Take it to the Cloud!

Written By: Josh Behl

from February 10, 2012

Let me paint you a picture:

A consultant (let’s call him Bosh Behl..to protect the innocent) preparing to do a 4 hour workshop on Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 for a room full of his customers arrives early onsite to ensure that he can connect to his CRM Hyper-V environment. Before he left the office, it was working wonderfully! He gets onsite, got an internet connection, dials into his network via VPN so far so good. But wait! When he tries to RDP to his server he can’t even see it! What will Bosh Behl do? Well I he took it to the Cloud <insert the ‘ta da da da’ music here>. With super-hero like agility he goes to www.microsoft.com/crm, signs up for yet another free 30 day trial of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Online, reconfigures his Outlook client to sync with that new organization and—TaDaaaaaaaaaa! Debacle averted.

Sounds like a Microsoft commercial doesn’t it? Well it could have been! A scenario where connecting to your network is just not possible because of any number of reasons is not an uncommon thing. Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 and its availability in the cloud enabled me to more effectively do my job today! Is a move to the cloud right for you? Well it depends on a number of factors; however, the practical nature of being able to connect to a CRM environment quickly and easily was one benefit that I experience firsthand today. Not convinced that Cloud computing provides you value. Well let’s paint another picture for you.

A young lady was sitting at a conference room table listening to the very talented consultant who we’ll call Bosh Behl (name of course changed to protect the innocent) talk about all that Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 has to offer. Mr. Behl goes on to talk about what you need to do to start preparing for your upgrade. The young lady, after hearing about all sorts of information on 64 Bit this and 64 Bit that wonders to herself, “I have CRM Online.  I wonder if the purchase of 64 Bit servers and 64 Bit software applies to me? That sounds like a lot of investment and time!” The lady raises her hand and asks, “Do I have to worry about buying new servers because Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 requires the CRM server and the SQL server to be 64 Bit?” Answer: “Nope!” Encouraged by the answer she asks, “What about the software, do I need to buy or upgrade to SQL 2008 or other 64 Bit software for my CRM server and SQL server?” Answer: “Nope!” The young lady puts her pencil down, pushes the tablet of paper away from her where she was feverously scribbling down notes, and lets out a sigh of relief. Why? Because when you buy Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Online, you no longer need to worry about server hardware and software upgrades. Microsoft handles all that for you. Now imagine a big smile on her face.

In all seriousness, is the move to the cloud right for you? That is hard to say with 100% certainty. Factors such as your current IT strategies, growth plans, policies, and corporate culture all have valid impacts on this decision. That being said, it is important to realize that the Cloud and/or Microsoft’s Azure Platform (which is the Microsoft implementation of Cloud computing) is not a flash in the pan, flavor of the week. Microsoft has shifted large portion of its developers and marketing efforts to Azure/Cloud related efforts. For those who keep a pulse on Microsoft trends and future direction, one only need to get insight into what the bulk of their developers are currently focused.

For each company out there, I would personally encourage you to take a moment to understand some of the basics behind Microsoft’s Azure Platform and its offerings (www.microsoft.com/azure) and then contact a Microsoft Dynamics Partner to begin a conversation around where you could begin as an organization to walk down this path. You may start with Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, Exchange Online, or perhaps SQL Azure. You don’t need to be all in. You can also do it piecemeal if that suites your company better. Think you are too big or too small for it? Consider this blog article from the White House blog (http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/05/13/moving-cloud). Vivek Kundra, the U.S. Chief Information Officer, writes, “Recovery.gov is the first government-wide system to move to the cloud. The move is part of the Administration’s overall efforts to cut waste and fix or end government programs that don’t work. By migrating to the public cloud, the Recovery Board is in position to leverage many advantages including the ability keep the site up as millions of Americans help report potential fraud, waste, and abuse. The Board expects savings of about $750,000 during its current budget cycle and significantly more savings in the long-term.” Other examples of a move to the cloud involve the USDA’s move of 120,000 users to BPOS in late 2010 (http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2010/dec10/12-08usdacloudpr.mspx?rss_fdn=Custom). Yes, that’s what I said, 120,000 users. You say, “Well that’s all fine and good but I’m a small business. I’m certainly no USDA with 120,000 users”. There are countless testimonials for companies that utilize the Cloud or Azure in their day to day business with great success. Anywhere from the 1 person shop looking for a way to track leads, accounts and contacts and to integrate it with Outlook all the way to large government agencies that need a cost effective way to provide mail, SharePoint, and Live Meeting capabilities to all 120,000 of its users. There really is a place for everyone at the proverbial table when it comes to the Cloud. .