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Cloud services can save you money -- if you're careful

Nancy Gohring | March 14, 2013
Determining whether using the Cloud will pay off is an extremely complicated process.

The hosted service also allowed the university to boost the size of student inboxes. "What we were able to offer to students when we hosted email on site was minimal at best," he said. "With the move to the cloud-based email, students now have enough email storage to meet their needs."

Ferguson studied what it would have cost to adopt the latest version of Exchange and upgrade storage capacity to match what was offered with the hosted Exchange, and he estimated the additional annual cost would have reached $100,000. Instead, by moving to the hosted version, his costs remained flat, while gaining functionality.

Just say no -- even temporarily

Northern Kentucky University is in the midst of a transition to using virtual desktops rather than physical computer labs and has been turning down vendor offers that just don't make sense economically, with hopes that still-to-come products and pricing models will eventually meet its needs.

The university decided to approach the project in "baby steps," by running the virtual desktop software on premises with the idea of transitioning it to a public cloud later, says Tim Ferguson, CIO for Northern Kentucky University.

Around 18 months ago, the university did trials of the virtual desktop software from a few vendors, all hosted in-house. The software's performance didn't meet expectations and neither did the price, so the university declined to implement any of the vendors' offers. "They were surprised. We said, 'Here it is in black and white. You'll cost us more money. The ROI is not good enough. Come back to me when you can solve it,'" Ferguson says.

When Northern Kentucky University first attempted to move desktop virtualization to the cloud, the ROI wasn't there, says Tim Ferguson, CIO at the university. "We said, 'The ROI isn't good enough. Come back to me when you can solve it," he says.

Since then, the university has deployed VMware's View virtual desktop software in-house and is about to start trials running the software on Dell's public cloud, and possibly others. Ferguson expects to have deployed all of the university's labs as virtual desktops hosted in a public cloud by 2014 or 2015, and to be saving around 30% over current costs.

The university closely tracks costs in order to be able to present current expenditures to vendors. For the virtual desktop project, Ferguson knows how many staff members support the current implementation, what the hardware costs and how much work it takes dealing with software patches. He also knows usage peaks and valleys, an important issue for a university and one that could help it save money by moving to a public cloud.

This data is extremely important when working with potential vendors, he says. "If I clearly articulate what it costs today, if they can't save me money, why do it?" he says. "If you can't articulate that, it's kind of hard to ask a vendor to do something for you."


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