A Question of Flexibility: What Can You Take into the Cloud Service? – Part 5

From security to compliance to disaster recovery to location, I’ve delved into some common concerns and misconceptions about the cloud. There are just a couple more that I’d like to talk about – issues that are poorly understood but are important considerations for life sciences companies considering their cloud options.

By Dawn Waite, Manager, Life Sciences in the Cloud

In some instances companies have been confused with the difference between cloud and SaaS (software as a service). It’s an important distinction for several reasons, one of which undoubtedly is the flexibility to bring your existing licenses into the service. If you’re trying to get the business to move to a cloud environment, you want to know you can make use of an existing investment or, at the very least, you want to know what concessions you’ll get if you aren’t able to move your licenses.

Cloud blog 5 licensing

There are two elements to this: the first is your licensed software and the second is third-party products.

A Matter of Licensing

There is the potential that if you move into a cloud environment you may end up paying for licenses you already own, with that payment now embedded into a monthly fee. However, you can move licenses into the cloud without incurring that additional cost. If keeping your licenses is a priority, you want to ask your cloud vendor if you can take those products into their cloud environment and if so, will there be a charge. Ideally there shouldn’t be, but it’s something you need to ask up front.

In a traditional SaaS environment, however, you wouldn’t get that flexibility because you are paying for use of the vendor’s products as opposed to the ownership of licenses. That’s because the whole premise behind SaaS is that the system is configured for multiple clients of which you share a portion. So with SaaS, you do need to understand that you’ll lose the investment you’ve made in licenses. That’s not necessarily always a negative, and in some instances those different functionalities SaaS provides might be more suitable for you, but it’s something you need to understand, and you need to know what you’re getting in return for losing those licenses.

The flip side, of course, is that what appears to be a good deal might not necessarily be as advantageous as you thought. For example, we did an exercise with a client who had found what appeared to be a cheaper solution elsewhere, but that solution didn’t allow them to move their licenses and had slightly reduced functionality. When the client realized that CSC allows companies to move licenses without any additional cost, it turned out that being able to retain their licenses, and keep the high level of functionality they always enjoyed, would result in a less costly solution overall. It’s a matter of weighing what makes most sense to you both in terms of investment and flexibility, and working in partnership to gain the best solution.

Third-Party Connection

An even more complex piece of the puzzle is third-party software, such as Sharepoint. If you own third-party software you can ask approval from that vendor to transfer those licenses into a different environment and, depending on how they were purchased, some vendors may allow this. For example, Microsoft has a formal agreement – Microsoft License Mobility Service – that specifically allows products that fall under that agreement to be used anywhere. It doesn’t cover all Microsoft products, but for those products within the agreement – of which Sharepoint is a prime example – those licenses can be moved without having to get permission from Microsoft.

That flexibility is a primary consideration for some companies. For example, when discussing cloud options with a client recently, the fact that they own Sharepoint licenses for their global operation was a central consideration, since the ability to incorporate these licenses into the cloud environment would let them leverage an existing investment, thereby lowering additional expenses.

Once you have that approval from the vendor, the question is can you find one with the bandwidth to accommodate that third-party software? Certainly if you’re going into a hosted environment or SaaS environment in particular, that’s unlikely because most SaaS organizations have infrastructure made for them and their products, which is how they derive economies of scale. They don’t have the capacity to include a client’s supporting products within that service.

Hosting Additional Products

Another important consideration is just what will you be allowed to take onto the cloud with you. While several vendor organizations provide a cloud solution that supports their full software set and allows you to move those licenses freely, more often than not they aren’t able to host products they don’t own.

For customers with supporting products, that means multiple environments need to be set up with different vendors or alternatively some products will need to remain on premise.  While this might not be an issue, it does mean that IT teams have to support an environment that they had also wanted to outsource.

For example, we have a customer who wants to be able to host their bespoke EDMS system in the same environment as their CSC publishing tools. We are able to look after all their infrastructure along with our software in a single environment rather than the client having to worry about having their publishing tools and EDMS system managed separately. It removes the added stress by having one location on a cloud platform managed by one vendor. This lets the client concentrate on more complex IT projects and removes the day-to-day maintenance cost of on-premise systems plus future hardware refresh costs.

It’s worth asking your vendor whether they can support not just the infrastructure, but also the product set – including third-party solutions – and the compliance. These are components that many companies either don’t think about when considering cloud or assume aren’t an option, but could well be important to your overall business flexibility.



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