One of the most significant developments in the IT world to date has been the cloud. It’s completely transformed IT and brought a great deal of benefits to businesses by cutting IT infrastructure costs, improving efficiency, and more importantly, increasing agility. However, though the cloud is often talked about in a positive light, there are concerns around the time and money it takes to constantly maintain sufficient uptime, as well as security breaches which may occur in the cloud.

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It therefore goes without saying that implementing a cloud infrastructure isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. IT professionals need to be able to justify the move by weighing up the pros and cons of moving to the cloud. 

What cloud service providers don’t tell you

The operational expense of the cloud isn’t often talked about. While cloud computing services can be quite cost effective to set up, it can become more expensive than an in-house team over time because of the additional services required to run a workload. Most cloud service providers will provide a basic virtual server at a compelling price, however, it is important to consider additional costs such as bandwidth, networking and VPN services, the cost for standby or DR systems, and other required costs to run an application, which can quickly add up.

Once the transition to the cloud has taken place, bandwidth and capacity have to meet the demands of both users and applications as they grow. This means the total cost can rocket, and it’s important to remember this will only increase as the application continues to grow.

Most cloud service providers offer commodity hardware with uptime and SLAs that may be different from the hardware being used on-premise to run the applications that these cloud providers recommend having.

one of the biggest concerns around the cloud is security

Lastly, one of the biggest concerns around the cloud is security. When a business moves to the cloud someone else is automatically handling the business’ most prized asset – its data. Though the perception is that the cloud is not secure, the reality is that it can be as secure, and maybe even more secure, than on-premise deployments. The leading cloud service providers offer many security capabilities including isolated networks, security groups, federated identity, encryption of data in transit and at rest, as well as perimeter security solutions.

This does not mean you can trust the cloud to ‘automatically’ keep your systems and data secure. It is still your responsibility to understand how the cloud technology works, what protection you need for each set of data, and to establish the right processes to maintain security. Remember security is not a technology but an ongoing process supported by technology.

The business benefits of the cloud

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Although there are challenges to adopting the cloud, it can offer significant business benefits. One of the main reasons businesses are moving to the cloud is the reduction in capital expenditure (CAPEX) that comes from switching to a cloud service provider. When launching a new project, significant CAPEX is invested in purchasing servers, storage, networking devices, cabling and developing disaster recovery procedures. But none of this is necessary when moving to a cloud-based infrastructure, which means capital can be invested elsewhere in the business.

More importantly, hardware investments require careful planning. In the cloud, infrastructure can be provisioned dynamically and scaled up or down as the workload requires, minimising waste. Cloud infrastructure is created in seconds via an API call or a control panel click, which enables IT to move at a much more agile pace.

Alternatively, when an IT department is stretched or under resourced many choose to move to the cloud so the service provider can take on the management of various components more efficiently, especially hardware and certain services. This minimises the workload for the IT pro so they can focus on other priorities, such as desktop support and network monitoring.

Similarly, by switching to the cloud there is less maintenance for the IT department. IT departments are always investing in new products and equipment, but the reality is that these investments won’t last forever and there are always expenses involved, whether for software updates or part replacements. A cloud model does not involve any of these. It’s not to say that no maintenance is needed from the in-house team once they have moved to the cloud, but it’s definitely the next best thing.

The cloud also provides the flexibility to scale infrastructure up or down as required. If a new business project has its IT infrastructure in the cloud and experiences an unexpected shutdown or needs downsizing, the cloud is flexible enough to handle it in real-time. If this was in-house, the IT team would have to hold on to all the purchased hardware until the next project came along. Likewise it is incredibly quick to scale-up. An on premise scale-up has to go through hardware and software purchases, infrastructure reconfigurations, equipment delivery time, cost for hours of consultant time, and so on. Whereas in the cloud the provider does all of this on your behalf – freeing up time for the IT department.

The choice is yours 

Moving to the cloud could completely transform a business

Moving to the cloud could completely transform a business, but it isn’t for everyone. Total costs and security should always be front of mind when deciding whether or not to move to the cloud and the IT team needs to be certain that all confidential data is stored securely. On the flip side, the cloud can also massively help to reduce the time it takes to complete a project, increase productivity by making everything a lot more efficient and streamline IT processes. Ultimately, it’s about finding a solution that works for the IT team and meets business objectives of each specific workload. 

Gerardo Dada, Vice President of Product Marketing, SolarWinds

Gerardo Dada is Vice President of Product Marketing for SolarWinds’ systems, database and security business globally. Gerardo is a technologist who has been at the center of the Web, mobile, social and cloud revolutions at companies like Rackspace, Microsoft, Motorola, Vignette and Bazaarvoice. He has been involved with database technologies from dBase and BTrieve to SQL Server, NoSQL and DBaaS in the cloud.

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