Cloud apps have clear benefits for end-users

New Zealand organisations are embracing the cloud

ACC subsidiary Catalyst uses the cloud primarily for its in-house claims management systems (CMS) and Microsoft Office.

It previously used the same software connected to a central server, but the applications were only available in the office.

CIO Sean Cross says remote access was needed, but a web-services based system did not offer sufficient performance and interactivity.

It chose OneNet to offer cloud-based systems, reducing the need for inhouse staff. Hardware costs were also reduced because Catalyst now uses thin clients as opposed to Windows-based desktops.

The company also has flexibility, allowing staff to work from anywhere there is an internet connection.

Cross says implementation was gradual across the whole company, taking three months during 2006.

There were some serious internet connectivity problems at first with one client, but that was soon resolved.

Hardware and bandwidth upgrades ended performance issues and now Catalyst is looking to replace its CMS with a web application hosted at OneNet.

Looking back, Cross says he would have gone directly to outsourcing rather than keeping servers and support staff internally.

But IT management would remain within the business rather than be outsourced.

Cross also would have picked "better' outsourced companies, saying OneNet is the best of three Catalyst has used.

“Cloud services place all your eggs in one basket. While we have far fewer problems, the ones we have now affect more people,” he adds.

AuPairLink uses Microsoft’s cloud offerings, with applications including Exchange, SharePoint, Live Meeting, office communications online, Xero and InfoCare.

Director James Robinson says a scattered workforce means remote access is essential for non-technical staff.

GoogleApps was originally used, but was ditched due to formatting issues with Word and Excel, a poor online document sharing system, a lack of true mobile integration, as well as a lack of local support and user training facilities.

Microsoft Online avoids a need to buy a server while it allows remote access and is flexible, allowing users to be added or removed.

“Cloud-based computing offers sheer ease of use and accessibility,” Robinson says. It is also easy to share information internally and staff don’t feel isolated.

The implementation last December with partner Kinetics went well as it "did everything". The system has since had few issues and little downtime and user acceptance has been good. Microsoft support is also "better than expected".

AuPairLink is now looking to implement a more advanced CMS and database system, as well as allow customers to control some of their information.

GoogleApps showed the cloud was the right path for the company, but a good local partner is essential for implementation.

Robinson says the cloud allows businesses to focus on their core competencies.

“I think with cloud-based computing, the traditional IT department will need to evolve to ensure they keep their jobs,” he adds.

Fronde hosts TwoSecure in the IBM cloud for its customers.

Fronde GM Craig Eades says hosting this service in the IBM cloud reduces its overheads, while it upgrades its software.

The cloud also provides an alternative environment for Fronde customers, as well as a consistent environment the vendor can offer its customers.

IBM was chosen because Fronde recognised it as a brand able to deliver secure robust and scalable solutions to customers. IBM also offers a flexible pricing structure.

The system was deployed six weeks ago and implementation was smooth. The software has performed well and is comparable to a localised environment, Eades adds.

General Cable of Christchurch uses cloud-based services to replace a cold standby DR with Infrastructure as a Service from Revera.

This re-engineering of its business continuity capacity also has accelerated recovery times from days to hours.

Infrastructure and operations manager David de Cuevas says his company can now run "mixed mode' disaster recovery and select the applications it wants to enliven for remote access.

The IaaS model also allows General Cable to specify its own business continuity requirements.

“We can turn it on and off, add users, expand access. It really doesn’t matter. That is the beauty of a service-based offering. I can turn up and say, ‘I only need two units’ and then spec it up depending on continuity requirements,” he says.

Revera’s model, de Cuevas adds, is flexible, allowing use to change as the business grows.

Fashion design company Pod uses Appserv managed services for a range of applications including its ERP business application (Microsoft Dynamics Ax) and all its Office applications, including Exchange and Outlook, plus payroll.

The company’s CAD system, however, remains inhouse as the ‘fineness’ of CAD means it has to be kept on a local PC.

IT manager Jonathan Bird says Pod decided technology was not a core business so it outsourced such work, also believing it to be cheaper and promising better service.

“We are tapping into the technical resources of Appserv, which is far superior to what we could expect from ourselves,” he says.

Switching the data from old servers was a challenge, but by working closely with Appserv it was a painless changeover.

Now, the Pod IT department can focus on business process — as opposed to delivering software, and Bird himself no longer has to worry about WAN management, security, backups and spam as that is all done for him.

Recently, Appserv installed a warehouse management system and it is looking at a cloud-based email service, plus adopting salesforce.com for sales staff.

Bird describes Appserv as a "semi-cloud" company who have removed much complexity from his business.

“It is important I continue to have a good relationship with them. I meet fortnightly and share ideas. You cannot have a successful implementation without building that important professional relationship,” he adds.

Unleashed Software offers online inventory software and uses cloud-based systems from ISP and datacentre provider MaxNet.

Using a local supplier allows Unleashed Software to offer inventory management as a SaaS, something used by hundreds of its existing Xero customers.,

It uses GoogleApps as well, also supplied through the cloud.

Director Greg Murphy says the cloud allows much mobility. Integration through salesforce.com means you can be on the road and never far from your schedule.

Installation was easy, despite some changes in business processes.

Maxnet also offers virtualised load balancing, which allows scalable cloud solutions. Maxnet also promises high availability, cost effectiveness and being local support and hosting also helps.

“Don’t be scared of the cloud,” Murphy advises.

“You don’t need a $20,000 server to support your building. Put everything in the hands of experts.”

Gaming machines services company Gaming Inc uses cloud-based email, customer service and pricing systems supplied by LayerX.

IT manager Paul Andrew says LayerX took care of everything, allowing ease of use and implementation of applications over the past few years.

Having remote offices means using the cloud is better than having many VPNs.

Having such services outsourced also means Gaming Inc relies on a company that knows what it is doing.

“They are fantastic to deal with. You don’t get excuses, you get solutions,” Andrew adds.

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