If you manage a business, there comes many a time when things simply need updating. Perhaps it’s improving a process, upgrading a technology or even training staff.

It’s a classic business conundrum – when do you act? You might be experiencing a minor inefficiency, but the initial investment of upgrading is often a substantial barrier.

Bentleys’ NSW office recently grappled with this problem. Faced with aging in-house servers, we chose to move our entire business to a private hosted server solution.

Results from our recent Voice of Australian Business Survey indicate we’re not alone – a record 28% of small to mid-sized businesses plan on investing in technology this year. If you’re looking at a particular technology, private hosted server or not, this article is designed to help you learn from our experience and think about the following questions:

  • Are privately hosted servers really a cheaper alternative?
  • If you take cost out of the picture, what do you want to achieve?
  • What steps should you take to ensure data security?
  • How will migration impact your business?

Do private hosted servers solutions = cheaper?

For many businesses, the switch to a hosted solution is often made simple by a clear financial benefit.

However, our initial evaluations immediately threw a spanner in the works – there was no clear cost advantage when compared to refreshing our in-house servers and equipment.

Further research indicated that the conventional wisdom surrounding private hosted server solution costs is something of a myth. This could just be for our particular scenario – but be sure to research this for yourself.

Do you have a strategic rationale?

As there was no clear cost advantage, this necessitated a more rigorous assessment of the benefits.

For Bentleys NSW, the resounding imperative was to future proof our computing requirements, while providing a reliable, scalable and standardised user experience for all staff – irrespective of their location or device.

As well as this, private hosted server solutions provide superior disaster recovery plans (DRP) and data backup processes.

Likewise, maintaining license compliance for a plethora of software products is problematic – some providers can take responsibility for all licensing requirements.

Is your data secure?

When it comes to any type of server technology, a key concern is data security. More specifically:

  • Where is your data stored?
  • Who owns your data?
  • How safe is your data?
  • What happens if your provider goes out of business?

These questions were of critical importance to us, particularly regarding client data and business continuity.

You should take considerable time to completely understand these matters. We took comfort in our provider’s expertise, use of Tier 3 data centres, protocol around data mirroring, and an assurance that data will never be sent offshore.

Despite this, we also sought contractual protections around access to data, IP rights and financial stability – which were then reviewed by an external subject-expert lawyer.

Are you ready for the switch?

It’s important to have your entire team on board whenever you instigate change of any kind. There will always be teething issues, so clearly communicating why the change is being made is vital to making it through the initial period of difficulty.

We made fanfare about the decision to move to a private hosted server solution, resonating pent up demand for modern technology and to better support clients.

Don’t underestimate the time it takes to migrate – it took us 10 weeks from contract to completion. Our provider handled most of the heavy lifting, however decisions need to be made about the look and feel of the new environment, as well as coordination with software vendors.

You should also plan for unanticipated issues, as they will almost certainly occur. We faced issues around software compatibility – meaning we had to make relatively quick decisions about upgrades or alternatives.

We also saw impacts to ancillary products and services such as printing, scanning and digital document management.

Our transition was conducted over a weekend, with most users having base functionality on Monday morning. The first week was difficult, with specific issues being handled by our provider. Now, three months after completion, staff are satisfied with the new experience.

The big picture

Operating with a private hosted server solutions provides Bentley’s NSW Office with consistency, flexibility and scalability that could not be replicated with an in-house environment. We can now serve clients with the most up-to-date technology enabled infrastructure available.

If you’re thinking about upgrading your server solution, make sure to consider many of the questions here and research your providers. While the process is not simple, it is definitely becoming more crucial to the future success of many businesses.

About Jeff Chamberlain and Bentleys

Jeff Chamberlain is Chief Financial Officer of Bentleys – a national association of independent accounting firms in Australia. They’ve assisted many legal practices navigate the complex ecosystems of taxation and technology.

As a mid-tier accounting, audit and advisory firm, Bentleys gives you access to over 60 Directors and 400 experienced advisors across 10 office locations in all major Australian capital cities, New Zealand and some regional areas. To learn more visit Bentleys