Sunday, 20th September 2020

The days of getting online are over

By Simon Lofthouse, Chief Commercial Office (CCO) Flexiion MSP.

Online business has come a long way since the late 1990s, and yet in some ways it’s really just getting started. Lots of challenges, lots to try and things to discover, and it has been a long journey as all the different aspects of putting a business online have been devised, stabilised and incorporated into everyday business.

So twenty years later, 'Always on’, 24/7 online business is the norm, but in an increasingly competitive market how do they protect competitive advantage and grow? Delivering high-performance customer services, like AI, are imperative to remain customer relevant, but what are the Cloud infrastructure implications of this business imperative? How do you effectively power data-intensive services via the Cloud, and what should management consider when choosing the appropriate solutions?

The challenge now is how to excel in this online world

It’s now about finding ways of excelling, of having the very best solutions, the plan and the team to win. Where are the opportunities? Where are the improvements that will build competitive advantage? How can we bring together the best solution around the right plan and the team to achieve what we want?

Constant change and increasing speed are the norms now, and solutions must be fit for that reality, which means that decision makers must opt for choice and flexibility, building in the ability to be truly pragmatic and navigate at speed. The range of options and technology services is wide and growing. Who knows what possibilities there will be tomorrow, and what changes can be made, what changes will become necessary?

The practicalities of getting to where we are now has often previously required businesses to ‘follow-the-crowd’ simply doing what others do can speed up the process and minimize risk. Now, however, is the time to go for excellence, to find the right combination of specialists, solutions, and services that focus on achieving your specific business ambitions.

Pushing for performance requires going beyond standard, off-the-shelf solutions.

It pays to step back and take a look at where the future should and could lie for your organisation.

A ‘one-size-fits-all’ strategy rarely works so it’s time to take a really close look at techniques and technologies, which are now proven and well understood for their benefits: hybrid and mixed Cloud, DevOps, containerisation, service layers and managed services.

These technologies and techniques can now be brought together to create an agile, robust and secure platform for the infrastructure to power IT for ambitious organisations in today’s fast-paced world where flexibility, performance and cost are paramount.

Effective Cloud infrastructure is now an essential

An increasing number of organisations now recognise that the true business value of the Cloud is not realised through one supplier or one solution. Many are now actively pursuing strategies that include mixed Cloud solutions from multiple public-Cloud vendors alongside hybrid Cloud that combines both public and private infrastructure.

However, the implementation of a mixed or hybrid Cloud strategy that best addresses the specific needs of a business is not a trivial task. As with anything else, as the Cloud mix becomes more complex the level of management effort and resources required to design, build and run it grows – but where do the skills and workload come from?

Larger organisations, which are often dominated by internal issues, such as politics, budget, stakeholders, etc., are more likely to manage this operational challenge in-house. For many smaller ecommerce companies, with more limited resources, this routine Cloud management often represents an unwanted distraction that diverts skilled resources away from the development of their core ecommerce offering that delivers competitive advantage and builds real value.

Do it yourself or get others better placed to do it for you?

Initially, getting started with public Cloud was reasonably straightforward and very enticing given the numerous offers of free infrastructure floating around. But as the use of the Cloud has grown both in size and complexity, businesses need to ask themselves: who’s going to do it all? Who’s going to monitor and manage the infrastructure today’s online business rely on? That workload needs your resources, and those skilled people must come from somewhere. Will they have to get pulled off more valuable work or be hired in, creating either a distraction or extra cost? Will that be a real problem just at the moment when you’re responding to rapid growth or change?

If all this Cloud stuff is so easy to spin up and get running, how’s that going to be co-ordinated and guided? IT sprawl isn’t just a problem in the world of physical boxes. Crucially, what is the impact going to be on costs? Extra services mean extra costs. Worse, do you have adequate control over the costs at any point, when you pay for what you use but may not know what that is?

So if you’re an ambitious organisations looking to get the best Cloud solution that does what you want, when you want, where you need it, and you’re not seduced by the perception that in-house, DIY-IT gives greater control, business decision makers need to ask themselves:

‘how much time and effort should an organisation spend building and running Cloud infrastructure as opposed to time spent on its core customer offering that creates value?’

One yardstick might be:

·Only do the things that create value because other people don’t do them, or

·If other people can do it better, they should do it.

Finding the right partner

If designing, building and running Cloud infrastructure is not your core business how do you decide on an appropriate partner to do the Cloud stuff you don’t want to or don’t need to do? If it’s important and you depend on it, then they’d better be accessible, flexible and trusted. Ideally, it should be a partner that cares about the success of your business and can give you what you need, when you need it and how you want it.

Interestingly, as a recent report from ISG Insights (Public Cloud – Solutions & Service Partners - U.K. 2019) reflects, the Managed Service Provider (MSP) market is responding accordingly to this growth in the popularity of more complex, hybrid Cloud strategies, both in number and new service offerings, with a number of new entrants: ‘gaining traction with their unique offerings of public Cloud managed services for multi-Cloud environments.’

So for today’s established online businesses looking to excel and take full advantage of new opportunities and find new ways of pushing the boundaries and succeeding, the use of a managed service partner that can offer a truly Cloud agnostic approach is a reality – you can now combine the best, the right service elements for what you want to do from wherever they are – you don’t have to go with one provider or one solution.

This approach not only offers access to the most appropriate Cloud solution, but a wider pool of skills that can be rapidly brought to bear on routine services or project execution. Constantly evolving online businesses, therefore, can either rapidly scale infrastructure usage in response to changing customer needs, or bring on stream new services much more quickly and cost effectively than if experts or consultants had to be hired.

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