Is your company considering deploying some of your application in a cloud-based deployment model?
One of the biggest obstacles we all run into is the myriad of obstacles about security, performance, lack of control and the list goes on and on. Many of these arguments are rooted in fear. Being afraid can be a useful emotion, if it’s managed correctly, so a healthy amount of fear is built into our genetics. After all, it kept our ancestors from drowning or being eaten. That fear did not prevent us from venturing out into the world. Being afraid of something can lead to missed opportunities for your business if it turns from just being afraid of something to downright phobia.
As with any type of fear, the only way to overcome a fear of cloud computing is to confront it, ideally in a safe and gradual way. If you’re scared of water, you probably wouldn’t go diving into the ocean right away, so you take that que from your life’s experience and dip your proverbial toe into cloud computing too. As we stated in the title of this article, Now is the Time to Consider Cloud-based Application Delivery. A recent Study conducted by Cisco, stated that 80% of IT spend going to cloud services within the next 16 m onths. With that great a percentage of companies moving in that direction, it is time for everyone to begin considering what your strategy will be going forward.
Many initial strategies being adopted as a company’s first foray into cloud computing is to start by implementing a redeployment of internal system that doesn’t contain any confidential customer data. The next logical progression is to gradually take the plunge to a non-critical public system. This will allow all parts of the business to grow comfortable with the move to cloud computing, from IT to manufacturing and distribution.
The benefits which cloud computing brings are too real to ignore, but that doesn’t mean the risks aren’t real too. Ultimately, the biggest risk, though, is being out-maneuvered by rivals who are quicker to adopt the cloud.
There is a consensus among companies that have adopted a cloud-based application deployment model that are presented herein. This is by no means and exhaustive list but is narrowed down to a “Top 10” list from our review of the literature and from our direct experience from within our own company.
1. Lowered Capital and Operating Expenses
One of the most celebrated selling points for migrating all or part of your data and applications from in-house hosting to the cloud is the ability to lower capital expenditures by not having to purchase and maintain expensive hardware. But the benefits go way beyond savings. Cloud services help businesses increase their efficiency and innovation, by allowing them to spend less time handling routine IT upgrades and more time focusing on improving products and services. Both public and private cloud hosting provide the ability for businesses to deploy and scale Virtual Machines (VMs) instantly according to business needs.
2. Economies of Scale
With the influx of Big Data and Business Intelligence stacked on top of the continuous flow of corporate information, workloads are already substantial and growing incredibly fast. Cloud (and dedicated) Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) helps companies overcome this problem by moving ownership and management of physical server assets to dedicated, experienced managed services providers like Microsoft Azure, which allow them to lower costs for system implementations, upgrades as well as reducing the number of human interventions involved. Only the interesting and tough problems are left for your team to solve. Through efficiencies like these, time and money is saved while production levels increase.
3. Improved Integration and Compatibility
Have you ever tried shoehorn your UNIX servers to share data with your Windows Servers? The process is far from cut and dry. With the cloud, it’s the data that matters—not the operating system. The newest cloud platforms make interoperability central to the entire service. Using open industry standards like Apache, PHP, and MySQL, eliminates the compatibility issues you might run into while running your own server and lowers costs significantly.
The worst part about a broken disk array or blade servers isn’t the cost of the hardware but the downtime. If you maintain your own servers, downtime is going to happen, which is going to slow productivity to a standstill. The core model for cloud computing reliability considers all types of failures overflow, timeouts, network failure… That’s why multiple copies of data are maintained so that if you lose any individual machine, the system continues to function. Even if you need the power of dedicated hosting, outsourcing your infrastructure means your hardware is guaranteed (Microsoft-hosted environments replace hardware in under 2 hours, as one example – not including roll-over to another server when the network detects a failure which can be a desirable option).
5. Computing and Networking Performance
Your cloud subscription pays for several things: excellent uptime, 24/7 IT service, and systems upgrades and the all time-consuming validation that goes with each upgrade. Over time, you can choose to improve your service with faster speeds, increased storage, and complying with the latest standards. You’ll never have to deal with outdated equipment, and you’ll never have to pay for new server hardware. It’s a seamless experience that always provides you with the fastest service. You can essentially grow your hosting with the popularity of your service or application. As soon as you reach the point where dedicated server hosting becomes more effective and cost efficient, you can easily make the upgrade, as long as your hosting provider offers both cloud and dedicated options.
6. Pilot a Project or Test Drive the Cloud
You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for test drive off the lot of the dealer; You wouldn’t purchase a house without walking through it and inspecting the infrastructure. Why would you migrate your applications to a new platform without testing it first? Pilot a cloud-based application service before you subscribe. You can easily transfer some applications, use the cloud service for a pilot or proof-of-concept period, and make a decision without jumping in feet first and sinking up to your neck immediately. You can also build and test new applications more easily and affordably in the cloud, thanks to the pay-per-use model of cloud hosting, keeping them in the cloud for beta testing and then scaling your server or moving to dedicated depending on the application’s workload.
7. Managed Software Support
The problem with many propriety software business models is that once you’ve paid the money, the software bugs and glitches are now your problem. When your applications are being run in a cloud hosting scenario managed by the service provider, you have continued access to specialist IT support to ensure that your servers are performing with optimum speed and efficiency before you even have to think about opening a ticket.
8. Infinite Scalability
Cloud servers and the expected model they are deployed in can easily scale system resources to meet your growing demands. Whether you choose to store data on a public, private or hybrid cloud, the cloud’s inherent elasticity enables you to scale automatically so that your web properties are always able to handle bursts of traffic while maintaining optimal performance.
Maybe you doubled the size of your workforce last year. If your hardware isn’t up to speed, scaling your software can cripple your system. You should be able to have plenty of performance at your disposal without a complete overhaul of your hardware. With the cloud you can respond immediately to changes in traffic or workload, so you don’t lose any business or time before you make permanent adjustments to your infrastructure.
9. Accessibility to Data from Anywhere
If you have hundreds of employees working on multiple projects at any given time, you know how difficult it can be to keep track of their progress. With a private cloud, you can have access to all the data managed by the system from literally anywhere in the world. Cloud-based computing is the preferred model for accessing and analyzing Big Data, that volume of data that is used by the tools could computing companies embrace to provide Analytics to help their customers track products in through the worldwide distribution and product usage channels.
The vulnerability of data always requires careful evaluation. This encompasses the physical security of the site, network security including local encryption, as well as legal security. This is often the biggest “fear quotient” that is brought up by those resistant to cloud-deployment models. As mentioned in the Reliability section above, data stored in the cloud is secure from accidental erasure or hardware crashes because it is duplicated across multiple physical machines. That means if one or more machines go offline, the data is duplicated on other machines in the cloud. There are of course also questions about who can access your data and what measures are in place to keep it protected. Even if you host on dedicated servers you can back up in the cloud, so you have multiple redundant data copies. Security is one of the biggest selling points that cloud-computing companies promote as to why you should investigate their services. This topic will be the basis for our next article about cloud computing and will be expanded upon significantly.
There are a multitude of business reasons to move to the cloud but there’s no absolutely perfect reason. For one company, it will be the flexibility that cloud offers while another will be looking to cut costs. The key approach is to make sure that a move to the cloud is planned fully, costed accurately (and companies should have proper metrics in place to assess the impact) and rigorously monitored.
The days when technological changes were imposed by an IT department divorced from the business requirements are long gone. Current organizations need client stake-holders, IT and business executives working hand-in-hand to ensure a smooth move to cloud and commitment of resources to guarantee a successful implementation.