When you are considering a technology solution, keep in mind there is no “perfect” solution. All options, either in-house or cloud-based, have their upsides and downsides. You are going to have to weigh the benefits of each before you can decide on the best solution. Keep in mind, the majority of organizations will end up with some sort of hybrid solution, having some applications in the cloud, and another group hosted and maintained from an in-house server. Whatever you do, do not let a so called “cloud expert” tell you there is only one way to get this done.
Pros of Cloud Computing
Access your applications from anywhere on any device. If you have remote workers who travel quite a bit, they may prefer to use an iPad while on the road or a laptop at home. Cloud computing will allow them to work from any of these devices.
Reduced IT costs. This is the primary driver for organizations moving their network to the cloud. Lower software licensing costs, savings on hardware (desktops and servers), and lowered IT support and upgrade costs. (Warning, shameless plug…) We save our clients 10%-30% on average when moving parts of their network functionality to the cloud.
Backups and disaster recovery are automated. The harsh reality is the computers in your office are extremely vulnerable to threats including human error, viruses, hardware failure, software corruption, and destruction from a fire, flood or other natural disasters. If your infrastructure has moved to the cloud and your office is reduced to a pile of rubble, you could purchase a new laptop and be up and running in a day. Definitely not the case if you had your data backed up using traditional methods (i.e., tape drives, USB drives, or any other physical storage).
Like a public utility, cloud platforms are very robust and secure, utilizing economies of scale. Cloud companies make large investments in security, redundancy and failover systems.
Set up new hires faster, cheaper and easier. Cloud computing dramatically lowers the cost and increases the speed of setting up a new employee. For companies with high turnover or a seasonal workforce, the savings are amazing.
Use it without “owning” it. Kind of like living in a condo—someone else takes care of the maintenance, mowing, repairing the roof, but you have the only key to your section of the building and the use of the facilities. Cloud computing is also optimal for companies that are new or growing, but don’t want the high cash outlay for buying and supporting an expensive network.
SPAM and virus filtering. In the past companies had to purchase a separate server or software to filter their spam. Today email and SPAM filtering are done in the cloud.
Cons of Cloud Computing
What if the Internet goes down? This is one of the first valid concerns I hear, but today Internet access is ubiquitous. If your Internet access fails at one location, typically it can be accessed easily in another location or through another network (MiFi).
Security. People just don’t feel comfortable having their data in some offsite location. It’s important to know before choosing any cloud provider exactly where they are storing your data, who has access to it, how it’s encrypted and how you get it back. The majority of cloud vendors are VERY serious about security, employing a small army of PhD’s to secure their networks. If you think about it for a second, their business and reputation depend on their network’s security and availability.
Business applications won’t work in the cloud. Every now and then we see an application that won’t run in the cloud. Typically these are on operating systems or applications that are no longer supported, like our client running a SQL2K application. They can’t move to the cloud until they update their application. Another instance is vertical market solutions that aren’t available in the cloud yet.
Compliance Issues. HIPAA, SOX, GLB or the other regulations may require you to control and protect your data and certify you know who can access it and how and where it’s stored. In a public cloud this can be problematic. Look for cloud vendors with SAS 70 certification. This requires them to be able to tell you exactly how your data is handled. Just remember, as the business owner, it’s your neck on the line. Ask for some type of validation that they are meeting the requirements on an ongoing basis.
Next week we’ll dig more into cloud computing, stay tuned!