Do I still need a server?
It’s a question we get asked a lot. For many years, servers were the only way an organisation could achieve a robust and resilient centralised storage of data, manage printing solutions, deliver business grade email and run key line of business applications.
With the widespread improvement of connectivity such as Fibre, Virgin Cable and the huge cost reductions in dedicated connectivity such as Leased Lines, organisations should consider moving some, or all, of these the external services accessed via the internet.
Let me introduce the Cloud
Cloud computing is where you access services that sit outside of your organisation, via the internet. We have all been using cloud computing for years in various forms, it’s just that as internet connections get better and cloud storage becomes cheaper, more and more things become viable. Consumer based products – such a Facebook – sit on servers that are accessed via the internet. Gmail and Yahoo are “hosted” email solutions that sit on servers with varying degrees of inbuilt security.
For many businesses, a steady migration of some of their services to the cloud has been underway for years. Customer Relationship Management (CRM), accounts packages like Xero, and file storage such as Drop Box, have been making huge inroads into organisations of all sizes and with them came a new pricing model.
Software as a service (SaaS) is a service delivery model that allows users to purchase the products they want with the flexibility of a subscription based pricing model. In 2010 Microsoft launched Office 365 and Azure as their offering to deliver a SaaS solution for the produces they sold.
Perhaps a good way to look as Office 365 is that it’s an umbrella for many of the bolt on products Microsoft sold that would be used by many people and would have historically been purchased upfront, sitting on a server or computer within a home or business environment.
Here are just a few products that Office 365 includes:
- Microsoft Office (desktop and web applications)
- Hosted Exchange (business grade email that would previously have needed to sit on your server)
- SharePoint (as a secure place to store, organise, share, collaborate and access information from almost any device)
- One Drive (like my documents on your PC but automatically backed up to the cloud and accessed from almost any device)
- Skype (make video and audio calls, exchange chat messages, conduct online meetings and collaborate live on documents)
If Office 365 relates to the applications that would sit on your server or computers, Azure is the infrastructure that can replace your servers.
With Azure, you pay by the minute for the services you use. This means you can wind up or down infrastructure when you’re not using it or increase server performance to handle heavy periods of use.
Unlike on-premises servers, where you must build in possible capacity for a period of 5 years or so, Azure lets you scope a solution and tune it on an ongoing basis to deliver exactly the right solution for your needs. This can virtually eradicate large capital expenditure and through the Azure licensing and provisioning model, means you are always able to run the very latest versions of server software.
So, the answer is …
In certain circumstances, yes and in others no. Let me try to explain.
When considering a part or full move to the cloud, there are several considerations that are unique to every organisation and companies like IT Champion use a discovery process to identify what elements of your organisation can move.
The major considerations are:
- Internet connectivity – specifically the bandwidth (upload / download)
- Do you have any applications which share a central data base – such as Sage or a main business application that all users use?
- Do you have multiple sites or remote users – if so, what percentages are where?
- Do you have any resources and data heavy software you use, such a AutoCAD or Adobe design software?