Cloud. We’re not just a provider, we’re a user too.

Maybe that’s one of the weightiest endorsements we can give to cloud computing. We don’t just “sell” it — we use it. Cloud has become an integral part of our business, not just because it’s our core service, but because it now underpins our own IT strategy.

So, what better way to illustrate a real world example of how cloud changes a business, than to take a candid look at how it has impacted on the fortunes of 1st Easy — the company I co-founded almost 15 years ago?

Let’s begin by looking at how our hosting operation looked a few years ago.

Back in 2010, our data centre was approaching full capacity: we had cabinet, after cabinet, after cabinet, full of servers to support our shared and dedicated hosting services.

We also had cabinets packed with equipment owned and operated by our colocation customers.

Lots of resource, using lots of space, soaking up huge amounts of power.

And of course, all of that physical hardware needed maintaining. A lot of manual (albeit technically skilled) work that my support staff and I needed to take care of. If we weren’t careful, we’d end up spending a disproportionate amount of time “keeping the lights on” at the expense of our more valuable work: looking after our customers and improving the way that we work.

That was life for a while — it served its purpose as a way of doing things back then, but it was an increasingly expensive and inefficient way of working.

We also found that the cost of space and power was steadily increasing, squeezing our margins and our profits. Quite aside from the fact that my staff and I have bills to pay, I also have a responsibility to our customers to maintain a healthy and resilient business.

A change was needed.

Our challenge as a business was threefold:

  • 1. Improve the efficiency of our business
  • 2. Stay relevant to our customers by providing new services
  • 3. Improve the standard of service that we provide

Looking back to that time, cloud was certainly viewed with a degree of cynicism in some quarters. While it had been around as a concept for some time, it was also very much a poorly-defined buzzword. “Cloud” had been seized upon as the “next big thing” and the answer to almost every business issue going.

Cloud to me though, meant a virtualised infrastructure.

A virtualised infrastructure that would allow us to consolidate the amount of hardware we deployed, and therefore, the amount of floor space we consumed in data centres.

Naturally, this would help to control costs: reduced data centre commitments, less hardware to buy and replace (capital costs) and less hardware to maintain, power and cool (operational costs).

What a fantastic advantage.

There were other benefits too: less of our time would be spent looking after our physical infrastructure, freeing up that vital time for us to work on our business and with our customers and adding value to what we do. We were improving our operation.

Meanwhile…

As we made that shift, our new virtualised infrastructure was improving the service that we were able to offer. The inherent resilience of a virtualised environment meant that our customers benefited from a more reliable service. In fact, we’re in the process of migrating our shared servers to our cloud environment at the moment.

We’re also able to offer instant provision of servers, and the flexibility for our customers to power up and power down virtual servers without committing to long term contracts.

Without cloud, that flexibility wouldn’t be viable for us, and wouldn’t be available to our customers. Our new found IT agility, has in turn transferred to IT and business agility for our customers.

And so, the flow of benefits passes along the line to other businesses too.

wipeboard_virtualisation

The investment in time, training and technology to build and support our cloud environment has been significant — probably the single greatest financial investment that we’ve made at 1st Easy. It has secured our future in terms of a viable business to run, and as business that will offer our customers the platform that they will need to compete with success in the years to come.

Yes… cloud was a great decision!

You’ve seen what cloud has done for our business. What could it do for yours? If you’d like to talk it through with somebody that has been there and done it, get in touch — I’d be pleased to offer my insight.

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