Cloud computing is company's silver lining

Cloud computing is company's silver lining

With just a two-man IT team, Mr Nigel Lim is always looking for ways to do more with less.

Early this year, Mr Lim, 31, assistant IT manager of food manufacturer Adeka Singapore, needed more IT resources to run the company's food-production system. But the same IT resources had to be shared with Adeka's compliance and e-mail systems. Cloud computing, he figured, could free up more IT resources and solve his woes.

So, in February, he migrated the company's Exchange e-mail server to Microsoft's Office 365 cloud-based productivity suite.

Cloud computing refers to Internet services that provide businesses with IT resources on demand. This allows companies to focus on core competencies and grow their businesses without having to invest huge amounts of money in IT. The cloud service providers take care of software upgrades, data back-up and other IT operations, usually for a monthly fee based on the number of employees in an organisation.

With Office 365, Mr Lim's team no longer has to install software updates on the company's e-mail servers or routinely back up data. That has also allowed the team to respond faster to spikes in demand for IT resources, say, during an audit, when more data is generated.

For starters, the company is sticking to Office 365's Exchange Online e-mail service, which has been well-received by its 50 employees, he said. "They use it to access their e-mail messages through the Web browser, as well as on their smartphones," Mr Lim said.

The reliability of Microsoft's cloud services is also a key draw for Adeka. Before the shift to Office 365, power outages would cause the company's Exchange e-mail servers to break down occasionally.

"Investing in UPS (uninterruptible power supply) units would be costly, so we decided to shift the servers to the cloud," Mr Lim said.

The use of cloud computing also made sense because his management would not accept even a couple of hours of downtime while the power was being restored, he added. Plans are under way to roll out other Office 365 applications, such as SharePoint, a document-sharing tool.

"SharePoint can be hosted on the cloud, but the company has chosen to run the application on its own servers. He explained: "Our management is still quite sensitive about putting documents that contain proprietary information, such as recipes, on the cloud."

In the next three to five months, the company will introduce to its employees other applications, including Office Web Apps, the online versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Office Web Apps will be useful to sales employees who may need to edit documents quickly on the go, he said.

Meanwhile, the company is enjoying the newest versions of applications, such as Microsoft Word and Excel. The applications are bundled with Adeka's Office 365 subscription, which costs US$20 (S$25) a month per employee.

Mr Lim said: "When we were using Office 2003, we faced issues with reading new docx files created by our customers using Office 2007.

"With access to the latest versions of Office, we won't have those problems any more."

aarontan@sph.com.sg

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