Today’s IT world is undergoing a dramatic shift, caused by the revolution in cloud computing and mobile technologies that directly impact how employees create, access and manage data. In response to that phenomenon, many companies have implemented cloud-based solutions to improve and secure the processes their employees use in cloud or mobile computing.
Projections by the market analysis firm of IHS Research show that cloud computing spending will reach US$235 billion by 2018, that is, triple that of 2011. However, many organizations are still uncertain about whether they should deploy cloud technologies or if their infrastructure can support them.
How do you know if your organization is ready to make the leap to the cloud? Here are some indicators to dispel the confusion and provide a perspective on migrating your traditional infrastructure to reduce costs and improve productivity.
What you have to know
First of all, it is important to understand the different versions of cloud available.
Private cloud: where the organization owns its own infrastructure, deploys its applications and manages its infrastructure by itself. This version is typically very expensive to build and maintain.
Virtual private cloud: where the organization uses an isolated part of a public cloud service, in which the data reside behind a VPN configured and managed by the organization.
SaaS (Software as a Service) cloud: where the organization uses a central, multiuser application managed by the SaaS solution provider.
Which one to choose?
That depends on your organization, naturally. Recent research has shown that most businesses (by a ratio to 2 to 1) prefer to use a cloud on an infrastructure they control, be it a private cloud or virtual private cloud.
As opposed to using the SaaS cloud, those organizations were motivated by considerations of security and data governance. Why is security a concern with the traditional SaaS model? SaaS providers very often have access to all of their clients’ data, thus creating an environment more susceptible to data leaks.
But for companies that are not 100% ready for the cloud, a hybrid model combining private and virtual private clouds can make the transition easier. Such an approach lets companies place some types of data, less sensitive data for example, in a virtual private cloud yet keep other types of data in a private cloud.
Other reasons for using a virtual private cloud are broader geographic reach, pressure to cut capital investment costs, speed of deployment and lack of in-house expertise. The debate between private cloud and virtual private cloud is clearly a false dichotomy: it is not a question of moving to one or the other; for many companies, especially the largest ones, it means moving to both.
Whatever approach is chosen, the cloud can help your organization implement innovative, integrated technologies that will help reduce costs while improving employee access and collaboration. Take the case of mobile employees for example.
If you use traditional servers in head office and/or in a branch, your off-site employees will have to deal with the many constraints inherent in traditional systems, which will affect their productivity. They inevitably turn towards cloud storage services (Dropbox is a well-known example), which greatly compromise the security of corporate data. Your IT department might compensate by resorting to outside file storage services, but additional costs can be expected, not to mention the complexities inherent in synchronizing internal and external data.
Many organizations see cloud computing solutions as more agile and less costly. That is more the case for cloud storage solutions that synchronize data between internal resources and users’ devices. The fact that employees are using private cloud services on a daily basis is a key factor in considering implementing cloud computing technologies in an organization.
File sharing and synchronization is just one example of managing data in the cloud. Traditional storage limits are obvious: time required and server management costs, growing data volumes, latency problems, etc. Several organizations realize that investing in traditional technology is not worth the effort, while cloud computing offers major benefits in terms of controlling security, data, users and costs.