Date: 19/09/2012

Ireland Inc is pushing cloud computing but are the natives catching on?

By Paul Caffrey, Office 365 Specialist for O2 Telefonica, MJ Flood Technology
Follow me on Twitter: @PaulMMCaffrey

Ireland is working hard to place itself among the elite when it comes to providing and delivering Cloud Technology and is fast becoming recognised as one of the world’s major hubs for cloud computing.

Support from industry and the establishment is strong and the Irish Government, through IDA Ireland is successfully building an eco-system of cloud computing brands, from well-established multinationals to smaller start-ups.

Ireland now has 23 world class data centres including Microsoft’s prestigious €1 billion facility, delivering Microsoft Office 365 to all of Europe. In fact, the cloud computing industry is forecasting the creation of 9,600 jobs in the short term with strong potential for more in the future.

But while Ireland Inc grasps the power of the cloud, does indigenous business understand the concept and have the ‘natives’ embraced the benefits that cloud has to offer?

Former Harvard Professor Daniel Bell, who is credited with creating the term “Information Society”, declared in 1973 that “new technologies will lead to freedom and empowerment”.

It’s hard to believe that just 39 years later,many commentators now believe that we are finally witnessing this declaration become a practical reality. The ‘Cloud’ revolution has arrived and it’s fundamentally changing how we do business and more importantly for the individual, how and where we work.

Cloud gives employees access to information from virtually anywhere, making them more productive and resulting in a better working environment. The additional benefit to business is the evolution of an opex rather than capex cost model for the purchase of IT hardware, software and services. Organisations no longer have to find significant capital investment upfront. They can invest in technology using a “pay as you go” model, adding these costs to the opex side of the balance sheet and negating the need to avail of credit lines, which are in short supply these days.

Digital “Natives” v Digital “Immigrants”

My colleague Guido Marchetti recently blogged about the emergence of certain categories of employees – “Digital Natives” and “Digital Immigrants”.

The majority of the workforce under thirty years of age have grown up with digital devices of various descriptions and are constantly pushing businesses to give them access to business data in the same fashion as they access data in their personal lives.

The Digital Immigrant describes a workforce, over thirty that have had to embrace the transition of business activity from paper-based processes with communications primarily driven by fax and phone.

For the majority of businesses in Ireland, email was the first step towards true liberation and has rendered the fax machine extinct. Putting applications in the cloud is the next step to delivering critical and non-critical IT resources in a flexible manner, meaning that employees no longer need to be office-bound to access work tools to be productive.

Cloud Drives Increased Productivity

The days of being stuck in the office to complete a tender, configure that report or write up that press release are becoming less appealing for an increasingly mobile Irish workforce. In a world where the lines between the personal and private life have become blurred, thanks to ubiquitous communications, it is becoming more important to tool up your workforce to work remotely. We all have days that sometimes require us to work late, but using cloud technology means we don’t necessarily have to work from the office to meet these deadlines.

“Sweating” IT Assets and Technology Lifecycles

Businesses in Ireland have been hit hard over the last few years due to the general malaise in local and global economies. But even periods of weak economic performance present real opportunity for those willing to invest in the right technologies.

As businesses have struggled, they have looked at ways to reduce costs. One obvious area of cost review is to look at ICT spend and assess what it is actually delivering to the business in terms of cost/benefit analysis.

As many business owners know too well, it can be a costly business upgrading your IT systems to the latest platforms and the fact that technology moves so fast makes it tempting for companies to “sweat” their assets rather than looking at cloud-based alternatives that can deliver benefits now without major capital expenditure.

Similarly, when businesses look at updating their server infrastructure, a major hurdle to overcome is the combined cost of migrating your data along with the required investment in hardware and software. Once completed it is recommended that you refresh your systems every three to five years facing the same hardware, software and migration costs again and again.

Microsoft Office 365

Microsoft Office 365 is a great example of a technology that allows companies to migrate key productivity tools such as email and file sharing to the cloud while significantly reducing the onsite IT investment required to refresh the network.

There are three key advantages for Irish businesses to migrate to Microsoft Office 365.

  • Make IT an operational cost:
    The cost to upgrade your network is reduced by over 50% and IT becomes an operational expense.
  • Allows your workforce to work from anywhere:
    Your Workforce are given email and files on the go along with the ability to see the availability of everyone in the organisation. They can send an Instant Message right through to sharing and working on documents via Online Video Conferencing.
  • Constant access to the latest technology without upgrade costs:
    Businesses will no longer have to migrate data as they will be automatically transitioned to the next version of the Office 365 (Exchange 2010 to Exchange 2013 for Free). It is also possible to receive the latest version of Microsoft Office Professional.

Once using cloud technology, it is important to have the right level of support, particularly in the early days. When choosing any cloud vendor, always ask how services are supported and ensure that your existing infrastructure is compatible with this new technology. A clear roadmap should be put together to ensure a smooth transition to a better, more productive workforce.


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