Situation: You think "the cloud" could be a solution for you, but you're still not sure...
Recently, we spoke with Scott Chapman, the President and CEO of Project Hosts, the leading provider of online Project Server, SharePoint and CRM solutions, with Microsoft competencies in Project and Portfolio Management and Hosting. Scott has been a market leader in cloud-based Microsoft applications since 1999 - so he really understands the ins and outs of "PM in the cloud". With the following interview questions, we wanted to give you a feel for what you should be considering when you are thinking about moving to the cloud. If you have more questions and happen to be in Phoenix in two weeks - Scott will also be speaking at the MS Project Conference 2012. His session is entitled, Going Online with PPM - What You Need to Know.
Q. When you talk about faster and less costly Project Server Deployments online, what's really driving the speed of implementation and cost savings? What are you giving up in return for those advantages when you compare it to a more traditional implementation?
A. Hosted deployments lead to faster implementations by avoiding three main roadblocks commonly encountered in onsite deployments: i) procurement delays in acquiring new hardware (or software), ii) delays to approve software for deployment (often requiring IT to have the training to support it), and iii) security delays in granting consultants the access they need to configure a solution. By avoiding these delays, online environments become operational more quickly, saving money through more effective and efficient project and portfolio management. Online environments also save money by allowing customers to only pay for what they need – starting small and scaling as needed.
The main things that customers give up in an online PPM environment are i) data being inside their corporate firewall, ii) integration to their onsite Exchange server, and iii) automatic corporate authentication. Some organizations will not consider online services in the first place, simple because their data would reside outside their firewall. But many organizations are OK with hosted project management information as long as the hosting provider has the correct security certifications (e.g. SAS70, ISO 27001, PCI). Although email alerts from Project Server and SharePoint work from online services, the Exchange integration that allows a user to update Project Server tasks from within Outlook does not work when connecting online PPM to onsite Exchange. Although it is possible to integrate online authentication with a customer’s corporate Active Directory, it does involve some customer IT work and is not automatic like in an onsite deployment.
Q. When do you have issues with security in the cloud? How do you ensure your PPM data in the cloud is secure?
A. Security is (and should be) the number one concern of most cloud customers. Many customers have their own checklists, assessments, or surveys that ask all the questions they need answered to ensure the safety of their data. Others use standard checklists like those for ISO 27001 or FISMA (Federal IT standards). It is important to make sure that a cloud service provider has had their security audited by a third party and to be able to see the results. Some customers will even perform their own audits, which may include penetration testing (ethical hacking) and other verification techniques.
Q. What do you give up in terms of customization with a cloud based solution vs one onsite? Can you give some examples?
A. If the cloud based solution is restricted to shared servers, then there are typically quite a few restrictions on customizations: One typically cannot add 3rd-party applications or custom webparts, and it may not even be possible to develop custom workflow or certain types of BI reports. If the cloud based solution involves dedicated servers, then the above-mentioned customizations are possible, but there may still be limitations with integrations to onsite resources where the integration requires everything to be in the same domain (e.g. Exchange integration to Project Server).
Q. What are the licensing challenges that you need to be aware of as you integrate your PPM cloud implementation with all of the other MS applications that are present in most organizations?
A. If a customer provides their own licenses for a cloud solution (to reduce hosting fees), the customer will need to remember to account for those licenses along with their onsite licenses when they do periodic licensing “true-ups” with Microsoft.
| Situation: You need an easy personal backup solution...|
Our lead article today by Michael Wood, SafeGuarding Offline Data , made me think about a service that I tried out a few weeks ago, called Carbonite. For those of us who have no network or portable back up solutions that work well, this is worth a try. If you'd like to read a review of Carbonite - Michael Arrington does a pretty complete one. For some interesting thoughts on the future of online data storage, Jeremiah Owyang's blog is worth a look.