Transportation industry support service grows into the cloud

In finding the best cloud service for your business, one North American chassis lessor says the best way to start is to forget they're a cloud service altogether.
Written by Drew Turney, Contributor

Flexi-Van is one of the largest full-service transportation industry chassis lessors in North America. With over 200 staff and a fleet of more than 135,000 chassis and 3,200 generator sets for controlled temperature shipping, the company operates two data centres on their New Jersey premises.

Flexi-Van's first move to the cloud happened in 2012 when it started using cloud based signatures in Webroot's antivirus protection. It put an end to concerns about being out of date and downloading virus definitions because all scanning is done online, with definitions updated on the fly.

James Mercer
Flexi-Van IT director James-Mercer
image: Flexi-Van

Today antivirus, IT security, and backup are cloud based through Webroot, Alert Logic Security-as-a-Service, and Twinstrata offsite backup and storage respectively. Next up, the company is considering moving its Microsoft Exchange-based email, and director of IT James Mercer says Flexi-Van's ultimate aim is to adopt a hybrid cloud solution — cloud services, he believes, should only be considered for areas that are 'safe' to implement.

There was no particular edict or decision to pursue online solutions in particular, says Mercer — Flexi-Van's move to the cloud happened organically.

"Once I'd investigated cloud services and determined the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT), I decided to include them in our acquisition proposals," Mercer says. "So when I went looking for a new anti-virus solution, I invited Webroot to pitch without regard to the fact that they were cloud based. Each move to the cloud was based on a use-case, best results basis."

The four-quadrant approach of the SWOT analysis should be the first step in any technology provision, Mercer believes, not just cloud services.

"Once you have a clear understanding of those four factors you can determine which areas are permissible for cloud services," he says. "Evaluate all suitable competitors and perform a return on investment or initial rate of return and ignore cloud-based versus traditional. Look at the strengths and weaknesses of each, and choose accordingly."

Flexi-Van's experience has also given Mercer a valuable insight that's put him in the driver's seat to an extent few organisations are used to when it comes to IT provision.

"Cloud service providers are trying to overcome inherent customer adherence to traditional service offerings, so in many cases they'll be flexible in either cost or term commitments," he says. "A given vendor might require a one or two year term but — like we did in one case — you might be able to negotiate a shorter commitment by citing concerns over the 'unknown' of using a cloud based service, then move to a month-by-month relationship after that."

"Another provider supplied certain components at a deep discount."

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