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Interview: From Exchange 2003 to the cloud

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Interview: From Exchange 2003 to the cloud

On April 8, Microsoft will end its extended support for Exchange 2003 mail server and a fifth of businesses that still run Exchange 2003 will need to make a move, or face the obvious security risks that come with having out-of-date software.

Using its expertise as a Google Enterprise Partner, Ancoris aims to help its clients innovate in business, provide better employee engagement and improve customer experience as the software's end-of-life nears.

TechRadar Pro speaks to Ancoris Managing Director David McLeman to find out how it plans to do so.

TechRadar Pro: A fifth of businesses are still using Exchange 2003. Why do you think businesses have failed to upgrade?

David McLeman: For many businesses upgrading from Exchange 2003 has not been seen as a priority because, as an email server, it just did the job and through the recession companies have been focussed on "sweating" their IT assets beyond the normal replacement cycle.

Many have delayed their migration decision as the upgrade has been seen to be complicated and expensive; due to the need to upgrade servers and operating systems to provide a 64-bit architecture to run Exchange 2010 if staying "on-premise". With the end of support from Microsoft, companies are now being forced to make this investment or consider switching to the cloud.

TRP: Will businesses see this as an opportunity to review their IT strategy?

DM: Given the complexity and cost of the upgrade, many businesses are using this forced move from Exchange 2003 as the springboard to adopt cloud computing as a whole new approach to IT.

Although Exchange 2010 offers new features, easier administration, improved security and support for larger mailboxes compared with Exchange 2003, there's no single compelling financial or business benefit in staying with an on-premise implementation.

By contrast, moving to cloud-based email and office applications offers a wide range of benefits that will have a significant impact on both the cost of operation but also potentially changes the ability of businesses to innovate, collaborate and become more efficient.

In fact, according to a survey carried out by specialist technology market researchers Vanson Bourne, 94% of CFOs believe cloud computing is crucial to the ongoing success of their businesses.

TRP: Can cloud-based office applications really help companies to innovate?

DM: A study by the Future Foundation found an 81% correlation between innovation and collaboration and that employees who are given the opportunity to collaborate at work are more than twice as likely to have contributed new ideas to their company.

TRP: Much of the rhetoric around cloud computing is about 'changing the way we work'...do people really want to change the way they work?

DM: The personal productivity tools of the last twenty years - such as word processors and spreadsheets – dramatically changed the way individuals worked. But today, the way we work has changed again and the old personal productivity tools no longer meet the requirements of the modern office.

For some businesses the choice may be to move the servers to the cloud and replace like with like, selecting Microsoft's cloud offering Office 365. For other businesses, the fast-paced, global environment requires us to collaborate in real-time with colleagues based in other companies and other countries, outside traditional working hours, whether we're in the office or on the road.

Young people, the internet natives, are now coming into the workplace and expecting to use "social" tools — such as chat, video conferencing and concurrent editing — to carry out this kind of collaborative work, wherever they are.

The new generation of cloud enterprise communication and collaboration tools such as Google Apps for Business enable us to work in this new way and collaborate effortlessly. There is a short-term impact in terms of user change but the benefits of real collaboration and ability to use any device outweigh this.

TRP: You mention devices. Have they been a driver in the adoption of cloud-based office productivity tools?

DM: Research company Gartner reported that 4Q13 global PC shipments suffered a 6.9% decline from the fourth quarter of 2012 - this is the worst decline in PC market history. At the same time, it reported strong growth in tablets such as iPads being used to access company IT systems and at Christmas the Google Chromebook was the best selling device on Amazon.

From our experience of working with companies who've moved to Google Apps, we know that users want to have freedom of device choice, whether that be PC or Mac, smartphone or tablet. The mobile workforce of today wants to be able to use instant-on devices to access docs and email an doesn't want to be tied to the traditional PC.

Google Apps, for example, was designed from the outset to be device-independent and work with any browser. This gives users access to the full range of collaboration and innovation tools from any device, making it easy for them to switch between devices as they work. This allows the IT department to keep control of who has access while giving users the freedom they need.

TRP: What about security? Is the cloud as secure as on-premise?

DM: Major, high profile regulated institutions like London Borough of Hillingdon, Spanish banking giant BBVA and global pharmaceutical company, Roche, have all moved to Google Apps. It's clear that the cloud is passing due diligence exercises for even the most security-minded organisations.

Data stored in the cloud is subject to the strict security and backup regulations and the cloud vendors security expertise and resource exceeds the vast majority of normal businesses. With cloud computing data loss is minimised if a user's computer crashes, is stolen or is damaged in a fire or flood as there is little or no data held on local PCs.

TRP: What do you think is the most compelling argument for moving to the Cloud today?

DM: In the early days of cloud computing, companies made the move for technical reasons. It offers reduced IT cost and improved security whilst being highly available, scalable, and mobile.

However, whilst it does indeed provide a low maintenance platform that is secure and cost effective, it has also been a massive game changer for businesses particularly in terms of improved efficiency, productivity and collaboration.

With 80 percent of users found to use only 20 percent of an application's features in Microsoft Office, innovative businesses are already questioning the functionality and efficiency of their traditional IT desktop.

The cloud offers organisations the opportunity to rethink the way the work; true cloud platforms encourage innovation and can help transform organisations and even culture through automation of business processes by combining mobile apps and devices, collaborative tools and shared data in the cloud. Our Google Apps for Business customers all agree that today it is not about the technology, but how to best use it for commercial and competitive advantage. Isn't it what IT should all be about?


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