What is Your Next Step with Cloud Computing?
Cloud has been the IT hype for the last ten years. Many of us have moved email, file sharing, simple applications and maybe even our main line-of-business application to the cloud, but we still have a large portion of our IT infrastructure on premise. It seems that especially in the SMB market, which I define as companies with 10 to 250 computer users, the migration to the cloud has been a slow process.
There is something about having your computing resources within your four walls that makes us feel more comfortable. I have heard many owners and managers say something like, “I prefer to keep things local, where I have more control.” Right or wrong, some of us feel more comfortable, when our data is on our wholly owned equipment in our four walls.
The interesting flip-side to that argument is the comparison to electric power in the industrial age. Before the electric grid was built-out and stable, companies had their own generators and created their own power. Now, we wouldn’t even consider such a thing. Power from the shared electric grid is much cheaper, stable, and readily available.
It may be that the cloud has matured, and it is time to consider moving more of those services, that you still have local up to the cloud.
Here are 10 Reasons to Take Another Look at Cloud:
1. Internet Speeds – Ten years ago most of us were on cable Internet. The speeds were much slower even than cable is now, and the costs were much higher. Today, fiber connections of 50×50 or 100×100 with very little latency have become affordable. These fiber connections make Cloud hosted data accessible directly without waiting due to a much lower latency, which really just means less interruption or traffic. These lower costs are making having a redundant connection affordable, which is often advisable with more in the cloud.
2. Maturation of Cloud Offerings – The offerings of the major cloud vendors like Amazon, Microsoft and Google have matured greatly and are continuing to come down in price. The tools to manage cloud-based servers and deploy new features are more robust and easier to use. The whole stack of offerings from Microsoft is much more suited to the SMB market than it was years ago. Even applications that were not made to run in the cloud can be migrated to cloud hosted servers and run well.
3. Security – This topic may be a little touchy, as some very large vendors have had cloud security issues recently. Cloud security still has so much to do with how a technical person sets things up. They can make the same mistakes in the cloud, as they might make with on-premise setup. However, there are extra tools and safeguards in place to increase security at the large data centers. If a technical engineer follows the constraints for setting things up properly, the result is most likely heightened security rather than lessened. The cloud has certain built-in redundancy in equipment and connectivity, that we could never afford in our own computer room.
4. Backup and Disaster Recovery – Backup of cloud hosted servers keeps getting easier and less expensive. Most major hosting offerings allow for Geo-redundant servers. This replicates the server resources you have to multiple data centers in different regions. The tools used for backup and recovery have gotten quite simple and cost effective in the cloud. They offer us lots of advanced features that are just not easy to do on-premise.
5. Scalability – With the cloud, you can scale up or down at a moment’s notice. If you are experiencing a high order volume, or need to do month-end reporting, turn up the server CPU and memory for a couple of days while this is occurring, then turn it back down. Add users and then take them away a few months later. The cloud will flex with you.
6. Cost Savings – Some cloud offerings like Microsoft Azure offer a feature where you can turn off a cloud hosted server, when you aren’t using it. The server hibernates for instance, from 10PM to 5AM, while nobody is awake. During that time, you don’t pay for it. Unless you are a 24 hours shop, this produces great savings at no loss of efficiency. In addition, you get out of the cycle of replacing a whole server every 4-5 years, like you do with physical equipment.
7. Ease of Use for Remote Workers and Remote Offices – The cloud is built for remote access, so if you have workers at home, on the road or at that secondary office, getting to the resources you need is often easier. You no longer need to invest in the server, hardware and VPN licensing to make all of that work, as you probably have with your on-premise system. Remote access in the cloud is all software defined and easily turned up and down.
8. Feature Stack – Often the cloud hosted solution has a deeper grouping of features, than you might get if you hosted you own solution. Often you can benefit from using those features. For instance, Microsoft Office 365 comes with Teams, an inter-office communications tool that comes with the monthly fee. Many users see the advantage and decide to use it. Most cloud offerings have feature sets like this that we may not use now, but because they come with the offering, we can take advantage of them.
9. Physical Office Savings – We don’t often think of this, but if you cloud host your servers, you free up space in your office, cut the need for special cooling and gain some energy savings.
10. The SaaS Benefit – With on-premise equipment, adding a new feature or piece of software often means adding another physical server. When cloud hosting it could too, but more often we can subscribe to a SaaS hosted service even for things like SQL, and we no longer need to deploy another server or make that big up-front SQL server purchase.
While the cloud has some great benefits, many recent security incidents have proven that a cloud hosted IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) server needs just as much care and protection as an on-premise server. You still need a skilled IT resource to provision, monitor and keep it up-to-date and secure. It is wise to know where our “cloud” is and avoid the smaller hosting companies, or that IT company that has their own data center. The smaller niche firm hosting their own data center is prone to less oversight and likely to have more volatility. One way to think of this is to compare it to banking. You wouldn’t put your money in a single-location, sole-proprietor, unrecognized, uninsured bank. Similarly, putting your data and computing power in a local data center run by an IT company is dangerous. If they have financial difficulty, lose key personnel, or worse yet, close their doors, what happens to your data?
We live in a fast-paced world. Everyone is scrambling to keep up with the changing pace of technology. We are working toward that state of digital transformation, Industry 4.0, and more. The Cloud allows us to move, deploy and stay ahead of the game. It may be time to consider your cloud strategy once again and chart your course forward.
CTaccess is a Microsoft Azure Cloud Partner. Please contact us for a consultative discussion about your path to the cloud.
Scott Hirschfeld is the President of CTaccess, an Elm Grove IT support company that has been helping small businesses stop focusing on IT and getting back to doing business since 1990. Under his leadership CTaccess provides the business minded approach of larger IT companies with the personalized touch of the smaller ones. Connect with Scott on LinkedIn.