Do we even need to say that we’re in an age of digital transformation? Those companies that haven’t yet started to think digital first are truly lagging behind their competitors (and the rest of the world), and yet even with a digital mindset there is a lot of fear of the cloud: Who owns it? What happens if you terminate your contract? How vulnerable is it to hackers?
"Cloud Fear" tends to send businesses running back to earth towards the safety of an on-premise intranet,” writes Clare Wilson in SocPub. She says security is cited by 66% of IT professionals as their biggest concern about cloud computing, and that extends to the reluctance for a cloud-based intranet. But Wilson argues that the security question is misunderstood.
“Today, most businesses are migrating their applications and data to cloud-based solutions which offer them a more reliable and cost-effective alternative to on-premise,” she writes. “With infinite storage available, the cloud meets the demands of today's fast-growing organizations. On the other hand, on-premises solutions require greater investment in terms of hardware, ongoing maintenance and capital investment of infrastructure for companies.”
Wilson quotes a LogicMonitor survey that predicted more than 83% of enterprise workloads will be on the cloud by 2020; if your workload is cloud-based, it follows that your intranet should be too. So how do you convince the IT leadership that this is the only way to be?
Your business case for a cloud-based intranet
To make your case to the powers that be, it helps to talk in their language. Intranet Connections argues there’s only three significant differences between the two options - pricing, IT capacity, and mobile needs - but we’d add in the need to consider your company culture and team collaboration needs.
Here’s five compelling reasons for a cloud-based intranet, and how they contrast to the on-premises equivalent, to help you build your business case.
1. The up-front costs equation
One of the biggest decision drivers when it comes to intranet investment is the budget one - naturally, and especially as the Internal Communications budget is usually miniscule, and you need to partner with IT and often HR just to make this intranet thing work. The budget factor can cause your project to be stalled in talks at upper levels for eons. Here’s why: it’s stupidly expensive.
An in-house, on-premises intranet can place a huge burden on internal servers, many of which will need upgrading, licencing or replacing. Then there’s the cost to install, the cost to run, the cost to maintain, the cost to support. You need to have staff on hand who understand the system, which may mean training programs. And one thing that’s not often factored into the cost equation: electricity. How much power will your infrastructure suck from the system? And how environmentally-friendly will that look in your CSR report?
Add all of this together and your installation and running costs in year one can just keep climbing. With a cloud-based intranet, however, you have one monthly cost usually on a per-user or tiered basis, plus nothing up-front and no running maintenance or patching to worry about. It makes financial sense to outsource the upkeep and opt for a cloud-based intranet.
2. Infrastructure investment locks you in
Sometimes company policy, compliance issues or general stuck-in-the-past-ery means you don’t get a choice; you have to ditch your cloud-based dreams and take the on-premises route. The thing is, though, not only does this involve a huge outlay up-front (see point one above), but it also totally locks you into whatever system you opt for at that time. And in this age of rapid technological advancement, do you really want to be the company stuck on Windows XP when everyone else is talking to Alexa?
Because of the initial outlay, any investment in physical on-premises infrastructure to power your intranet and Internal Communications must be in it for the long haul. This is the intranet you will be using for at least the next five years, if not more, and you need to make sure it’s fit for purpose. Will it still be fit if your IT department is patching holes in a few years’ time?
With a cloud-based intranet, someone else handles the maintenance, the upkeep, the security - all those things that you’d have to do in-house if you invested in the infrastructure yourself. That leaves you to focus on your Internal Communications strategy, your essential IT support (no more comms manager panics about a suddenly-missing intranet section because they pressed the wrong button), and basically getting your digital workplace running as best it can.
3. A question of space
Oh, and those servers you’d have to buy, that infrastructure you’re investing in, all of that will need a home, on-site, somewhere in your office estate. And this comes at a time when your office managers and operations department are considering best workplace practices for the next generation, in a world where more and more of us are not office-based and where companies are increasingly shedding their estate portfolio.
A server room and the sort of IT infrastructure required for a new on-premises intranet don’t just need a desk in an out of the way corner; they need entire specially-equipped rooms with climate control and constant monitoring. A cloud-based intranet, however, needs no space at all – just a decent wifi connection and the ability to log on from a laptop or mobile device. Someone else gets to worry about the right temperature for a demanding server room.
4. Consider your workplace culture
Arguably, your decision about a cloud-based intranet should be driven by your workplace culture. There are actually instances where an internal server option will work best – for example, in companies where all employees are based in one office, or where security is of paramount importance and the CTO needs to have quick access to any part of the IT infrastructure.
That said, more and more companies are headed towards a digital workplace that prioritizes real-time collaboration, cross-team working and breaking down silos. An on-premises intranet can act as a barrier, a way to perpetuate the silos. The cloud-based intranet, on the other hand, is built for that very purpose: transparency, openness and authentic communications are the building blocks of a cloud-based intranet. Your workplace culture will lean towards either one of these, and therein lies your answer.
5. The freedom to move
Sometimes the CTO cites the ability to manage and maintain your own servers as the reason behind a cloud-based reluctance. And that’s fine, y’know; each to their own. But as we said in the previous point, more and more companies are moving towards an open and transparent digital workplace, and in doing so are giving employees the freedom to work from wherever it suits them – that could be the office, but it could just as easily be from home, a coworking space in another city, or even from the beach. (If you find the company that lets you work from the beach, please let me know; we need to talk.)
Working from a cloud-based intranet - especially one that integrates seamlessly with a team collaboration and productivity system like the G Suite - hands your employees the ultimate freedom to move. It enables them to collaborate in real time from wherever they are; to post and chat to colleagues on the go; to keep the conversation moving through messaging integrations and mobile apps. Contrast this to the on-premises intranet that requires a complex VPN token or patchy remote access if you’re not based in the office, and you’ll see why the cloud-based intranet is a compelling proposition.
The digital workplace - and a cloud-based intranet - drives the modern company
In our recent report on the Rise of the G Suite Intranet, we asked a few companies for their thoughts on cloud-based ways of working. Jessica Williams-Chadwick of Rock Salt Consulting, a startup that helps other startups to grow, was clear: “A cloud-based solution was extremely important for us as our whole business is mobile and flexible. We work from different places, home, cafes, a co-working space, and shared computers often, sometimes switching mid-session, so everything being stored online, accessible and shareable is key to the success of our business.”
As your workforce demands more flexibility and control over their own ways of working, you can no longer force them down an office-based culture – and that means you need to enable them to collaborate and be productive from wherever they are. A cloud-based intranet is the perfect way to enable and encourage your digital workplace.