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Flexibility flourishes in the cloud

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The move to the cloud was part of a longer-term strategic plan to allow for rapid growth. "We wanted to be able to scale up," Martin says. "In addition, we valued the increased security that would be provided by having CenterBeam's experts and a virtual private cloud." Chipita did not need to get new versions of the software it was using, but the licensing model has changed so that expenditures are now incorporated into a predictable monthly fee. "We were able to eliminate a lot of networking licensing costs," Martin adds.

The path forward

As a next step, the company is considering an offering called CenterBeam 365+, which includes Microsoft SharePoint, Lync and Exchange. "Traditional IT services do not add value and competitive advantage like they used to," Martin says. "They are now commodities. By having these functions in the cloud, we can focus more on analyzing our business intelligence, lowering costs and increasing top-line growth to support our core mission." With many of its applications now in the cloud, Chipita is also in a better position to leverage new technology such as mobile computing.

CenterBeam will be launching a new service that extends its endpoint management and security offering to smart phones and tablets. "People often want to use the same devices for work and personal use," says Karen Hayward, CMO of CenterBeam, "which means that business data needs to be secured, and then removed when the individual leaves." The business case for delegating that task is strong, Hayward believes. "Mobile device management is a distraction and does not add to the top line," she says, "but it can introduce risk if not done properly."

The range and flexibility of CenterBeam's services give its customers a wide selection of options in moving their applications to the cloud. "It makes sense for organizations to move to the cloud in different ways," she says. "For example, if it's time to refresh the server hardware, instead of buying new ones, they can move to virtual servers in the cloud." In addition, when all the IT functions are managed by one company, the customer does not have to contact different organizations to monitor network performance or obtain help desk support.

Cloud supports mobility

Moving to the cloud can work well for large and small companies alike. SoundView Advisors, a wealth management company based in the Seattle area, wanted to improve its IT management. With a relatively small staff but multi-office environment, the company also wanted easy access to its information resources from any location.

Faced with replacing expensive servers, SoundView Advisors looked to the cloud for a more comprehensive solution. "We were already using some SaaS applications and were comfortable with them," says Kevin Rigg, a co-owner of SoundView Advisors. "The big catalyst for making the change was cost avoidance for large capital outlays."

Through a colleague attending a trade show, Rigg heard about OS33, a cloud management company, and identified it as a good candidate to support its IT functions. SoundView Advisors quickly migrated its customer relationship management (CRM) software, office productivity tools and e-mail to OS33.

An important benefit is the ability to use any device to access corporate information. "Since the service is device agnostic," Rigg explains, "we have a lot of flexibility in what device we use to access the portal. Some of our employees use an iPad, and others have a MacBook. The freedom to use any device has substantially reduced our need for internal IT support."

Ease of use

The OS33 solution enables business customers to run all of their applications and IT from the cloud, accessible from a single Web-based interface, the OS33 Webtop. "For cloud applications and resources, OS33 tracks usage at a very granular level," says Jacob Kazakevich, president of OS33. Adoption has been broad, spanning many verticals, but especially financial services because of compliance issues.

The impact of consumer technology, seen in many other areas of knowledge management, such as social media, is also playing a factor in cloud solutions. "User expectations are going up," Kazakevich says. "They want the same ease of use in their work applications as in their personal applications.

User-friendly project management

Smartsheet is a project management tool in spreadsheet form. "One area of productivity tools that has never had a ‘killer app' is project management," says Brent Frei, executive chairman and founder of Smartsheet. "We wanted to provide the project management equivalent of the highly successful Salesforce.com CRM system, building our customer base from the grassroots level and available through the cloud."

With that in mind, Smartsheet developed a project management tool in the popular spreadsheet format. "We found that spreadsheets were the most frequently used software for project management because everyone knew them, and they could be sent around by e-mail," says Frei. "But they lacked the ability to do many of the things that would be useful in project management." Smartsheet incorporates such functions as discussion threading, GANTT charts and dependencies that automatically change the contents of a cell based on input from another cell or application.

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