by June 1, 2011 0 comments

To be absolutely frank, we have considered the option many times and have given it up every time. And it is not as if we do not run applications on the cloud here. We do, and many of them. Applications and services we run off the cloud include some fairly intense ones like Human Resources, Sales Management, Editorial work flow among others. But like I said, office apps are something we gave up after testing, at least for the time being.

To my mind, cloud based office suites are best suited (pun intended) to small groups working out of one office or to large offices where you can ensure quality of connectivity and service levels. Most Indian medium businesses fall somewhere in between and cloud based office suites do not fit their needs.

To understand why we did not go the cloud route with office apps, you need to first understand our business setup. CyberMedia operates from 11 different locations in India and Singapore. These range from one office having just three people all the way to our corporate office having about 300. Needless to say, the availability of IT infrastructure across these offices varies depending on need. To take an example, Internet bandwidth varies from low-end DSL plans to multiple lines of double digit megabits coming into the same office with automatic fail-over, QoS and the works (and by the way all this is remotely managed from the corporate office by a small team of three and a half people!)

There are two very basic differences between the usage pattern of the cloud based apps we currently use and office suites. The apps we currently use from the cloud are used only by some percentage of the CyberMedia team or only for a small percentage of the time. The sales management application is used only by the sales team, while the editorial work flow is used only by the editorial teams. The HR application is used by all, but only intermittently. On the other hand, an office suite will be used by all employees, all the time.

The second difference is that all functionality of a locally installed application is available in the cloud hosted sales, HR or editorial application, while many functions of locally installed office suites are not available with cloud based office apps. A small but significant example for this is in spreadsheets. Many of our teams use complex macros and pivot tables with spreadsheets. Cloud based office apps have not yet reached the ability of handling these.

When we talk of using cloud based applications, there is one key ingredient that no one talks about — Internet connectivity. Consider an office full of employees using cloud based, always on office apps. Providing bandwidth required with assured QoS and automatic fail over becomes critical for this to be successful. Now consider doing this across offices of all sizes and for dessert, think of employees on the move who connect to the Internet using the ubiquitous data cards. Unfortunately, the story of the quality of Internet connectivity in this part of the world is not yet what we want it to be. If you do not believe that just watch the number of times Gmail says it is experiencing problems in connecting to the server from your home Internet connection.

For a brief period pricing did enter into our calculations. But now the price of cloud based offerings have come down to “affordable” levels.

And finally comes the question of support. While all cloud operators promise email support and even telephone support, our experience in real life experience has been vastly sobering to say the least. Forget the fact that we operate a lean inside team, for something as critical to business as Office apps (strange, right? But true nevertheless) waiting for ever at a support forum for resolution of critical issues — like service not available or feature not working is not going to work.

To summarize, we are not into cloud based office suites because of functionality differences as well as Internet connectivity and support issues.

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