One of the key reasons usually given for moving services to cloud is to save money by getting rid of expensive IT infrastructure. However, making the business case on cost grounds alone is not necessarily straightforward. First, cloud almost certainly won’t save money unless you fundamentally reengineer your organisation; second, although it takes away in-house IT operations, it creates the need for new skills, such as billing management and managing your cloud provider to ensure they deliver the agreed service; and third, you need to know your way round the ins and outs of cloud usage and charging models to ensure you are minimising spend with your cloud provider.
Fortunately, the properties of cloud enable a business case to be made in different ways, focusing on the other benefits that it offers over in-house service provision. Here are five examples where cloud offers specific benefits which can be used as the basis of a business case.
Collaborations and joint ventures
When you’re setting up a joint venture or collaboration, cloud offers an excellent solution to the dilemma of which organisation’s IT system you should use. If there’s a proven SaaS service available, such as Microsoft Office 365, this can be put in place quickly and ensures that everyone is using the same versions of the same applications, making information sharing much easier. It is also straightforward to add users as the project develops, and wind up at the end of the venture.
This was the solution chosen by Fusion, a joint venture (JV) between three leading construction companies – BAM Nuttall, Morgan Sindall and Ferrovial – which was awarded one of the three enabling works contracts for High Speed Two (HS2). Fordway implemented a dedicated Office 365 domain for Fusion and now provides ongoing user support through its Service Desk. This ensures that everyone can access project documents, contacts and their calendar on any device from any location. Cloud’s ubiquity of access assists mobile working, which is particularly important for this type of project as most of the users are likely to be working from a range of locations and devices.
Short-term increases in capacity
One of the advantages of cloud is that you can increase capacity extremely quickly as and when needed. It takes just minutes to spin up new instances, whereas physically buying, building and configuring a new server can easily take a month from ordering equipment to installation, and with cloud there are no fixed asset costs. This makes cloud ideal for organisations whose workload is extremely ‘peaky’, for example retailers coping with busy periods and flash crowds, or organisations with significant increases in workload at month end and year end. You can rent capacity, run the processes you need and then hand the capacity back again until the next peak.
We implemented such a service for a government agency which provided funding to thousands of other organisations. The end of every month saw a peak in demand as the client organisations submitted their monthly returns, and these workloads were further multiplied with reconciliations at the end of the financial year. Cloud was ideal for providing this additional capacity, first through Fordway’s managed cloud service and ultimately with the service replatformed to public cloud.
Cloud is also ideal for experimentation and testing for new capability. So, for example, you can obtain instant Ruby on Rails development capacity on which to develop new services and then move them into your production environment when completed. This also minimises any risk to your production environment.
Data security and DR
Perhaps the most obvious benefits of cloud are when it is used for disaster recovery. For this most organisations can show cost reductions, as both AWS and Azure are on demand services which don’t charge when virtual machines are stopped, so the organisation only pays for data storage (plus any replication costs) until DR is invoked or you are running tests. Organisations who already have a second environment for DR can extend the life of their existing infrastructure by moving this DR capability to the cloud. As well as providing an initial experience of using cloud at a lower risk than moving their production environment, consolidating a passive DR environment into production infrastructure provides increased capacity and potentially a longer life for current systems.
For organisations whose DR has been based on restoring from tape, the advantages are even greater – immediate failover to the backup system. As one client, a logistics company, told us: “I don’t lie awake at night any more wondering what would happen if there was a fire, as I know everything is being continually monitored and our data is safe.”
Limited internal resource/shortage of qualified staff
Cloud has specific advantages for organisations who are struggling to retain skilled staff – a particular challenge for many medium sized businesses – or have a small in-house team. They are unlikely to have the diverse range of skills required to run a complex IT infrastructure, and hence either have to take a ‘best guess’ approach or turn to external experts on a regular basis. Carefully chosen use of cloud services will enable them to focus internal resources on the most business critical services, as even IaaS provides, and in most cases automates, basic operational functions, freeing up internal staff time for more useful activities.
One of our public sector clients chose managed cloud (IaaS and DaaS) to provide them with a flexible IT infrastructure, which we manage for them. Their in-house IT team handles first line support, while we are on hand to handle what they call the ‘stickier’ issues. We also record all service requests and incidents in a customer portal, so that their IT director can log in at any time and check their status. It’s a seamless partnership in which everyone plays to their strengths.
Adding new applications quickly
A further advantage of cloud is the ability to get new applications up and running quickly. For example, for one of our clients we set up and now host a cloud based remote desktop environment to run business-critical applications which cannot be supported internally. This enables new applications to be added rapidly to meet user demands – ideal for an organisation in a rapidly changing environment. When they suddenly needed to run a new economic modelling package at short notice, this solution enabled it to be up and running within the required timescale.
Cloud, as these examples show, offers benefits in many situations. Organisations need to ensure that when developing a business case they consider the wider picture, not just the financial one.