By incorporating Cloud strategies into a mid-sized company ($10 Mill – $99 Mill in revenues) lowering Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) can be achieved and a substantial Return on Investment (ROI) can be accomplished.  To provide solid rationale for the use of the Cloud any Cloud Service Provider worth their salt should be able to produce a simple TCO/ROI calculation highlighting the financial benefits of this approach in less than an hour.  If you know your current IT labor costs, hardware expenses (and depreciation), process expenses for Disaster Recovery (if you have a DR plan), and the cost of software purchase and maintenance, it should be reasonably simple to calculate the equivalent with a Cloud Services model.  When looking for these types of services, if you cannot get to this summary quickly, you may want to consider using a different Cloud Service Provider.

You should however be aware of the fact that asking your Cloud Service Provider to take on all of your Information Technology (custom applications included) could possibly reduce your ability to produce a positive ROI.  Why you might ask?  Because every custom application or custom process you ask your Cloud Service Provider to take on will result in a higher across the board monthly fee.  This is because custom application development and maintenance requires the Cloud Service Provider to hire sole purpose engineering resources for your business and your business alone.  The old Managed Service Provider (MSP) model caters to this way of doing business.  And you better believe you will pay a premium to be treated as a “one-off” customer for custom services and custom application maintenance.

The way to balance the cost effectiveness of a Cloud Service solution versus a fully custom MSP approach, is to start with applications, data storage and DR that are more likely to be shared across multiple businesses.  This will allow your service provider to maximize the utilization of his datacenter and provide you with a much lower cost of doing business.  You should then concentrate your efforts on the maintenance of your own custom applications or better yet, look for ways in which to migrate the custom applications to something more generic that can be sourced from a Cloud Service Provider.

Unlike application consolidation, single device deployments are literally unachievable.  End users want the ability and flexibility to work on multiple devices (Desktops, Laptops, Tablets and Smart Phones).  This generally causes an unwieldy support problem as each device (including mobile devices) will have their own operating system and application licensing issues (i.e. software designed for Windows 7 will not run on an iPhone or an Android device).  For years large service providers have been battling this problem in the mobility space by attempting to utilize Java as the base platform for development and operation.  Unfortunately Software Developers do not often create workable software clients for all of these disparate operating systems.

Taking all of this into account, you need your Cloud Service Provider to take this problem on.  Your end users need the ability to access any of your core applications from any industry standard devices (including Laptops, Netbooks, Tablets and Smart Phones).  The applications must also be secure and perform as robustly as they would if they were loaded on the native O/S they were designed for.  In other words, the user experience should be the same regardless of the device being accessed.  Web based applications alone cannot achieve this so be weary of service providers who give you a bundle based on a “web app only” approach.  Your users will revolt when they experience performance degradation from what they are accustomed to at their local desktop.

Citrix has been in the business of providing ubiquity of service for disparate devices across multiple networks for a number of years.  With the development of a “universal client” we call Receiver, Cloud Service Providers using Citrix technology can meet all of your heterogeneous environment requirements for applications and disparate devices with disparate operating systems.  And because we’ve also developed the software to provide what we call a High Definition User Experience (HDX) on any device regardless of the network, you can access your core business applications without having to worry about a myriad of support calls from users on mobile devices in remote locations.

This allows you to focus on the business of your business and take advantage of the many different devices available today in the market.  It also future proofs your purchases in the event that you decide to switch from one hardware platform to another.

There are many “me too” clone Cloud Service Providers in the market place today.  Make sure when you are ready to make the choice to go Cloud, you ask specifically for a Citrix Service Provider.  Here’s a link to find one in your area.  Click on Hosting Providers when you get there.