What is the Cloud?
The Cloud is really just someone else’s computer. Why would a business choose to use a computer that isn’t theirs and isn’t on their property?
Since the migration from mainframe computers to desktops, servers and laptops, the accepted norm was for businesses to buy (CapX) their equipment and software, hire employees and consultants to get everything working, and then run everything as long as they could without spending any more money.
So what changed?
The case for moving services to the cloud falls into several buckets. But the one common theme throughout each of these is value.
What is the value proposition that has all these businesses using the Cloud?
The first driver was CapX versus OpX. Just setting up a medium sized small business’ Exchange server could generally run $20,000 to $30,000. Then 5 to 7 years later you’d do it all again, and again, and again! You had to pay for electricity every month, you also needed to do the “care and feeding” (patches, backups, version upgrades, troubleshooting, help desk for users, etc.) which involved employees and/ or consultants.
But when you see services like Google and Yahoo providing email to consumers for free… something seems amiss. Yes, there are reasons to have your exchange server in house and onsite, but that’s not the end of this model.
You also have to buy the business computers (CapX around a $1,000 per person every 3 to 5 years), the servers ($10,000+ every 3 to 5 years), the software and support subscriptions, and the bigger you became the more IT salaries you had to add! The bigger companies figured it out first, and for the past 10 years the enterprise market has been moving to the Cloud because even though you invested in CapX, you are still paying OpX expenses every month in this model.
Generalist vs. Specialist
Generalist versus Specialist is another driver. Most businesses would not hire one person and expect them to be a very skilled machinist, accountant, marketer, and salesperson. If they did, they would find out that even if that person is awesome, things are probably falling through the cracks. That’s the mistake many businesses make when they hire their IT person/ staff. The jobs in a professional services IT organization are generally siloed because a systems admin often times is not a skilled software developer, database developer, network engineer, and helpdesk person. This is why many small IT groups are always running around putting out fires and this detracts them from focusing on strategy and making the computing resources of the company a competitive advantage.
More so now than ever before, Security is king. According to Cybersecurity Ventures, damage related to cybercrime is projected to hit $6 trillion annually by 2021.
By 2023 it is expected that 50% of all worldwide
attacks will be in the United States.
What is the Security value of the Cloud?
This is where the first two points about owning and administering your own infrastructure meets with the notion of a specialist. Properly configured, with the proper resources, both premise and Cloud can be made secure. The Cloud provider industry is built specifically for providing highly available computer resources from a hardened, secure facility with specialists supporting each different aspect of the process.
The cost of a single small data center is in the millions. The engineering specific to building out those highly specialized and redundant facilities is very expensive and hiring multiple IT specialists to support each application is quite expensive. The truth is even the richest companies don’t build out those facilities any longer, they find a Cloud service which fits their needs and save their cash for more profitable initiatives.
- The truth is you need to understand your data needs:
- Compliance (HIPPA, PCI, etc.)
- Availability of resources
- Redundant internet connections
- Work from home capabilities
- How much backup is enough
Once you have a good idea what you need, spend currently, and what your business’ goals are you will need to shop for what kind of Cloud makes sense for you.
The three main types are Public, Private and Hybrid. Public examples would be Amazon (AWS) and Microsoft (Azure). Private would be working with a data center company to put your computers (or use theirs) into a secure facility with robust private lines connecting sites, and Hybrid would be a mix of Public and Private, putting the most valuable assets in a private secure facility and leaving other resources to live in the public cloud.
No matter the architecture of your cloud, whether you use your own equipment or use “as a service” (aaS) hardware and software, you are allowing your precious data to leave the building. For that, you had better have TRUST in your cloud company to keep is safe, secure and backed up.
When do I start?
Moving to the Cloud will save most businesses money over time. You may find the smartest choice is to stage the move into bite sized pieces. Remember, the first goal is to “not break anything”! It’s got to work as good or better than what you are using now. The benefits can change how your company now focuses IT resources as a competitive advantage.
You can start to out strategize your competition. You can stop spending big CapX dollars on computers and pay as you go while writing that off as everyday operating expenses. You are still responsible for your data, and you are still responsible for keeping up systems, software and end user support, but now you can decide to keep that in house or outsource all or parts to the Cloud provider.