by Paul Timms, Managing Director of The MCSA Group
IT has never been straight forward and this is also true of the ‘Cloud’. The Industry is spending a lot of money promoting cloud-based initiatives, from hosted applications, to everything ‘as a service’ style arrangements – that promise to save costs and time.
Unfortunately, this has caused greater uncertainty for many, and SMEs I talk with are still confused and therefore cautious about the cloud. One reason is because the term ‘cloud’ is a pretty abstract concept.
This lack of precision isn’t helpful, especially if it’s your key systems or data that you’re being asked to place in a ‘cloud.’
To make the cloud more transparent and easily understood, it’s better to position it as a highly resilient, brick built, data centre building, with compute resources and storage – that’s located remotely, in the UK or even further afield and is delivered as a commodity service. Making the ‘Cloud’ more tangible immediately makes organisations more comfortable and talking about a more familiar, tried and tested data centre environment – achieves this.
A key concern for decision makers is assessing the suitability of the cloud as a solution for an organisation. All organisations are different, so vendors must ensure that their underpinning cloud infrastructure fits their individual needs. Rather than letting customers get bombarded by the choice, vendors must use their knowledge and experience to guide them on a cloud journey that suits their critical IT.
With cloud, there is not a ‘one size that fits all’ solution. Office 365 and hosted exchange – may work for some – not for others, hybrid cloud, with “just in time” resource deployment – works for some but not others. Hosted data centre – remotely monitored and managed – works for some not for others – you get the point?
In my view, the key to a successful outcome is a real understanding of what to place in either an on-premise, or public cloud solution. For the majority of organisations, the best choice is a flexible, ‘hybrid’ option of a private ‘on-premise’ cloud solution for confidential, business-critical data, with an option to burst into the public cloud for less vital services. By embracing hybrid cloud architecture, organisations gain flexibility and access to additional services, combined with localised control.
To qualify this further, there are a range of IT activities that are perfectly suited to the hybrid cloud as they have all been successfully delivered for many years via cloud-type, 3rd party services. These include; data backup, storage, DR, IT infrastructure management and support. This allows business services to be aligned to IT infrastructures in the right context, with the right service levels and at the right cost.
Clear cloud considerations
Cloud is not the answer to all data storage issues, there is still a major role for physical infrastructure. The best service provider should have your interests at heart, using best of breed tech and with a business focus on advice first, with solutions coming out of a clear understanding of the business needs. It’s this understanding, rather than a need to sell storage space, that will deliver the best possible outcomes for organisations.
Physical data centres also deliver control and visibility to customers – if you’ve ever experienced a power cut, and the frustrations of not knowing when the power is coming back on, then you’ll appreciate that business relies on certain things always working. You will want to be aware of this – just waiting around for the cloud to turn back on again isn’t good enough.
Clarity in the cloud comes down to having a clear business focus and using the best advice to choose the right path for the organisation’s needs. This means carefully assessing the move to the cloud, based on their own state of cloud readiness and the readiness of the cloud for them.