I’m moving. Not physically (we just did that a few months ago), but I’m coming to realize that the all-you-can-eat hosting model just isn’t where it’s at any more — hosting stuff at home just isn’t feasible either, what with residential IP blocks getting blacklisted for SMTP traffic and the like. This is the pivot that the cloud marketers would give their souls for to convert you on. Seems I finally have.
I had Small Business Server at home. It was a nice setup, Exchange, SharePoint & a DC, all with a nice front-end for remote file access. But why access files at home? I realized that the amount of times I actually accessed anything at home was drawing smaller every moment. Dropbox rules the roost for cloud storage and what do I really need when I’m away? Streaming movies? Listening to music?
My music library is replicated between home/work/phone via Zune, iTunes Cloud & Google Music. I mean, that’s the trifecta — and it should be. Music is important. Having easily accessible ways to access music is really important.
- Zune: absolutely fantastic. ‘Sync downloads’ is possibly the best feature in the service itself. Anything I download on any device can be synced to other devices seamlessly — plus all-you-can listen to downloads for $10/mo.
- iTunes Cloud: $25 for piracy amnesty? Who can argue that? While not the same service as Zune (no streaming of music you don’t own), it’s great since my company forces iPhones on us to keep from carrying music on the phone.
- Google Music: the long-term storage. Upload anything you like, up to 20,000 songs. Listen in the browser. F*n FREE.
- The ‘back in my day:’ Buy a server, get it racked in a colo somewhere and spend our national debt, conveniently divided up into twelve monthly payments.
- The ‘anything goes:’ Shared hosting. Share your IIS/Apache instance with thousands of other sites. It’s like the dirty ‘back room’ of a club, complete with requisite skeezy types — and also where you might meet:
- The ‘my startup is going to change the world:’ Virtual private servers. A step forward, but pricey, particularly for those lacking the skillset to setup IIS/Apache/your web server of choice.
- The ‘How the f*k do I turn this on?!’: Sites templated & resold through the freakin’ wazoo. Sites like Homestead or Intuit, which will give you the same set of boring templates they gave to every other business owner too busy, lazy or ignorant to invest the time in building a proper web presence. This is 2012 people — what’s the first thing you do when you meet someone new? Google. If I find your site and it’s the same thing I saw on every other person-in-your-field’s page, I’m going to move elsewhere.
Now. Enough of that silliness.
- Amazon. Amazon’s Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offering (EC2) is killer. Cheap, pay as you go and rock solid. As a good friend always says, ‘who actually uses their cloud infrastructure to run their own business? Amazon or Microsoft?’
- Microsoft: Azure is, well, Azure. It’s just like any other Microsoft product. Powerful in the right hands. If you can get past configuration & set up, it’s got some really strong qualities. SQL Azure is SQL server for $10/mo. Scalable, tolerant, reliable. Azure is Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) for now, but some of the newer offerings are starting to blur the lines…
- …which is my point. Amazon AWS & Azure are different. One is IaaS, the other PaaS, and now they’re both getting into the other side. Progress.
Think back, say, five years ago, to how you got software. Typically a CD, which went into a computer & ran some installer — that was that. Ready to go. Broke your CD? Sorry.
Digital downloads came later when we had better bandwidth than a 28.8k modem (the bits would fight with each other, it was just a mess). This was the first step to the ‘app store’ phenomena.
Steam did it wonderfully with their service. Front-runners. Innovative.
And really, it’s perfect. I’ve purchased some software. Associate the software to my account, rather than the device. New device = software’s back. It’s like ActiveSync for Apps. It’s truly perfect. Everyone does it — Apple (wildly successful), Google/Android (wildly successful), Xbox (wildly successful) and now, it’s finally headed to the desktop with the advent of Windows 8 (yes, I know that OS X Lion has an App Store, but using an OS with < 10% marketshare doesn’t implicate the kind of massive shift that an App Store for Windows does).
Windows 8 & Windows Phone 8 will share the same core. Know what that means? Truly cross-device application deployment. Code once, re-deploy — desktop/laptop, tablet & phone. It’s what the web told us it would be years ago.
I moved to Office 365 today. No more local Exchange, WSUS, SharePoint. The guts of SBS lay strewn about the virtual floor; most of it’s major components uninstalled. No longer a DC, it’s just a member server on an otherwise vanilla domain network — but I’m keeping it around for Remote Desktop Gateway. AD Federation Services makes it all feel seamless — SSO to the cloud. More about that in a later post.
Anyway. Back to the point.
Point is, embrace the cloud. Hone your skills. Get familiar & comfortable. It’s not going away; in fact, it will only become a larger part of what we become. On-premises deployments will go the way of physical software media. A fat internet pipe and a couple of local domain controllers is all you need to be an enterprise anywhere –no rent, no office, no desks. No phone beyond a cell phone & a soft phone. Employees all over, happy, productive, and lower cost for you.
Communication of the future.
We do business in the cloud — we get mail in the cloud, socialize in the cloud, even take calls in the cloud. So why do we still chain ourselves to different text-based communication protocols? If I want to find you, I have to know your email, SMS, which IM networks you’re on, all that. It’s ridiculous. Marinate on that. More on that later too.