Intranet in the cloud

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You’ve probably seen the term, or heard it bantered about by geeks, or maybe your head is in it; you may not fully understand the term “cloud” or “SasS” (software as a service) or perhaps just think its another catchy marketing term. The “cloud” refers to cloud computing that, at the risk of over-simplifying, is simply hosting: computer, server, software, and other hardware and infrastructure hosting. You’re already a cloud customer, probably many times over (someone is hosting your email, website, blog, etc). In fact, nearly two-thirds of Internet users use webmail services such as Hotmail, Gmail, or Yahoo! Mail (hosted email in the cloud).

In short, hosting is provided as a service over the Internet. SaaS is simply hosted software that could include your website content management system, search engine, CRM (Salesforce.com), etc. The cloud is merely a metaphor based loosely on those computer network diagrams that so cleverly depict little computers with wires running between each other, servers, firewalls, etc.

I was recently pressed on the subject of a “hosted intranet” and why an organization shouldn’t outsource their intranet to “the cloud.” God forbid we let
professionals who know what they’re doing maintain our second-rate, after-though, cost-center of an intranet!
It is baffling to me that the intranet isn’t hosted externally for more organizations. Well, I’m well versed with clueless executives with knee-jerk reactions around “security”, privacy, and “the way things have always been done” but I guess I’m naive to have faith that more would start to embrace the 21st century. If these dolts can Facebook then surely there’s hope, right? The biggest obstacle blocking the migration of more intranets to the cloud is culture and fear of the ‘unknown’. If the host has proper security does it matter if it’s hosted elsewhere? We do our banking online now, we can’t access the intranet over the Internet?! Most of our benefits and compensation systems are now hosted elsewhere in the cloud – we’re talking about people’s pay,
insurance and benefits!

In fact, if it costs me less money and I don’t have to worry about the maintenance then you better believe I choose hosted – and I have told clients the same, let someone else host your intranet. It’s one of the reasons the “cloud” is expanding so fast. It would be 10 times the size if people would just get beyond the knee-jerk reaction to have everything in-house where it costs more, and probably enjoys less security than the top of the line firewalls that many hosts employ.

The downside to avoiding the cloud can be far more expensive: I have one client (identity protected) who spent well more than $2 million on a new intranet design and platform and it crashed in the first few minutes, never to go live again because the organization didn’t have the proper infrastructure. One-and-one-half years later, the intranet is still not live. This would never have happened had it been turned over to a host. Instead, millions of dollars have been lost, and countless thousands of employee hours.

Has your organization embraced the cloud, or are you wasting valuable time and skills on hosting and maintenance?

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