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Are You Ready to Move to the Cloud?

Whether you’re at a trade show, speaking with a vendor or simply talking tech with a colleague, the latest rage is cloud computing. Are you in the cloud? Are you moving to the cloud? Why aren’t you in the cloud? There are so many questions and if you were to ask ten different people, “what is cloud computing?”, I bet you would get ten different definitions. I’ve been there. Like many, I come from a world of having a data center with racks, and sometimes multiple racks, of servers for every application. This is great for us control freaks, who crave immediate access to all servers to deliver reports and data. In this new world of instant gratification, being able to touch and feel servers in-house is more important than ever. This also comes with very expensive overhead, including a staff that needs to update, patch and perform constant upgrades, perform daily backups and many other IT obstacles. We as IT leaders, as well as the users we enable, should really be focused on the core business rather than bogged down with all these tasks.

The cloud solution
The cloud is just a metaphor for the Internet, so cloud computing is simply accessing hardware and software in an offsite location over the Internet. The question for me was, “where do I start?”

My team drastically reduced the number of servers we had by using virtualization. That always helps, but everything is still in-house and those servers still have to be maintained. As we switched out certain applications, we moved to a couple software as a service (SaaS) products, which are basically single applications accessed over the Internet via a hosted provider using a web browser. We also did the same thing with our payroll and HR systems. My team was extremely happy to retire and not have to worry about those three servers. Our next big move was transitioning all of our phone services to the cloud. That was a scary proposition as we are a hospitality company and we live by our phones. If the phones don’t ring with guests making reservations, we’re out of business.

I was already in the process of changing our Internet service provider (ISP) and revamping our WAN, so why not take this time to move to voice over IP (VOIP)? After analysis and preparation, the decision was made to partner with another company, and one by one all our restaurants and corporate office phones were moved into the cloud — more than 350 phones in total. Without the need for expensive PRI phone circuits, multiple phone lines and other erroneous phone charges, a ton of money was saved. Plus, we didn’t have to pay a phone vendor for service calls to maintain the PBX phone systems at all locations or to add an extension. We can access all the phones via a web browser on our custom portal and do all the adds, moves, and changes we want ourselves.

Components of the cloud
The extent to which you use the cloud really depends on your business model. You can go as far as moving your entire data center to the cloud. This would eliminate your server capex worries as well as planning for data storage and scalability. Cloud vendors make it easy to add storage and give you the ability to access your data at higher speeds than you may be able to provide in-house.

To me, cloud computing is reminiscent of the old mainframe days where the “dumb” terminals accessed the mainframe for use of applications. E-mail, Excel documents, presentations, etc., can be accessed via the cloud as well.

Depending on your business model, all you need is a web browser on your computer and you can access any application from anywhere. Now in the world of mobility and with more companies allowing employees to work remotely, you can access your critical data and applications from your phone, tablet, laptop or any Internet-enabled device.

The world of cloud computing may be the new rage, but it’s definitely here to stay. The landscape has changed in IT. Don’t play a wait-and-see game, start moving to the cloud now.

What was your first job?
Two days after my 16th birthday I started washing dishes in a restaurant. Many years later, I’m still in the business.

Who inspires you?  
My family. I work really hard to provide the best I can for them.

What are your hobbies?
Riding my Harley and playing drums in a band.

What technologies excite you?
Anything new and innovative. The IT landscape is always changing so you have to embrace new technology.

Sage Advice:
Believe in yourself and your team. Do not sit still and get stagnant. Always work hard and be innovative.

What is one other job that you would like to try?
I always wanted to be a pathologist.

What is one goal that you would like to achieve in your life?
I take life day by day. The goal is to be better and get better each and every day.

What three people would you invite to lunch?  (can be dead, alive or fictional)
Paul McCartney, Jack Nicholson and Al Pacino.

What is your favorite movie?  

What is your favorite vacation spot?

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