To Cloud or Not To Cloud: SME Guide to Cloud Computing

As cloud computing continues to infiltrate public consciousness, small businesses across the UK are recognising the benefits it brings, particularly in regards to cost savings, business agility and security. Predictably, the conversation now is not about whether to migrate applications to the cloud, but rather, when and what the business should move to the cloud. For small businesses in particular, this can be a difficult predicament, with the various models falling under the all-encompassing ‘cloud’ label, this can be a difficult landscape for non-tech savvy business owners or managers to navigate.

[easy-tweet tweet=”The question of #cloud is no longer if – but when – says John Morris of @UK2Group” user=”comparethecloud” usehashtags=”no”]

Much like the crystallised water variety, man-made clouds come in many varieties and with the different cloud models on offer in the market, each with their own advantages and disadvantages, it is clear that the cloud landscape can be daunting one for small businesses. The following is a guide for businesses that have outgrown on-premise servers and are taking their first step into cloud computing.

Getting your head around the cloud

‘Cloud computing’ has evolved to encompass various methods of computing, but there are essentially three prevailing models within which the majority of businesses operate – public, private and hybrid cloud.

In a public cloud the provider offers computing resources over the internet in a virtualised environment. Public cloud makes use of shared resources and could also be referred to as shared hosting. In public clouds, the company shares the server with other companies. This can have some security implications for businesses dealing with sensitive client data and as a result, public clouds are most suited for sharing non-business critical or non-sensitive information such as document sharing or collaboration tools. Migration of business data to a public cloud provider can significantly reduce business IT costs, whilst offering greater business agility and scalability.

In public clouds, the company shares the server with other companies

The majority of small businesses will take their first steps towards cloud computing by migrating this non-mission critical data to a public cloud environment. These clouds are most suited to small to medium sized businesses that may not need or be able to afford the additional costs associated with private clouds.

Private cloud offers additional security, with the infrastructure operated solely for one named company – the business will not share its IT infrastructure with any other companies and access can be behind a company’s firewall via a virtual private network (VPN). This model is sometimes referred to as a bare metal dedicated server, with the additional security benefits making it the ideal destination for sensitive business data. Private clouds are most useful for organisations dealing with private information or have regulatory obligations to keep their data under their control, whilst requiring the computing benefits afforded by the public cloud, such as business agility and scalability.

Private clouds are most useful for organisations dealing with private information

Due to the additional benefits of the private cloud, costs will be higher for businesses employing this model. Data such as bank account details, private customer details and tax information should be migrated to a private cloud environment rather than public cloud.

As can be guessed, hybrid cloud is a combination of public and private cloud offering the cost savings associated with public cloud, with the additional security of a private cloud, but can also include on-premise infrastructure. Companies utilising hybrid clouds manage some resources in house while others are provided externally. These clouds remain separate entities, although working together to fulfil the business’ computing needs. Businesses can migrate the sensitive information to a private cloud environment or keep this data on-premise, whilst more basic applications can he hosted in a public cloud environment, but these must communicate seamlessly to ensure the end-user is not affected.

Are you ready for cloud?

[easy-tweet tweet=”As any small business grows, it will inevitably outgrow its on-premise servers” user=”UK2Group” hashtags=”cloud”]

As any small business grows, it will inevitably outgrow its on-premise servers as these can be expensive to maintain, but how does the business owner or manager know when the time is right to migrate applications to the cloud? In the majority of cases, the migration to cloud computing will be driven by the three factors above: cost, flexibility and security. These are the issues that will determine what model cloud the business selects and what applications to migrate to the cloud. Whilst ultimately, the decision on cloud migration will depend largely on the business and the industry it operates in, business owners and managers should not feel daunted by the prospect of cloud migration. Preparing for cloud migration today, could help avoid stormy seas tomorrow.

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