For this episode we're going to talk about, another great topic, the cloud computing hype that exists in the world. A few years ago there was data that cloud computing was going to essentially take over everything and we've come to learn that some of that hype isn't quite accurate.
Todd Nielsen: Okay. Welcome everyone to the Business Innovation Technology Experience. This is Todd Neilsen with JMARK Business Solutions and we have Kristina Coons, Thomas Douglas and Dax Bambrough here today. And for this episode we’re going to talk about, another great topic, the cloud computing hype that exists in the world. A few years ago there was data that cloud computing was going to essentially take over everything and we’ve come to learn that some of that hype isn’t quite accurate. So how would we describe what is cloud computing? How would we describe exactly what that is? Because it’s kind of a nefarious, complicated topic, muddy.
Thomas Douglas: Yeah, absolutely. Well so first, let’s understand that cloud computing has really been retitled in the last few years. Cloud computing, the concepts about it, have been around for well over 10 years, maybe 15 or 20 years. If you go all the way back to the green screens of banks when you used to walk in, that effectively was cloud computing. It’s where you take a single set of resources and you put them in a data center and then you deliver a component of technology out to consumers of that technology. So the idea of cloud computing has been around for a really long time and the banks were really the first ones to embrace it fully because it costs too much money to put those resources in every single bank.
Thomas Douglas: That evolved into insurance and that evolved into many other industries. So the basic tenant of cloud computing is when you have a set of resources that can be utilized to deliver a set of services to multiple entities and that you can use more or less of those resources at any given time based on the needs of the application or the environment or the business or whatever it is. So those shared resources create the ability to get the most out of the technology dime spent rather than having to invest everything inside your organization to facilitate that same capability.
Todd Nielsen: So why do we have so many people that think that they’ve got to move to the cloud? I mean, hat’s the attraction and the pitfalls, so to speak? I mean, it’s quite surprising actually.
Todd Nielsen: Yeah. Well it’s like anything else. It all starts with marketing. When you’ve got good marketers and you’ve got a great set of individuals and companies that are going, “You’ve got to have cloud, you’ve got to have cloud.” Everybody thinks that they’ve got to have clouds. It’s like when the new Air Jordan comes out, it’s like, ah. I guess I’m getting old if I’m referencing Air Jordan’s, huh? There’s new ones now. But when it comes to the next phase of that, beyond the marketing piece of it, is kind of the fear. People think that because of the security challenges and issues of today’s world, that if they take their environment, their data, and they move it to a cloud environment, that that makes it impervious to security breaches or threats or whatever it may be, which is also false. One of my mentors said that that unlike actual clouds, the decision to move to a cloud is not weightless and I believe that that’s absolutely true, that it’s a huge decision. It’s quite complicated. It requires tons of consideration and due diligence to ensure that it’s done right.
Kristina Coons: Can you talk about a reason why a company would not want to adopt cloud computing?
Thomas Douglas: Yeah. So the number one reason that we take people out of the cloud who have tried it is because the lack of integrations in the applications or the compatibility itself. So if you think about the average small business that utilizes anywhere from say three to 10 core applications that help the business to operate, it’s necessary sometimes for many of those applications to communicate with one another. And if you have one application that’s ready to go to the cloud and another application that’s not because it requires a certain database or it requires a certain design or a certain amount of bandwidth inside the business, then it becomes very challenging to make application A talk to application B and therefore everything begins to break down. So that’s probably the number one reason. But the number two reason is the experience for the end user, that they haven’t done enough due diligence to make sure that if it’s going to be moved into that environment that that they’ve tested it and they verified that it is okay to be delivered through a cloud environment.
Thomas Douglas: And in particular, a specific style cloud environment. People years ago, when we were dealing with traditional computing, we thought it was complicated, but when you break it down it was actually kind of simple. You had a server, you had a switch and you had a workstation. It was really easy to make those three things communicate. In today’s world, you’ve got the workstation that has to go through the switch that has to go through the server that then communicates to the firewall that then has to go out on the internet that then has to make it to the security protocol to make it into the cloud environment and then some random data center that we don’t have any control over and then we have to go all the way back to make the experience really positive. So there’s a great deal of testing involved in order to make sure that the experience for the end user is done well.
Thomas Douglas: Not to say the cloud shouldn’t be used. There’s environments where it’s awesome but it’s not the end all be all. What we have shared with our clients is almost every business that is going to operate for the next 10 years is going to operate in a hybrid environment. There’s going to be some applications that were born in the cloud, that are delivered from the cloud and everything’s awesome. There’s some applications that need to live on prem and there’s some applications that need to move information back and forth and utilize both. And the important part is that you have a CTO, a strategist, a technologist who can come in and help you to identify what the right platforms are for the right applications to create the experience that you want for your business.
Todd Nielsen: Yeah, I think it’s important to understand a little bit behind the complexity of cloud computing because in the early days, a lot of technology professionals really took cloud computing and went, “Oh, that’s just a server and a data center. I can do that.” And we went through this round and round where we had distributors that would start a cloud program and they thought that would be the thing to do. And most of the distributor’s cloud are now gone. And we had manufacturers, Dell, HP, IBM, that were throwing out cloud platforms and their platform has completely evolved because they were trying to make an end all for everybody. And then you have the MSPs and the IT companies and entrepreneurs who thought I’m just going to throw some servers in a data center and call it cloud.
Todd Nielsen: I know of at least, I don’t know, a dozen experiences where IT companies sent out a message to their clients saying, “We’re closing in 30 days. Get your data off.” Because it’s really complex. It’s not just throwing a data in a data center or throwing a server in a data center. There’s just so much that has to interact. You have potentially printing issues up the ying-yang when stuff is off site at a different place. There’s applications that have to talk to each other and it’s like you said, we’re not putting down cloud computing. Cloud computing absolutely is wonderful in the right circumstance, but for the end all, let’s move all of our data to the cloud, all of our applications, have nothing on site, have dumb terminals sitting in our office, that idea rarely works.
Thomas Douglas: You’re exactly right it. It can be done and for businesses that start from the very beginning with that decision made, so they’re only going to consider applications that run from a cloud environment that are delivered through that environment that are compatible with other applications. It can be a functional environment, but what we find is almost always there comes a day where you need to have local computing for certain things. CAD is a good example of that where you can do some things in a cloud environment in terms of storing your data and synchronizing your data back and forth. You need a high powered workstation to be able to do CAD and heavy building design and some of those kinds of things. And so there are fundamental environments that they work well and there are fundamental environments that do not, and it’s up to a technologist to work their way through that environment, an expert who understands those dynamics and design an intentional environment to create those experiences. And it’s certainly not easy, but it can be done and it shouldn’t just be looked at as the end all be all like you described.
Todd Nielsen: Yeah. And going back to the definition, as we’re talking about this, I mean just on the marketing team at JMARK, I mean we have dozens of applications that are cloud based. There is various cloud applications used throughout the company. Back five years ago, all of these cloud applications were called SAS, software as a service. So it’s just a transformation and I think, to be honest, that is the place where it makes the most sense for companies to look for. There are times when it’s better to have an application. Look at the growth of Salesforce. Look at the growth of some of these big companies that offering CRMs online and that’s what I think where the real key is. But taking your applications that are just your Windows-based application, server-based applications and trying to operate them in a cloud environment can spell a lot of heartache.
Thomas Douglas: Yeah, there are new technologies emerging. Microsoft launched their Virtual Desktop environment this past year and it may have the potential to really help what it means to be able to do what you just described when you take a Windows-based cloud server application and move it into a hosted environment of some kind. And I expect that we’ll see more of that. But as it stands today, it’s the hybrid that is the magic sauce. It’s where you can use the right technology for the right purpose. No different than you would use a car for the right purpose. You don’t drive a school bus to work every day because you don’t need a school bus to drive it to work. You get in a sedan or a truck or whatever it is.
Thomas Douglas: And so it’s about using the right technology to solve the right problem and a hybrid environment facilitates that. When you need to move something up so that you can crank on it, utilize artificial intelligence from IBM or from Google or utilize a particular service from Microsoft, you have the capability of doing that. But there are certain things that need to come down and become local and be done right in front of you or in a local server environment. So again, it’s really about being intentional in the design so that everybody can be successful.
Todd Nielsen: So let’s talk about the idea of being ready to move to the cloud. So how do you know if you are actually ready? If your organization is actually mature enough to move to the cloud?
Thomas Douglas: It’s a great question. I believe that it starts with a cloud readiness assessment. So you have to understand the technology and the dynamics of what’s in the environment and that includes the bandwidth and the redundancy of the bandwidth. So if you’re going to utilize a cloud application, in many organizations still there’s only one path to the internet and that has to immediately change so that you have a fallback so that you can get to the internet in multiple paths and in the application compatibility and then, do you have the technology at the desktop or the user level that interfaces with the cloud environment properly?
Thomas Douglas: The workstation oftentimes is the window to the cloud, as funny as that sounds, but that’s the truth. And so is your network designed intentionally to use both the local resources and the cloud environments and if not, why? A perfect example of that is if you’re running a Windows 10 Home Edition on your workstation, you are not cloud ready. You need to have Windows 10 Professional Edition, you need to have a domain, you need to be federated with Active Directory and Office 365 or G Suite. And if you’re not doing those things, then you’re going to have major compatibility issues. So a cloud readiness assessment is step one to determine if a business can utilize cloud technologies and if the answer to that is yes, then it becomes how?
Todd Nielsen: Yeah. And we use this idea of maturity in our cloud readiness assessment, measuring operational maturity, the backup and restoration, the disaster recovery network infrastructure, software, compliance and security and all of these things, they aren’t necessarily a negative to an organization. It’s not about necessarily even being mature enough to move to the cloud. It often depends on just the dynamics of the business and what types of applications are used. And sometimes it’s even the geography of where you are and how big your pipe is and what it can hold. So I agree that understanding cloud readiness and not just taking the leap. I remember working with you on a supermarket, I think it was a couple of years ago, we did a cloud readiness assessment for, and ultimately through that they realized that it was totally the wrong move.
Thomas Douglas: Yeah, absolutely. When you start to dive into it, one of the first things that can kill cloud is the economics. While there are some things that are less expensive in a cloud environment, there are others that are much more expensive. And until you know your environment and how much it’s going to cost to run your environment in a cloud environment, the assessment may uncover the fact that that by moving, you’re actually going to double the cost of what it means to run it for your organization. And that’s another reason that we’ve pulled some organizations out is because it’s utilitarian. In other words, you build by how many cycles, how much compute you’re using, how much storage you’re using and if you don’t have a good appreciation for that before you get there, it’s like the electric meter just spinning out of control and your bill climbing and climbing. You’ve seen a lot of businesses who’ve got into an environment where their costs of cloud just spiraled literally out of control and they had to pull it back and put some governors in place to make sure that that wouldn’t happen anymore.
Todd Nielsen: The last thing that I think we should talk about, because I think we will have many, many episodes on cloud computing, on pros and cons and different things we can talk about, but there is a dirty little trick happening in the MSP industry on cloud computing and that is that there are some IT companies out there that have figured out a decent to mediocre way to do cloud and then they will move their clients up there and they will essentially never be able to get out. It’s kind of a sticking point. Can you talk a little bit more about that? You’ve talked to a lot more of these organizations than I have.
Thomas Douglas: Yeah, it’s a really dangerous place to be. And one of the first pieces of advice that I would give any business that’s considering moving to a cloud environment is move to one that is a universal cloud platform, one of the big boys, so Microsoft, Google, Amazon, one of those. Because when you get into a proprietary environment and you need to move, then it becomes extremely painful to get out of it. We’ve actually moved a few organizations in that and it took us six months to settle the network down, if you will. So we were able to move all of the data and to recover everything within a matter of weeks that was carefully planned and executed really well. But the network itself was designed to run in that environment and then that provider provided a horrible client experience.
Thomas Douglas: They got mad at him and so it was this hostile environment for the customer to be in. It was just a horrible situation. And so getting trapped, if you will, into that proprietary data center style environment can be the demise of a business. It could literally run an organization out of business if they’re not careful. So when considering the partner, when considering the platform and the environments, the agreements to be involved with, make sure that it’s one that’s portable from one managed service provider, one technologist to another, so that you’re not stuck in that situation.
Todd Nielsen: Good advice. And as always, we’ll post information on cloud computing and links to other resources when we post this episode. Until then, take care.
Thomas Douglas: All right, thank you everybody.
Kristina Coons: Bye.