Is Your Business Ready to Reach For the Cloud?

Technology buzzwords that depict recent innovations and popular trends are often misunderstood and/or misrepresented, which can hinder a general understanding of how the new technology could potentially enhance businesses.

Cloud computing is one of the latest buzzwords that falls into this category. What exactly is cloud computing? How can it help meet business needs? Are businesses ready to adopt this new paradigm?

A quick Google search on this buzzword resulted in over 47 million hits. Intimidating, to say the least. A typical business owner or executive may find it difficult to comprehend cloud computing and how it can help their business.

A basic understanding of cloud computing and the potential impact for businesses is a good place to start. Education is key, and trusted IT advisors can help business owners and executives sort through the confusion and determine if it is right for their business.

In simple terms, cloud computing is Internet-based computing, where access to servers, applications and storage is available for pay-as-you-go services. It doesn’t matter where the devices or software services are located in the cloud, only that businesses can access, manage and share the information on a secure basis.

Cloud computing is an umbrella term that includes hardware hosting, software hosting and services, storage services, spam filtering, application development services, web services and other elements. These services are available on a utility or subscription basis.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), a component of cloud computing, is a business software application that is delivered from a provider to the desktop browser via the Internet for a fee. Salesforce.com is a popular Customer Resource Management (CRM) application that is considered a SaaS.

Google Gmail is another example of SaaS. Businesses can use Gmail with their domain name through the Internet on a per-user fee, and requires minimal management and administration.

Many SaaS vendors are emerging to meet business demands, including Accounting/Finance, operations and ERP applications. SaaS vendors offer specialized vertical market solutions that offer businesses a complete suite of applications to run the business.

The strategic decision to move to this new IT delivery strategy should include a business justification and cost analysis. Potential options should be well understood, discussed and analyzed when developing an IT Strategy to meet business goals, and included if it makes sense for the business.

Business drivers to consider during an evaluation to move to cloud computing may include:

• Large mobile workforce
• Rapidly expanding business
• Limited IT resources with increased business needs
• Total cost of ownership.

Cloud computing is a transition from capital intensive investments to operational-based IT expenditures, and offers an attractive option for businesses. Instead of purchasing, implementing, managing and supporting servers and business applications, cloud computing allows businesses to pay-as-you-go with minimal initial investment.

Cloud computing is a means to efficiently deliver IT services to the business and can provide many benefits:
• Reduced IT costs – capital and operational resource requirements
• Increased reliability – high availability with Service Level Agreements
• Increased agility – scalable and flexible to meet changing business requirements
• Increased mobility – applications are available anywhere through the Internet.

On the downside, there are some concerns with cloud computing. Security and privacy are at the top of this list, as some businesses are apprehensive about storing critical business information outside of the data center. Standards are virtually nonexistent, and vary with each provider.

With all the buzz about this new paradigm, one would think many businesses are quickly jumping on the bandwagon. However, a Gartner analyst predicted only about 20 percent of businesses will migrate to the cloud by 2012, and concluded it may take 10 – 15 years for most businesses to make the transition.

A recent study by Microsoft Corporation revealed that many Small and Medium-sized Businesses are finding that cloud computing is a cost-effective means to access Enterprise-class applications to run the business. The report indicated that benefits included low cost entry, reduced IT management and support, increased business value and competitiveness.

Cloud computing is still in its infancy, but gaining popularity. Businesses should perform the appropriate due diligence to determine if this IT delivery strategy is right for them. Perhaps it is time for your business to reach for the cloud.

The Business Justification of Cleaning UP LSD 32 (USS Spiegel Grove)

According to the Reserve Fleet administrators at Key Largo, each decommissioned vessel costs close to 20,000 a year for upkeep and maintenance; and taxpayers pay approximately $1.6 million to send a retired ship to the scrap yard.

While Spiegel Grove was rotting on the “mothball fleet” on Virginia docks, dive representatives persuaded the U.S. Maritime Administration to transfer the title of Spiegel Grove at no cost! They obviously saw some tourism potential hidden behind the bleak demeanor of this decommissioned U.S. Naval vessel!

Proposition Offered by Key Largo Dive Representatives

Based on financial calculations done for cleaning, docking, and towing the ship back to Florida, the Key Largo town administrators quoted a whopping $1 million as an estimated budget for the job. They knew that once the ship was resurrected and repackaged as an artificial reef, it would not only create a booming tourism business, but will continue to generate enough revenues to clear the debts caused by cleaning of the ship. For all the concerned and affected parties, this sounded like a great business deal, with the promise for a thriving business model.

They also knew that an environmentally friendly clean up job and conversion into an artificial reef would help provide new homes for fish culminating in great monetary benefits for the Key Largo community, and a wonderful way to preserve the vessel’s naval heritage.

And were they right in their future projections! Anyone who visits Spiegel Grove today will experience the pulse of a booming tourism industry, including booming hotel and transportation businesses.

The Monroe County Tourist Development Council and private fund-raising efforts such as sales of commemorative, Spiegel Grove medallions helped raise funds to mitigate the negative effects of debt burdens on the State of Florida!

Growth of Key Largo since Spiegel Grove’s opening on June 2002

An estimated 45,000 diving excursions to the ship since June 2002 has pumped in $14 million into Key Largo’s economy, as per financial figures preserved in Key Largo Chamber of Commerce.

Revenues generated from the sales of medallions are expected to reduce bank loans for the sinking project. With $210,000 in costs remaining, chamber officials are happy with the progress made so far toward erasing the debt. More than 17,000 plastic dive medallions have been sold for $10 apiece, and almost 750 of 1,000 gold-brushed, commemorative medallions have been sold for $250 each.

As indirect beneficiaries of Spiegel Grove, the ever-growing boating, fishing, and water-sports industries have managed to earn enough business revenues since 2002 to offset the brief period of shut-down after Hurricane Dennis.

Whenever you plan to visit Key Largo, remember to visit this booming area around Spiegel Grove, now dawning in an era of new tropical ecosystem. Along with the ecosystem, you will also find thriving businesses all around.

CMMS – A Necessary Business Tool for Today’s Facility Manager

Facility Managers are responsible for what is typically the second largest asset and expense for most organizations – the buildings. Additionally, they have a direct impact on the productivity of the number one asset – its people. Yet, many facility managers do such without being properly equipped. One of the most, if not the most, important tool for a facility management program is a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS). The CMMS is the nervous system for a facility organization. It acts as the repository for building and equipment information and history, it assists in the management of various aspects of a facility program, and it is invaluable in assembling performance and budget data. Without a CMMS, most facility teams tend to be reactionary – essentially flying by their seat of their pants, which is very costly, unpredictable, and quite frankly a poor representation of the facility team and their skill sets. A CMMS can equip a facility manager with the necessary data to drive value-added, business decisions that resonate with the C-suite and communicates value to the other department managers; thus, a CMMS is A Necessary Business Tool for Today’s Facility Manager. Below are some of the key functions for which a CMMS can be utilized to better the facility management program:

  • Maintain Equipment Information – such as equipment operational & cost history, criticality/priority, specifications & service data, and relevant documents (e.g. service reports, O&M Manuals, drawings, installation documents, commissioning reports, calibration certificates, etc.)
  • Communicate System Hierarchy & Relationships – for example, associating equipment with processes or areas served and not just their geographic location
  • Establish & Store Maintenance Standards and Practices – including maintenance job tasking or plans and Maintenance Operating Procedures (MOPs)
  • Schedule Work Orders – providing opportunities to load level staff, coordinate seasonal activities, and project staffing needs
  • Conduit for Service Requests – provide a means for customers to submit and track service requests
  • Prioritize & Dispatch Work Orders – one of the most critical tasks in managing work order completion and staff utilization is effectively prioritizing & dispatching work; additionally, this provides an opportunity to communicate status of service to the Requester
  • Manage Work Orders Through Completion – most CMMS provide a means to track the progress of work orders and report on their status, timeliness, etc.
  • Document Important Work Order Information – it is imperative that a CMMS capture the costs associated with doing the work, such as labor hours and material used; additionally, failure codes, service types, and field notes should be documented in the work order
  • Provide Closure to Requesters – completion of a service request related work order should initiate an automatic e-mail to the Requester informing them that the work has been completed
  • Solicit Customer Feedback – as a service organization, facility managers are managing to the client’s perception; thus a facility manager must solicit feedback and track performance against the client’s perception
  • Facility Condition Assessments – schedule and document facility conditions, which are a necessary component of a Capital Renewal Program
  • Capital Renewal Program – a CMMS can be leveraged to implement a Capital Renewal Program by capturing and reporting system/equipment age, condition, replacement cost, and life expectancy
  • Analysis of KPIs – facility program efficiency and effectiveness can be monitored and improved through the use of data captured in the CMMS and reported as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

While many of the above functions involve daily operations, the data collected in these functions will be utilized by the facility manager at a more strategic level to discern program and team performance and to identify opportunities for improvement. With scheduled maintenance in place and a solid history of equipment performance and failure costs, an accurate operations budget can be more readily generated from the CMMS. Using a zero-based budgeting approach, leveraging data gathered from the CMMS, the facility manager can discuss the cost of service levels with upper management during budgeting time; thus, equipping the facility manager for negotiating budget, service expectations, and staffing requirements. Additionally, the capital budget and a respective 3/5/10-year plan(s) can be extracted from the CMMS, allowing the facility manager to put forward clear business justification for capital improvements and replacements. The consequences of deferring maintenance and capital expenditures can be shown to management further bolstering the facility manager’s case. Lastly, the tracking & reporting of facility program performance data can be and should be shared with management and stakeholders. The data can be posted publicly, promoting the value of the facility department to the entire organization. A manager’s ability to monitor performance, drive business decisions, and justify programs will be limited by the data they have available to them. Thus a CMMS is a required business tool for any facility organization. There are many simple, low-cost CMMS solutions available that are relatively easy to implement, especially with the right help.