This article was first published in the Spring 2014 issue of Prime, a Microsoft technology magazine for the manufacturing industry
Until now, the main barriers that have stopped businesses realising the full benefits of cloud computing have been security and bandwidth. Companies like to know where the data is held and how they can access it if necessary. They must also have an adequate internet connection, both in terms of speed and uptime. However, more people are taking advantage of the cloud than they realise – think about your current e-mail service.
Today, cloud should be looked upon as infrastructure at the end of a longer cable, and in the last six to nine months we have started to see a change. Cloud has become driven by users rather than vendors.
Visiting clients 18 months ago, we put cloud solutions forward as an option, but they were often regarded with reluctance and trepidation. Now though, instead of seeing cloud as a buzzword, businesses are becoming more open to the benefits it can offer. Solutions are discussed without any favouritism to on-premise architecture, widening the portfolio of possibilities.
The cloud allows organisations to move to an operational expenditure model rather than an upfront capital expenditure model, and to scale up and down at different times of the year – ideal for an industry such as manufacturing with its peak and trough cycles. Many manufacturers have multiple sites with worldwide factories and design teams.
The cloud enables new sites to be up and running within a fraction of the time it would take without a virtual platform in place, increasing levels of flexibility and agility.
Armed only with a laptop, a client can quickly open up a new office and close it again without any hassle. In the past, they would have had no option but to fork out for a new IT infrastructure, waiting a significant period of time while IT departments readied their infrastructures. While the cloud vendor provides the necessary service level agreements, resources and support, manufacturers can centralise their IT resources, cutting costs and better using their expertise.
This is where IT support and managed service provider Wirebird can help. Our new Infrastructure+ (i+) hosted cloud offering is based on FlexPod technology, which is a validated architecture using NetApp Storage with Cisco compute and security design.
We use Microsoft Hyper-V virtualisation software and environments can be deployed on an infrastructure-as-a-service and software-as-a-service basis. i+ runs in active/passive mode over two data centres, meaning we are able to provide an always-on service with full resilience.
The solution is tailored completely to our clients’ needs and can be offered as a public, private or hybrid cloud service, offering flexibility, agility and choice.
Of course, the cloud is not the answer to every problem; a bad business will remain a bad business even with a good IT infrastructure. When used properly though, it can help a company become more agile.
My advice is to stop thinking about IT as a cost and to instead consider how it can make your organisation better, quicker, more productive and, above all else, more competitive in your market.
Terry Storrar is managing director of Wirebird
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