Why cloud services do not mean the end of IT support costs.

We’ve been working with clients for years helping them leverage both on premise and cloud-based solutions for their businesses. As a consultancy, our only real concern is that a client’s needs are met and that their expectations are appropriately set in terms of cost and results. I highly value and recommend many cloud services which provide outstanding value.

A trend on misinformation I’ve seen has me a little worried that expectations for cloud services as a panacea are starting to form. Business decision makers are becoming fooled that moving services to the cloud will reduce their IT costs related to those services to zero or very close to it as part of the subscription model.

While a cloud migration can significantly reduce costs associated with hosting a service yourself, most of the time the bulk of the benefits are in scalability and availability. While cost-savings are a nice to have, ultimately cloud providers are there to make money just like every business.

All technology is great when it is working as expected. It’s the situations where technology does not go as planned that will have the business owner pulling their hair out, or more likely relying on in-house IT resources or consultants.

Take cloud email for example…

Hosting your own email server has many costs. A 5 to 8-year refresh cycle on server hardware and software as well as IT costs associated with upgrades and support.

A cloud email service spreads those costs out over multiple clients with large servers and always has the client running the latest email services. However, there are IT costs associated with the initial migration and there will be IT costs associated with maintaining the cloud infrastructure. Even if those costs are lower than on premise costs, they are never going to be zero.

What happens when upgrades to the cloud email server causes older computers not to be able to connect? You can’t delay the upgrades; you don’t control the servers.

What happens when data on the cloud service is lost or accidentally deleted? You no longer in most cases have on-site backups.

What happens when there is a corruption in a mailbox or contact list and you need to work with a third party to resolve the issue? What if the vendor say’s that there is nothing wrong and you have to prove it?

Now that a major source of intra-office and external communication is in the cloud, you are even more reliant on your internet connection’s stability and bandwidth, requiring additional investments in reliability and redundancy.

All of these are very real scenarios involving ongoing IT costs related to a “no fuss” cloud service that are in addition to the ongoing subscription costs. Time spent upgrading client software, working with non-us based support and troubleshooting connectivity issues are going to happen, and you won’t be credited from the cloud provider in most cases. These types of scenarios carry over to other services you may be thinking of moving to the cloud.

None of this is to say that cloud services are not valuable, in many cases they are. It’s just important to go into the decision with your eyes open to the fact that if zero or even near-zero ongoing internal IT costs are part of the sales-pitch, you may want to reconsider trusting the presenting party.

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