Yesterday was my last presentation on the UpdateFinland Roadshow. Our presentation was called Working in the Cloud and I basically used Zipipop as a case study of what it means to be a company running its day-to-day operations almost entirely through web-based services, i.e. the cloud.
My aim was to introduce the subject as simply as possible (see presentation at the end) and I know that I managed to convert some to the benefits of cloud-based IT; although I feel it's going to need a good deal more advocating to get Finland floating on upwards into the cloud en-mass.
There are undeniable benefits in costs, productivity, and improved work environments that will definitely give early-adopters a head start. All the big players (namely Microsoft and Lotus) have, or are working on, cloud-based enterprise solutions; however, Google seems to have taken the initiative with over 2 million businesses and 7 million students already using Google Apps solutions. And in the US they have even started to take the message out into the physical world with billboards.
Google has also upped the ante considerably with last weeks opening of the Google App Marketplace — an iPhone App Store business model but with a focus on business apps. And this is exciting for developers around the world, since it opens up a level sales channel using a proven business model; and we are now considering placing our App Engine-based Zipi Web Builder service there after it has been polished up.*
Google just announced that, alongside a dedicated Lotus migration tool, they now have Microsoft Exchange migration. So reasons not to jump in (or up?) are rapidly diminishing. And for startups the question is a no brainer. For most SMEs, the internet banking level (SSL) security used by Google Apps is more than sufficient, although I appreciate some very large organizations have unique and important concerns regarding data storage.
But with the new server farmers being opened up around the world, it would not surprise me that, in the not so distant future, you will be able to choose the location where your data is stored and backed up — which would should placate some European laws regarding the movement of data.
(Update 19 May 2010: Google can already guarantee that some data is stored in Europe and they have also agreed to parts of the European Safe Habour Agreement* for data handling. Also the further Google has to move data in regards to the user the more it costs them – therefore it is most likely to go to the nearest server farm; which in Finland will shortly be the 200+ million euro sever centre in Hamina.)
However, hosted services are already very popular with Finnish students (particularly Google ones: Gmail, Docs, Calendars, Sites, Blogger, etc) – so it is only a matter of time before they demand more collaborative IT environments and start to influence IT decisions within businesses.
It has been a great experience getting to know some of the Nordic Google Team and it was interesting to have the opportunity to slightly adjust my presentation over the three days to try and align it better with the attending audiences (mostly middle-aged SME owners and employees). I guess the X, Ys and Digital Natives don't need any more convincing and already have their heads in the cloud — even if their employers are not quite there yet. But if you are stuck in a organization with outdated and expensive systems, please do try to convert them — and please do send them in our direction if you need any help doing so ; )
However, it looks like I've also managed (fingers crossed) to sell some social media marketing work, so we will continue to be very busy with that while we actively encourage people to Go Google and build up this relatively new side of our business operations (which we are selling under our ZipiTools banner).