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Why The Cloud Is No Substitute for IT

A real-life example demonstrates the value IT brings to cloud services.

The following post is from Dan Tesch, an IT professional and member of the Interop Advisory Board.

Recently I was asked to assist with the evaluation of CRM software at my company. There was a short list of product options, and some folks from the business side quickly identified a preferred vendor. This vendor has a fairly well known premises software product, but the business folks were interested in the vendor’s new cloud service. The business team provided me with some concise requirements to evaluate against, so I dug in and started looking at how particular features worked — or didn't.

I'll be honest — I’m tired of cloud this and cloud that. Everyone has some vapor to sell. However, for a greenfield CRM installation at a mid-size company that will see under ten users on the system, a cloud service makes sense.

If we went with a premises product, we’d have to patch the server OS, patch and back up the app, open holes in the firewall or require mobile users to use a VPN, install an SSL certificate and so on. I’m fortunate to work on a good-sized team with a couple of dedicated help desk guys, server and network admins, and DBAs. We can easily absorb the additional workload, but why? For a modest monthly or annual subscription fee, the provider takes on the operational burden.

However, that benefit doesn’t mean much if the service lacks key features. Here's where my analysis got interesting. Every company has some sort of existing contact list in Excel, a text file, or a pile of business cards. That contact information needs to get into the CRM, so you'd think an import capability would be a basic feature. Yeah, not yet implemented in the cloud product.

When I called vendor support to clarify this, they were like “Cloud what?” It was as if I were talking a foreign language about their own product. Their solution? They transferred me to sales.

After asking if there were any other issues I should expect, I was provided a link to a document that outlined a couple dozen features not yet implemented in the online version; many of these features weren’t relevant, but a surprising number of them were.

I spoke with an independent consultant for this platform who told me that of her 300 or so clients, none were currently using the online version of this software. Interesting. I’m guessing the online version of the product will eventually reach parity with the premises version, but it was clear the service wasn’t where it needed to be.

What’s the moral here? First, make sure you always perform due diligence. Second, IT serves the business in numerous ways. Even with a cloud offering that, on the surface, makes internal IT seem less relevant, the fact is, my investigation provided the company with some real value.

The IT media is rife with stories that question the relevance of IT. Yet, without IT effort, the company may have adopted a cloud service that lacked important features. It also seemed clear from my investigation that the vendor wasn’t putting much effort into supporting the new offering.

In the end, we went with the premises version of the software. Everyone in the company is pleased — except the poor office admin who has to scan hundreds of business cards!

Dan Tesch is an IT Director at a Chicago-area marketing firm. He’s also a member of the Interop Advisory Board. Dan’s technology experience began in the late 1980s in the publishing industry, and now includes networking, virtualization, storage and security.

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