Organisations across both public and private sectors are increasingly leveraging cloud-based services as an alternative IT delivery model, attracted by their rich potential for technical, financial and operational advantage.
The enterprise-class, on-demand, utility-based platform that characterises today’s cloud-based or managed services offering is indeed a compelling proposition; it is setting new standards of affordability, accessibility, availability and adaptability for those needing to develop or enhance existing infrastructure or applications.
Moreover, with years of unprecedented financial austerity ahead, it can help solve the fundamental conundrum facing those within the social housing sector who are charged with directing IT strategy – how do we do more with less? Performance management, asset management, e-procurement, mobile working, digital inclusion, tenant communications are all on the IT agenda, but with less money and fewer resources, how do they reconcile necessity with reality?
While it may not be able to work miracles, the cloud-based managed service concept can address a wide range of pain points, giving organisations the ability to:
- Maintain momentum through continued investment in IT, with the capex-free and pay-as-you-go model enabling both technology refresh and innovation;
- Free up valuable internal IT resource from time-consuming housekeeping activities to focus more on enhanced services to staff and tenants;
- Demonstrate best value with scalable, flexible services ensuring lean working and eliminating waste;
- Comply with growing regulatory and legislative requirements such as the TSA framework and DPA obligations;
- Conform to stringent security standards such as the GCSx code of connection;
- Mitigate operational risks around organisational continuity with built-in disaster recovery capability from the cloud;
- Be more responsive to staff and tenant needs through rapid application development and deployment, and avoidance of protracted provisioning cycles;
- Enhance green credentials through minimising IT footprint and reducing on-premise equipment, power, cooling, etc.
Cloud computing is a game-changer. Take the practical example of unified communications – the blending of voice with business-grade tools such as presence, document collaboration, instant messaging (IM), desktop video calling and conferencing, all available from the desktop – which will revolutionise how staff and stakeholders engage with each other. Communication, travel and associated costs could be slashed by up to 50 per cent, with radical improvements in productivity, performance and collaboration.
But few organisations have the budget, expertise or indeed appetite for the requisite full-blown integration and subsequent management of IP telephony and Microsoft’s OCS. On the other hand, take it from the cloud as a managed service and you have a completely shrink-wrapped solution delivered instantly to the desktop as hosted voice and hosted Microsoft OCS; you pay only for the number of seats used per month, you can flex up and down as needs dictate, there’s no upfront capital expenditure, no hidden costs, and a professional support and management team is on hand around the clock to maintain and deliver the service to strict SLAs around up-time and security.
It’s a perfect example of the substantial benefits inherent in the managed service model – lower costs, greater cost visibility, less waste, lower risk, greater agility, faster deployment, reduced environmental impact, enhanced security, better utilisation of in-house resources, and the ready ability to introduce new capacity and capability.
Little wonder that so many progressive organisations are now getting ahead in the cloud.
Stefan Haase is divisional product director for InTechnology.