Truth is the term the cloud confuses me. That’s why I started this blog, to force me to learn more about the cloud and share with others what I’ve learned.
The cloud refers to this big mysterious thing where things happen. Then you start to add some of the terminology and you wonder who the cloud is really being marketed to. Terms like compute, fabric, storage and cloud services can seem pretty confusing and general that it’s sometimes hard to understand what you are getting with the cloud and why bother using it. Now don’t get me wrong, I know what the cloud is and mostly understand its value. I think the other confusion of the cloud is around change, people are comfortable with how things are and some feel threatened by this new cloud environment. Roles are changing, and we don’t need the guy that only does hardware anymore, well we might still need him but we will also need him to “up his game” and become more than just a hardware guy. The traditional roles of IT are changing, it’s kind of funny that we say traditional. It hasn’t been that long and they have changed many times since around 1990 where everything was in house and then perhaps your help desk shipped overseas and so on and so forth. The idea is the only thing constant is change and those that change with it are the ones that will succeed. Before I get to why I absolutely love Office 365 as a cloud platform vs. Amazon Web Services or even Azure, let me talk about where I see the traditional IT department going. IT departments from my experience have been made up of Managers, technicians (first line, second line) and specialists (Network, Server, Hardware) and I see the technicians and specialists merging into a more common role. The technicians will always be around when things break, but I see them now as business specialists as well, at least the successful ones. The people that stay in IT will be the ones that understand what technology can do for a business, technology will never again stand on its own. It’s still cool, but where I see it going as a driver for business because with applications like Skype for Business, Exchange, SharePoint and many others, it’s now about how can these applications improve business and the bottom line. The specialists and technicians need to become business specialists and use their technical skills to be able to get their business adopting technology. I see them coming out of the basement and being to engage end users and explain to them how things work and how it can make their work better.
Why do I love Office 365 and not share as much love for Azure or Amazon Web Services?
I feel like Office 365 has nailed it with it’s productivity suite. It get’s people where they’re at with the tools that they are used to using but improves and enhances the experience. In the past companies may have adopted Exchange, maybe they had Skype for business but not SharePoint. With Office 365 you have the full suite and everything is connected the way people should be. With all of these services and rich applications at your finger tips, all of the configuration completed so you can communicate with other companies right off the bat and the bottom line being so easily calculable, it makes Office 365 a very very easy sell and even easier to show it’s value proposition to any company. For example let’s say you’re a MAC shop that loves using Microsoft Office, you’ve always wanted to use Exchange but you needed an Active Directory in the past and didn’t want to invest in the evil Windows servers. With Office 365, you don’t have to and Office is provided for you. Doors have been opened. Another example I like to use is simply cost analysis. Say you were a two person consulting firm and you simply couldn’t afford a Small Business Server, and couldn’t manage the DNS, on-premise network etc. 10 years ago it simply wouldn’t make financial sense for you to make that kind of investment, but your sacrifice would also be in technology. You wouldn’t be using cutting edge, high level technology to compete. With Office 365 it’s affordable for everyone. @$25 CDN /user/month. Any company can afford to start using Office 365. As a matter of fact I use it to run this blog.
What’s wrong with Azure and Amazon Web Services?
In short, nothing is technically wrong with them. They do what they do great. But what exactly do they do? What is their value proposition? Azure is awesome but it’s a much harder sell to a business to host their virtual machines in the cloud for example. The cost might also be much more complicated too, and this is where you need to be able to plan and compare to see if the cloud really is the best place or perhaps a Test/Dev environment would work well here. Azure does ALOT and there are some really useful features like
- Virtual Machines in the cloud
- SQL databases
- Azure Active Directory (one of my favorites)
and so much more over 60+ options available to Azure, it feels like abit of a birds nest of options and going through the list to see what’s available and trying to figure out what it all does and what it all means can be intimidating. The way I try to rationalize Office 365 and Azure is that Office 365 is front office productivity stuff, things that can help every business right now and they look nice and flashy. Azure is really the backend engine, that has many options some of which can be useful to different businesses.
The value of Office 365 and Azure.
In my opinion if you don’t know what you want but you love Microsoft and you want to start exploring the cloud, the best place to start is with Office 365. If you’re looking for more to compliment what Office 365 offers and enhance your experience Azure offers some very cool add-ons such as Azure Active Directory, Intune and multi-factor authentication that will become absolutely essential to run your business off of cloud services…but don’t ever feel like your on-premise investment is shot. There are many hybrid scenarios available to extend your on-premise hardware into the cloud.