June 29, 2016
IT departments are famously asked to do a lot with a little. Enable communication across continents, support applications, and make sure the network stays afloat at all times. These items are a challenge for large-scale enterprise organizations and small-to-medium sized businesses (SMB) alike. The difference is that the SMB has a much smaller budget and a much smaller team.
It can be immensely difficult to maintain an in-house data center with a limited staff. Then when the team tries to expand capabilities, implement a new application, or strive to improve the efficiency of the organization, it often requires additional hardware considerations that only add more maintenance responsibilities to the IT department.
Ten years ago, this was an inescapable problem. More applications meant more hardware. Yet today, the power of the cloud enables companies to access sophisticated applications through a web browser. It is called Software as a Service (SaaS), and through these types of programs, an SMB can both escalate its productivity while escalating the efficiency of the IT department.
SaaS Applications for the SMB
- Cisco Spark:
Cisco Spark is a new collaboration tool from Cisco that provides companies with a new way to work together. Users create a “Spark Room” which serves as a complete project hub hosted in the cloud. Team members can upload files, videos, chat, share screens, and work through project details from any device, anywhere, and at any time. The entire history of the Spark room is saved and readily accessible for new team members to catch up or existing members to quickly reference. Furthermore, Spark can even integrate with many Cisco phone models and serve as a cloud-hosted voice system.
- Microsoft Office 365:
Just about every company in the world uses Microsoft Office. From Macs to Windows, Office tools are as common as the internet itself. On the IT side, this means that the team must maintain and support the Microsoft Office application on each individual laptop or computer used throughout the company. Updates, troubleshooting, and version upgrades become a taxing responsibility. Microsoft Office 365, as a cloud-enabled application, is no longer tied directly to the device. Now employees can access their Microsoft profile from any device, at any time, and anywhere.
- Nimble InfoSight:
Nimble Storage is a hybrid and all flash storage developer, and their all flash storage arrays are connected to InfoSight. Every Nimble flash array connected to InfoSight is constantly feeding information to this central cloud-based data engine. With performance stats on thousands of arrays in thousands of different circumstances, InfoSight can provide the internal IT team with a wealth of information. It provides troubleshooting assistance, repair advice, as well as predictions for when data generation is set to exceed capacity. Using InfoSight and the cloud, an IT team can greatly reduce the support time devoted to maintaining their storage solution.
Honorable Mention: Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
Though not a cloud application, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solutions, like those provided by VMware and Citrix, deliver to the SMB many of the same benefits as Microsoft Office 365. Instead of the Office applications centrally located and accessible from any device, the entire desktop operating system is abstracted from the laptop or PC. With this technology, the IT team no longer needs to devote attention to PCs individually. Desktop updates can be applied to the entire company from a single, central location.
Act Like an Enterprise: SaaS Cloud Apps
The availability of information, the refinement of computer networks, and the development of the cloud have enabled small tech startups to disrupt entire industries. The same is true for any SMB. Today, the barriers of creation are far lower. Any company can access powerful cloud applications and act like an enterprise organization. Those applications above are only a small few, but tools like Google Docs, DropBox, and Basecamp are unprecedented in business and unlock unlimited potential.
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