It’s assumed that the further a business is from metropolitan areas and cheap broadband, the more likely it is to avoid cloud services. But this assumption has been overturned in parts of Queensland where businesses as far north as Townsville are ditching their servers for cloud software.
Brisbane-based cloud services company Rype has found plenty of customers willing to give up their Exchange server for Google Apps and their file server for Box, a cloud storage and collaboration platform.
BoxFreeIT asked Rype founders Chris Chadwick and Michael Davis and strategic director Tony Chadwick why businesses were retiring their own servers for cloud software.
BoxFreeIT: What are the most typical IT problems in regional areas?
Michael Davis: The number one thing is people still using POP mail (where email is downloaded to your computer). A lot of people switch from Managed Exchange so they know what they’re getting with Google Apps (where email functions in a similar way).
Businesses generally have very antiquated hardware, especially the servers. They might keep using a server for five to seven years, and at that point they’re running out of space on the server.
The most expensive component is backing up properly, and that’s why no-one does it. A proper backup requires multiple versions and off-site. Plugging in an external hard drive isn’t backup.
With Box it’s all backed up in the cloud. If people want to back up the cloud on-site it’s easily done.
BoxFreeIT: Is internet in regional Australia too unreliable for the cloud?
Chris Chadwick: I find that because there aren’t many people using (broadband networks) I find it really fast. Every time I go to Mackay or Townsville it’s faster than we get here (in Brisbane).
Davis: Especially in Queensland with all the mining industry. The infrastructure is a lot better than what people think it is.
Their server nearly floated down the Merry River during the floods over Christmas.
BoxFreeIT: You said the cloud can be more reliable than an office server. How?
Davis: We were out to switch a company to Google Apps and someone dug up a cable and blacked out all Eastern Brisbane. The generic argument against the cloud is that you need the internet, but the flip side is it doesn’t matter how you’re connected.
The office was offline and the email server was down so email sent to the company was bouncing. As soon as we flicked over to Google Apps they started getting their emails. They couldn’t see it but at least it was still getting delivered.
If your email server doesn’t get email at all that’s worse than not being able to access Google Apps.
BoxFreeIT: Tell me about a regional company you have moved to the cloud.
Davis: A good example is a 30-person environmental company in Mackay (1,000 kilometres north of Brisbane). Initially they came to us to replace their Exchange server with Google Apps.
But they also had a real issue distributing information to their people around the region. They had about half a terabyte of data because they have a lot of geospatial information. People come to with all these issues and you know you can fix it all in one go. “Our VPN doesn’t work, our Citrix server is too slow over regional connections.” Box will fix it for you.
BoxFreeIT: How much did it cost to replace the server with Box and Google Apps?
Davis: Their director told me it would save $85,000 over three years. The savings came from three areas: hardware, licensing – that’s the big one – and maintenance. It was costing them $600 a month just to look after the server.
Chris Chadwick: A fully functional collaboration solution like Box for 33 users is $600 and for Google Apps it’s another $200 a month. The initial set-up and implementation costs for were $4,000 including training.
BoxFreeIT: What about smaller regional businesses. Are they moving to the cloud?
Chris Chadwick: Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Association has six users on Google Apps and Box for $190 a month.
Tony Chadwick: Their server nearly floated down the Merry River during the floods over Christmas. That made them realise they needed to do something. They looked at getting a new server with a UPS, external HD and licence fees. The cloud option was going to save them $20,000 to $30,000 over three years.
BoxFreeIT: Why have you recommended businesses build their cloud platforms on Google Apps and Box?
Chris Chadwick: The reason we packaged Google Apps and Box was they were the key components for moving a business to the cloud. One was to solve email, calendar and mobile needs, but you needed to have storage in the cloud.
Google Drive has got a lot of momentum since then but the security components of Box and the ability to integrate with Google make it a much better platform.
The authentication processes, the auditing, security and usability on a mobile device was far greater with Box than anything Google has. I still believe it’s the best solution.
BoxFreeIT: But Google Drive now does a lot of the same things Box does.
Davis: There’s a different philosophy between how you share data between the two systems. Box’s sharing model is very similar to how people use shared drives. (Box adds a “drive” to a user’s computer that looks and works like regular networked hard drives.)
People don’t get the way Google wants you to work – that my files have to be shared to appear in other people’s folders.
Chris Chadwick: Also Box has a customised look and feel. If I were to share a file with you it comes up with the Rype logo and custom branding which is quite powerful.
Some of the options for setting expiration dates, locking files, granting access to hierarchical structures is very important and it’s very easy to use.
Image credit: Rype. Rype staff member with client from Logan Council.