Run Your Business in the Cloud

According to Wikipedia, cloud computing is “computation, software, data access, and storage services that do not require end-user knowledge of the physical location and configuration of the system that delivers the services.”

When you run your business in the cloud, everything works, your information is always available, and the cost is usually lower than housing your business data onsite. Let’s discuss how the cloud works for my customer Pam’s e-mail. Everything just works

Pam’s company was running their e-mail and SPAM filtering in-house. They were receiving more than 5,000 SPAM messages per day. I kid you not. This far outweighed the number of legitimate messages. They needed a separate server just to filter and store the SPAM messages. If they didn’t have this additional box for SPAM filtering and storage, their e-mail server would have run out of storage space and stopped working.

I migrated them to a hosted Exchange provider in Texas with a 100% uptime Service Level Guarantee and 46 of the Fortune 100 as customers. Pam no longer has to think about SPAM filtering-her company now enjoys enterprise-level SPAM filtering. Pam no longer has to think about a server running out of storage space-her company has infinite storage space. Pam no longer has to think about e-mail working if her building suffers a fire, flood, theft, or power outage. Her e-mail is in Texas.

The Exchange provider’s facility has high-security, redundant power and reliable HVAC equipment. They also have multiple high-speed Internet connections. If one of them happens to go down, another would take its place almost immediately. Pam no longer pays me hourly to keep e-mail working. Her company now pays a fixed monthly fee per mailbox. Everything just works for Pam.

It’s available from anywhere

Hosted Exchange is a database that Pam and her staff can get to from anywhere with Internet access. She can be at her desk and use Microsoft Outlook to get her e-mail. She can power up her notebook computer from anywhere with Internet access, launch Microsoft Outlook, and get her e-mail. She can be at home, launch Internet Explorer, log into her mailbox and get her e-mail. She can also check her e-mail from her smartphone. It is always available.

This applies to contact info. Suppose a customer calls Pam from his new cell phone and says, “Pam, I have a new cell phone number. Please update your records with the number you see on the caller ID.” Pam can make that change once.

This applies to calendar info too. Suppose a one-hour visit to a customer’s office ends up running four hours. Pam can update her calendar on her smartphone and type in some notes from the four-hour visit. When she returns to the office and launches Outlook, her calendar will reflect four hours at that customer, complete with the notes she typed into the smartphone.

The cost is usually less

Pam’s company has 15 mailboxes and uses Exchange’s Public Folders. They pay less than $200 per month for their hosted Exchange with Public Folders. That annualizes to $2,400 per year.

This was not the only option. Pam’s company could have purchased a new server and run Exchange in-house, but they would have incurred a very long list of expenses in doing this, including:

Capital cost of a new server

  • Software and licensing cost for Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2, Microsoft Exchange Server, virus protection, and SPAM filtering
  • At least 15 licenses for all the above products
  • Tax and shipping on the new server hardware and software
  • My time writing specs and pricing
  • My time setting up the server, Exchange, virus protection, and SPAM filtering
  • My time updating all the above products
  • My time migrating their existing mailboxes from the old server to the new server
  • My time updating users’ MS Outlook to point to the new server

This is just the project cost. You can add maintenance, power consumption, heat generation, and annual license renewals for the virus protection and SPAM filtering. This could very easily end up more than $10,000 for the initial project and more than $1,500 per year afterward. Her company’s five-year cost with an on-site server would be $17,500 before adding the electricity consumption and extra load on her air conditioner to keep the server room chilled. With the cloud solution, the five-year cost is only $12,000.

The Cloud Works for the Self-employed Too

Maybe you don’t have 15 users at your office. Maybe you’re self-employed, like me. The cloud works for honorable self-employed Americans too.

I use the same hosted Exchange service Pam’s company uses. I do not need Public Folders since I am sharing my data with nobody. My hosted Exchange runs $12 per month. It is a valuable tool and well worth this cost. Here’s how.

I manage my calendar on hosted Exchange. When I leave a customer, I can pull out my phone and update my calendar before departing for the next customer. This lets me create a more accurate journal entry for that site visit. I can also update the start and end times to show how long I was actually at the customer. This is usually longer than I initially scheduled. With this updated appointment, I can bill for my actual time at the office.

I have less undocumented and underbilled time-I recoup at least one hour per month when I update the phone. My current hourly rate is far more than $12 per hour. Does it make sense to spend $12 per month for a service that lets me recoup much more than that?

I’m sure the cloud will work for you too.

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