Sunday, 19 August 2012

Microsoft Exchange Migration to Google Apps

Businesses still running Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 are perfect contenders for migrating to Google Apps for Business. The cost of upgrading your out dated server hardware, the purchase of new backup systems, the licensing costs of Microsoft Windows and Exchange, and don't forget the service fees required to perform the upgrade makes Google Apps for Business an easy decision.

"Google Apps for Business at US$50 per mailbox including 25GB of storage each is very compelling"


Google Apps for Business offers very good integration with Outlook via the free OutlookSync application. This allows Outlook to continue to perform the same as it did with Exchange. Your email, calendar, contacts and tasks are kept in sync with your off-site Google copy in the Cloud.

Most of our customers stop using their outdated Blackberry and start using iPhones and Android phones that offer excellent integration to Google Apps. The iPhone uses the Exchange Sync application available on the iPhone to sync your email, calendar and contacts. So now your Outlook, on-line Gmail and iPhone are all in sync. Read a message on your iPhone and it will show as read in your Outlook. In addition your calendar will now send you an SMS reminder each time you have an appointment!

So if you are considering a Microsoft Exchange upgrade, think again. The benefits to your company are great if you migrate away from a premise based server to Google's Cloud based server. No upgrades will ever be required again! And you will always be using the latest technology and be protected at all times against spam and viruses.

I still debate the value of stop using Outlook. I am very confident about the value outsourcing the email server to Google brings to a business owner, but if users like Outlook and prefer not to change then you can have a completely new system without making a huge change or impact on your users. Over time you can explore the benefits of using the browser client.  Many of our users use Gmail as their private email client so have no issue using Gmail in the office. So we leave this option open. I would estimate 75-80% of your value comes from migrating to a Cloud server, an additional 20-25% will come when everyone can leverage the functionality of Google Apps that is only exposed via the browser. Those who stay using Outlook will never be able to progress past where they are today; 2003. The true collaboration benefits only come with use of the browser however staying with Outlook as a first step works very well for most of our clients.

"staying with Outlook as a first step works very well for most of our clients"

Migration of Exchange to Google Apps

We have performed many migrations over the past few years. We have good tools available to migrate the Exchange Server, in the background, to the Cloud without any downtime. The size of your Exchange data store will determine the time it will take to upload all the data to Google's Cloud. In some cases this may take 1 or 2 weeks. Where no data is stored in Exchange and the users have all their email stored locally on their PC, then the process is more distributed so instead of doing a server side migration a client side migration process must be adopted.

Where you have 2-3 Exchange servers it is possible to migrate a single server at a time. And even within a single server, it is possible to take groups of users and migrate them at your own pace.

So there is no reason you should delay your Cloud adoption. Exchange 2003 is now 10 years or more out of date. Move your organisation forward and stay up with the latest technology for only US$50 per user.

Cloud Solutions is a Google Reseller and Consultant in Hong Kong. Singapore, Malaysia and Philippines.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Cloud Computing Adoption in Asia

Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong are leading the adoption of Cloud hosted email and collaboration SaaS applications. However our observation is Singapore is now a head on the number of companies adopting Cloud.

Our observations come from direct enquiries to our company with most now coming from Singapore. We believe this increased demand is a direct result from the Singapore Government offering businesses based in Singapore a 400% tax deduction for all Cloud related services, including training. This incentive along with the cost savings associated with the Cloud has driven many small and mid-sized companies to consider and then adopt cloud computing.

In Hong Kong we believe the driving factors to adopting Cloud computing include:

  • reducing IT costs, including office space and salaries
  • reduce the reliance on 1-2 individuals in the IT department 
  • inability to attract or access quality staff

Other issues include using the latest technology in their business for competitive advantage as well as sharing data with China based staff without the traditional costs associated with private networks. 

While we do see some IT managers holding back their company's move to the Cloud, once we engage with business owners directly, there is no doubt their objects are in line with the benefits offered by the Cloud and we see the company quickly adopting Cloud.

With Hong Kong businesses having close ties to China it is important to work with a platform that can work in China. One Cloud suite that works is the Award Winning Business Suite from Zoho. This includes Zoho CRM, Zoho Database  Creator and Zoho Email.

While the Hong Kong office may benefit from full access to Google Apps and Google's mobile platform, the staff working in China may simply need to co-ordinate production with the factory or the sourcing process so simply having an email and chat enabled CRM application works and is all that is needed. This keeps everyone on the same page. Where large design or graphic files need to be shared a Cloud based file server such as Egnyte, allows files to be accessed from a central system or synchronized between several locations.

We have a number of clients now operating their Hong Kong and China offices in the Cloud. For the small business owner there has been no technology in the last 20 years, apart from the Internet, that has helped share information more cost effectively than Cloud Computing.

Where should a company start when adopting Cloud Computing?

This does depend on a number of factors and to some extent the size of your business. For example, a larger business may be able to adopt a Cloud based CRM system for their sales and marketing team without a lot of time or money.  Whereas the migration of Email would be a corporate wide issue and more planning and work may be required. For a small company, Email can normally be done quickly and requires minimal planning and re-training of staff.  On-line backup can also be added with no major impact on the organisation.

The key idea here is to identify the business application that makes your business better or more competitive. Focus your IT spend on this application. If you don't have one then it is time to think about getting one!

All the "need to have applications", like email, word processor, spreadsheet etc simply use SaaS apps. These applications do not make your business any better than the next company so spend the minimum on these but of course make sure they are reliable. So Google, Microsoft and Zoho are leading providers. 

Once you have sort this then look at moving all that data you currently have in Excel files to a database application like Zoho CRM. This will help you manage your leads and customer information and then automate much of your sales processes. Where you have developed a complex line-of-business application consider placing this in a private Cloud where all hardware and infrastructure is rented. Adopt on-line backup.

Finally consider moving your desktops to a virtualised private Cloud. Great benefits in reducing IT support and costs while improving overall security.