That's a great line from one of my favorite television shows, Scrubs. Elliott, one of the main characters whines that in response to some request made of her. Maybe you've heard that in your own organization? The truth is that sometimes, bringing technology in-house doesn't make any sense. But that doesn't stop you from wanting it, right?
During my presentations, one of the things that I talk about quite a bit is "infrastructure optimization" or IO. The ideas behind IO are quite simple, really -- reduction of redundancy, central management, and automation can drive the efficiency of your organization through the roof. Imagine, for instance, that you have several people who perform manual tasks of some type on your servers -- they don't even have to be the same tasks. Now, think about how much time they spend each month performing those tasks -- running that report, changing those settings, etc. Using Powershell to script those tasks and turn them into scheduled tasks means that the time those people spend on those monthly tasks is now freed up for them to do something else... theoretically, something more in line with driving the business forward.
New technology is no different than these repetitive tasks. You have to weigh the up-front cost of the hardware and software, but you also have to look at the back-end costs: who is going to support it? How much time will that chew up out of your already understaffed department? Do you even have the expertise in-house to be able to support it? This is where the decision of on-premise versus hosted needs to be made. When you are looking at new technology, one of the first things to look at is, "Is there a hosted solution?" It might not be right for your business, but it is certainly worth knowing. Quite frankly, in many cases, a hosted solution is exactly what you need.
The benefits of a hosted solution are numerous:
How Do I now if a Hosted Solution is Right for Me?
This, really, is the easy part. Look at the functionality of the on-premise solution. What is it that you need it to do? Now, look at the hosted solution -- does it provide all of that functionality? If so, then it is a direct match-up, feature-wise. Now, you just need to ask yourself a few other questions:
Now That I've Decided on a Hosted Solution, How Do I Know Which Hosting Provider to Use?
Don't misunderstand now -- I am not suggesting that I just swayed you to throw all of your servers up on eBay and go 100% hosted. This is merely the "what's next" section if you do decide, based on that set of questions above (and any others you come up with -- feel free to add a comment or send me a mail and let me know of questions I missed. I'm sure there are some, but I'm crammed onto a plane right now with a flight attendant making goo-goo noises at the baby sitting across from me, so it's a little tougher to think than I would like) to go with a hosted solution for the particular product you are considering. Obviously, a lot of companies exist who provide hosting services. My advice would be: do some research. You wouldn't just run out and buy the first server that you saw for sale online to host the solution on-premise, so don't do that for a host, either. Check out their credentials, as you would with any other partner/vendor. Some things unique to a hosting partner that you may want to consider:
Ok, so that last one is a little biased in favor of us. :) I had to throw it in there, though. You could have someone else host your Exchange environment, or your SharePoint environment, but quite frankly, why would you? Now that Microsoft has entered the hosted services business, why go with a different host for one of the same products we offer? This may be me being a shill, but listen to my reasoning before you decide -- we're hosting products that we wrote: SharePoint, Exchange, Office Communication Server, LiveMeeting, etc. Since we wrote them, we know how to support them. And, we have a direct line to the actual engineers who wrote the code should we need it. If you were running your own Exchange server, for instance, and ran into a serious problem, you might end up having to call Microsoft. When you do, they might have to dispatch an engineer to your location to actually work on the problem on-site. (Yeah -- that really happens. Those people are called ROSS engineers, which stands for Rapid On Site Service, I think, and they're pretty amazing individuals.) Essentially, this would be the level of service you'd be getting all the time. Anything goes wrong and wham! There are some engineers working on the problem. Where else are you going to get that kind of support?
I had anticipated going into the Microsoft Online offering, called Business Productivity Online Suite, but I just realized how incredibly long this post has already gotten. So, in the sake of brevity (if it isn't already too late for that), I'll save that for another post. In the meantime, you can check out our offering here.