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by Jed Hewson, director 1Stream

If you were to ask a roomful of IT professionals what the cloud is, and whether businesses should move some (or all) of their processes to the cloud – you are likely to get a diverse range of answers. For me, cloud computing is simply using files, applications or services over the Internet – and it’s crucial.  The benefits are numerous. Costs are cut (by up to 40% or more), businesses become more agile, more scalable and more efficient.

It’s no wonder that the market is becoming increasingly competitive. But one has to wonder why companies are entering and exiting the cloud space so rapidly, with only a few that stand the test of time.

If we look at the cloud “giants” – Facebook, Amazon, Dropbox, Salesforce – they were the pioneers in the field. All of them were, as many of their CEOs put it, “born in the cloud”. They were the ones who entered the market in the early days of cloud, and they’ve firmly secured their position there. There is, after all, something to be said for mastering the learning curve ahead of everybody else.

I’ve seen it in our industry, time and time again. There is no such thing as an “off the shelf” hosted platform – it requires time and skill and true mastery. Many companies simply attempt to sell a cloud-based product that they’ve cobbled together, but they lack the knowledge and understanding that comes from pioneering a solution. They become “box-droppers” that simply drop the minimal on-site equipment needed to operate the remote system, along with basic instructions…never to be heard of again. I’ve even seen companies outsource the training needed to run a system. My question is that if they can’t train you, how will they support you?

If I had to narrow the key to cloud success down to a single factor, I would have to say that it’s time. We spent years developing solid technology to ensure that the offering we were taking to market was complete and in full working order. Once we had established that, we could then focus on efforts on garnering new clients. If you are doing it the other way around – focusing on sales, and neglecting the development – you will soon find that you have to spend your days fixing bugs and adjusting the product.

The problem with any technology is that it looks simple. For us, as we’ve matured, our offering has become a commoditized, defined product. We can roll out, configure and deliver a simple solution in a very short period of time. This does not mean that the product has become simplified or easier to duplicate. And it certainly doesn’t mean that we spent less time serving our customers – they still need the same levels of support now as they did six years ago.

I can compare it to the early days of the automobile. When cars were still a novelty, everyone who bought a car had to hire a chauffeur to do their driving. The reason was because the car would often break down, and a chauffeur (who usually had mechanical training) was needed to get it up and running again as well take care of the regular maintenance required. Nowadays, everyone can drive their own car because the complexity of it has become abstracted from the user – but behind the scenes, the engine is still extremely complex. It is exactly the same with businesses. We make sure that our products are easy to use – but we still retain the knowledge of all the complexities that go along with them. It’s the key differentiator of every hosted company worth its salt.

Likewise, we know that the companies we serve require effortless efficiencies. Just like we buy a car and expect airbags, air conditioning, seatbelts, electric windows…businesses want increasingly complex “added extras” as a standard part of any package, and we need the technical prowess to install them on demand.

Success comes from knowing your business and the technology inside and out. We find that providers who have the right experience are trumping big businesses when it comes to service delivery and expertise.

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