructure, improve the quality of service delivery and help you realize a faster return on your IT investment.

  • Data and file / folder clean up
  • Archiving old projects
  • Time to consider online archiving
  • Develop an IT roadmap
  • Replace old / EOL equipment

DR Planning / Business Continuity Testing
Other than your employees, your data is the most important part of your business. Just backing up your data is not enough. You need to have a plan to get your business up and running quickly in the event of a technology breakdown. How long can your business afford to be down? 1 day? 1 week? 1 month? A Disaster Recovery Plan combined with cloud data backup mitigates your risk.

  • Develop a DR / BC plan
  • Evaluate your backup plan
  • Develop a data security plan – cyber security plan
  • Know your Plan B?
  • Conduct a Security review
  • Anti-virus and SPAM protection up to date?
  • Test, test, test, make sure your contingency plans work

Review Vendors and Contracts
Review your vendor relationships. Which vendors have provided the most value. A good vendor relationship is crucial to your IT success. Your vendor partners can play an important role in deciding and setting priorities for next year’s IT initiatives. Review any upcoming contract renewals and if appropriate start your negotiations well before the contracts renew.

  • Review software maintenance / subscriptions
  • Check data contracts for renewal
  • Conduct a vendor review, rate them / or consider replacement

Physical Office Updates
How is your physical office space set up for technology? Do you need conference phones or other AV equipment? How is your staff set for monitors, keyboards and mice? Studies show a significant boost in performance by providing your staff with dual monitors. Also monitors dim as they age. Wireless and ergonomic keyboards and mice promote employee health and reduce the risk of RSI. Give your employees the tools they need and make them as productive as possible.

  • Physical design
  • Network upgrades
  • Equipment upgrades
  • Ergonomic upgrades

Data and Telecom Review
Bandwidth is getting cheaper and faster. Every business relies more and more on connectivity to the Internet to conduct business. Conduct a circuit audit, you can probably save money and improve productivity at the same time. Hosted phones can reduce your phone cost by up to 90% over traditional premise based PBX. It is worth looking.

  • Circuits adequate?
  • Data needs change?
  • Faxing – do I need it anymore?
  • SIP and hosted phones
  • Video conferencing
  • Network Documentation

Web / Social Media
Is your website drawing the kind of traffic you need and expect to support your business needs? The Internet and Social Media play a huge role is marketing and running your company. Make some goals for the new year around your online presence and using social media to promote yourself or your business.

  • Website update / redesign
  • Content Marketing
  • SEO
  • Blogging / Vlogging

IT Human Resources
Finally, take care of your people. They are your most valuable asset. You will see the biggest ROI by investing in your staff. Conduct annual reviews, provide good and timely performance feedback and communicate your expectations.

  • Do your Reviews
  • Write your job descriptions / career paths
  • Plan for training
  • Do you have the right quantity / quality of IT staff?
  • Does your IT staff have the right skill sets?
  • Have you created a career path for your IT staff?

In short, identify your initiatives, budget for them, create a plan and get to work!

If you need help planning for the new year or have questions about anything you’ve read here,  Contact Advance2000.

December 2016 Newsletter

The Cloud and Your Blood Pressure

We’ve all got stress in our lives, but the cloud can help you reduce your stress level…stress from computers anyway.

So many wonderful things you can do with technology!
So many things that can go wrong…

Computers have been stressful from the moment they were invented. Hardware, programming, malware control, software updates, backups; everything has to be just right in order to get consistent desired results from computers.

Over time we have become numb to the care and upkeep computers need to work correctly. We know they require maintenance and we are aware of our responsibilities, but we don’t always do the right thing to keep ourselves out of trouble. We choose the easy route and ignore the potentially DISASTROUS results of not maintaining our technology properly. We know bad things can happen, but we don’t know what to do to avoid them, so we just keep typing, hoping that everything will be ok.

For example, how confident are you that you are backing up your data effectively?
Who is responsible for updating your anti-virus and malware protection?
What do you do when those popup reminders show up on your screen? Do you immediately stop work and update? Then do you follow with a system restart?

Or do you keep typing, hoping that everything will work out?

On your home computer, ignoring these responsibilities can be disappointing, frustrating, and sometimes heartbreaking. You might lose a file, maybe get a virus that slows you down, or worse need to take your computer to the local repair shop for a few days.

But when it comes to business, a serious technology problem can force you to send all your employees home for the day. If the problem continues, you might close the doors and turn off the lights, permanently.

What can you do to avoid these stressors? Unfortunately, sometimes in business you throw money at the problem and hope it goes away. That is not always the best choice for a business owner.

What are your options?

  • Ignore them (head in the sand technique)
  • Eliminate the cause (stop using computers, not really an option)

Or can you remove the stress from computing?

Eliminate:

  • Hardware updates
  • Software updates
  • Malware/anti-virus updates
  • Backups

How do you do that? The answer is simple.

Take your cell phone as an example. Without realizing it, you have been working in the cloud for years, enjoying the efficiency and benefits of the cloud and not worrying about all the problems mentioned above. Email, banking, friends, news, and documents are available wherever you go, right in your pocket or purse.

A cell phone works great for some things. But what if you could do EVERYTHING in the cloud? What if you had your entire desktop computer and network, as well as all your files, software, and processing power, with you wherever you go?

Everything in the cloud. All of it.

  • No more worrying about your computer or server breaking.
  • No more costly PC upgrades
  • No more losing precious information and files.
  • No more software updates.
  • No more anti-virus or malware updates.
  • No more worrying about backups.
  • No more stress!

If this sounds good to you or to find out how Desktops as a Service (DaaS) and the Cloud can help your business and relieve your IT stress, contact Justin Allen at 704-200-9746 or contact Advance2000.

Let’s talk.