IT Support for Boston: Why Cloud Computing May Brighten Your Future

If your small or mid-sized business is still working with the same IT network and back up services, it is time for a major upgrade. Cloud Computing is the new way of business networking. Without having this new processing system, you could lose money because cloud computing can lead to back up documents online.

Used with permission from the Microsoft Small Business Center

Small businesses often face a sobering reality: they know there are technology applications that could make their business more efficient, but the cost of implementing and maintaining the IT hardware and software is prohibitive. That’s where cloud-computing can actually bring a sunny forecast. By shifting the IT infrastructure and management burdens to a third-party, cloud-based provider, a small business can get enterprise-class technologies delivered as a subscription service.

Recycled Energy Development (RED), a small business that helps industrial manufacturers convert their waste energy into recycled electricity and heat, faced just such a dilemma. RED had a document management problem: keeping track of their numerous clients and all the associated contracts, engineering specs, and project plans.

PointBridge, a Microsoft certified partner, proposed a custom-built document management system, based on Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, that would keep track all the documents and their many versions.

Aaron Walters, RED’s CFO, was excited by the potential of the proposed system. But the price tag for an on-premise system—well, that would have been too much red ink for RED. Walters didn’t have the budget for an in-house Office SharePoint Server installation, and RED didn’t have the IT staff required to support such a system.

That’s when cloud-computing, in the form of Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), came to the rescue. BPOS provides enterprise-class software hosted on Microsoft servers and sold through partners on a subscription basis. BPOS includes Microsoft Exchange Online, Office Live Meeting, Microsoft Communications Online, and, most critical to RED, Microsoft SharePoint Online. What’s more, BPOS subscriptions are highly affordable, costing just $10 per user per month for the full suite.

The customized document management applications were implemented using Microsoft SharePoint Online, freeing RED from the upfront infrastructure costs and the ongoing IT management burden. The company was delighted with how simple it was to deploy and utilize the solution through SharePoint Online—employees were up and running without a lot of time for set up and training. Now RED has the sophisticated document management tools to store contracts and maintain full version histories. RED employees can check documents in and out, and multiple people can work on contracts without getting in each other’s way. The system tracks every change, so revisions are easily identifiable.

The new services have helped RED’s business in a number of different ways. “They have enhanced collaboration within our different internal divisions,” explains Walters, “and they have helped increase our productivity and helped manage the business process involving our clients.”

What’s more, the BPOS-based solution was not only highly affordable, but as a per-user subscription, it can readily scale to the size of RED’s business. The cloud-based solution also ensures that RED will have the latest version of the suite’s applications, including every update and any patches, since these are all applied at the Microsoft data center.

“SharePoint Online was very attractive to RED and made the decision very easy,” continues Walters. “It allows flexibility to grow with our organization. It’s a per-user per month licensing, so it offers a lower cost of ownership. It grows well with the business, and we’re constantly getting updates from Microsoft, which keeps us up on the latest software versions. As a start-up company, cost containment is critical, and the Business Productivity Online Suite approach has played an important role in our cost containment efforts.”

A final BPOS benefit is the lower use of electricity. “Instead of us running an on-premises solution,” says Walters, “which would require a certain amount of electricity to operate regardless of whether users were working on the servers themselves, we’re able to take advantage of storage virtualization and server virtualization technologies that increase the throughput of the servers in the Microsoft data center and thereby reduce the actual amount of electricity used.” This electricity savings is very important to RED, whose business centers on helping manufacturers recycle energy—but it makes sense for any small business wanting to hold the line of energy costs.

Your small business’s needs may be different from RED’s, but the cost-effective solution could likely be the same. If you need top-of-the-line, business-class features for communications and collaboration, then BPOS is definitely worth a look. Microsoft’s offering integrates email, instant messaging, document collaboration, and real-time conferencing into one, seamless suite of applications.

Perhaps your business requires you to work with far-flung customers and vendors. With the Microsoft Office Live Meeting component of BPOS, you can hold engaging virtual meetings—including rich audio and video—with all the stakeholders, no matter how far away they are, provided they have Internet access. And with instant messaging, you have a speedier alternative to email—perfect for on-the-fly answers to project questions.

BPOS also gives you access to your coworkers’ calendars, making it a snap to set up meetings and keep projects on schedule. You’ll never again have to schedule a meeting “blind,” contacting each individual to check his or her availability, and going back and forth to nail down a time that works for everyone. With shared calendars through Exchange Online, you can simultaneously compare calendars to set up a meeting—a huge time saver.

Unlike onsite server solutions, BPOS provides a full, integrated suite of applications for just $10 per user per month. Microsoft guarantees the availability of your BPOS applications—your Service Level Agreement provides a money-back reimbursement for anything short of 99.9% uptime. What’s more, you’ll never have to worry about replacing old software or applying upgrades and patches. Everything is taken care of in the cloud, at the Microsoft data center. Microsoft even provides 24-7 technical support, making BPOS one cloudy forecast that you’ll welcome.

Want to learn more? Then take the BPOS test drive at www.microsoft.com/bpostestdrive,  or check out http://www.microsoft.com/online/ for more details.

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Posted in IT Consulting in Boston, Newsletter Articles
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