The Complete Guide to Cloud Computing

Contents

Welcome To The Cloud
Cloud Computing Services
Software as a Service (SaaS)
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
Platform as a Service (PaaS)

Cloud Computing Solutions
Pure Cloud
Hybrid Cloud
Public Cloud vs. Private Cloud

Advantages and Disadvantages of Cloud Computing
Advantages Of Cloud Computing
Disadvantages Of Cloud Computing

Preparing For a Move To The Cloud

Common Mistakes Businesses Make Critical Questions to Ask Your Cloud Service Provider

Introduction

  • The rise of cloud computing has led to a transformation in the way technology services are delivered. With 74% of Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) saying that cloud computing will have the most measurable impact on their business in 2017, it is clear that the notion of relying on remote service providers for computing needs is gaining traction year over year.

    So what exactly is cloud computing? PC Magazine offers a simplified explanation, defining it as “storing and accessing data and programs over the internet instead of your computer’s hard drive.” In essence, it is the practice of having various IT services – software, infrastructure, disaster recovery, virtually any IT offering – delivered via online connections rather than through a physical, onsite computing infrastructure.

Welcome To The Cloud

In many ways, we can compare the arrival of cloud computing to the advent of the electrical power grid. Where once businesses were forced to generate their power themselves, affordable electricity allowed them to increase their productivity at a lower cost. 

Now, instead of cheap and plentiful electricity, advances in technology and internet connectivity are driving down the costs of computing power. With cloud computing, businesses can pay for “computing power” like a utility without having the exorbitant costs of installing, hosting and supporting it.

Almost every single application you use today can be (or already is being) put in the cloud, where you can access it and pay for it via your browser for a monthly fee or utility pricing. You don’t purchase and install software but instead, access it via an internet browser.

Cloud Computing Services

Today, technology providers offer a wide variety of services that you can access via an internet connection. While these “as a service” offerings are numerous, for simplicity, we have listed the three most popular types.

Cloud Computing Solutions

Just as with cloud service types, there are different cloud solutions available. The one you choose will depend on a variety of factors.

Hybrid Cloud

Although “pure” cloud computing has valid applications, in some cases it is not the smartest move due to compliance issues, security restrictions, or performance issues. A hybrid cloud enables you to put certain pieces of existing IT infrastructure (storage and email for example) into the cloud, while the remainder of the IT infrastructure stays onsite. This gives you the ability to enjoy the costs, savings, and benefits of cloud computing where it makes the most sense without risking your entire environment.

Pure Cloud

A pure cloud environment is where all your applications and data are put on the other side of the firewall in the cloud and accessed through various devices (laptops, desktops, iPads, phones) via the Internet.

Cloud Computing Solutions

As with anything, there are advantages and disadvantages associated with working in a cloud environment. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Advantages Of Cloud Computing

Lowered IT costs.

Not only does cloud computing save money on software licenses, but also on hardware (servers and workstations), as well as on IT support and upgrades.
One study determined that a retail/e-commerce business was able to save upwards of 37% versus the cost of hosting and managing their services internally.

Easily Accesible.

Ability to access your desktop and/or applications from anywhere and on any device. Very advantageous if you travel frequently, have remote workers, or if you prefer to use an iPad while traveling and a laptop at the office.

Disaster recovery and backup are automated.

Onsite servers are extremely vulnerable to a number of threats, including viruses, human error, hardware failure, software corruption, and physical damage. If your server were in the cloud, your data would be automatically backed up and immediately accessible. As well, cloud platforms are far more robust and secure than your average business network because they can utilize economies of scale to invest heavily into security, redundancy and failover systems, making them far less likely to go down.

It’s faster, cheaper and easier to set up new employees.

If you have a seasonal workforce or significant turnover, cloud computing will not only lower the costs of creating new accounts, but it will make the process infinitely faster.

Disadvantages of Cloud Computing

While you can mitigate this risk by using a commercial grade internet connection and maintaining a second backup connection, there is a chance that you’ll lose internet connectivity, making it impossible to work.

Disaster Recovery

A disaster can strike your organization at any time, and when it does, it can be a fatal blow to your business. If you think you are not likely to be affected, consider the following facts: nearly 40% of small businesses are forced to close after a disaster, and of those that do, 25% will never reopen.

And even if your business does manage to survive, a disaster can be extremely costly. Delta Airlines, for example, experienced a five-hour IT outage in 2016 that reportedly cost the company $150 million.

Typically, the three most common types of disasters are:

  • Human error
  • Cybercrime
  • Natural disasters

While many businesses feel the chances of being struck by a tornado or a flood are rare, the fact remains that human error is the number one cause of I.T. related disasters.

In today’s cloud-driven landscape, there really is no excuse for not having a viable disaster recovery plan in place. Moreover, with the availability of Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS), companies are better-positioned than ever to protect their data and operations in the event the worst does occur.

Yet Disaster Recovery service myths abound, and organizations continue to hesitate. Some common perceptions include the idea that this “won’t happen to us”, that DRaaS is too expensive, that it’s too complex, or that they are already protected by routine backups.

The realities, though, are quite different.

With a cloud-based Disaster Recovery service, you can avoid the capital costs of acquiring your own physical infrastructure in addition to ongoing maintenance fees.

DRaaS providers can get your service implemented quickly with their servers ready to start handling your traffic at a moment’s notice.

With a DRaaS provider you will get up and running faster after a disaster, reducing the amount of data you could otherwise lose.

DRaaS generally results in minimized or near-zero downtime.

Your service providers can help you test your Disaster Recovery network, ensuring that you are continually protected.

Cloud Security

It is not surprising that security remains one of the top concerns surrounding a move to a cloud computing environment. According to a recent survey by CloudPassage, 53% of organizations see security concerns as the largest barrier to cloud adoption. And an identical percentage (53%) of businesses see unauthorized access through misuse of employee credentials and improper access controls as the single biggest threat to cloud security.

Despite these concerns, another survey of U.K. organizations reported that while 70% of them have cloud security concerns, 99% have never experienced a security breach.

It is important therefore to realize that in many ways, cloud computing is a more secure means of accessing and storing data. Just because your server is onsite doesn’t make it more secure; in fact, most small to medium businesses can’t justify the cost of securing their network the way a cloud provider can and most security breaches occur due to human error.

If one of your employees downloads a file that contains a virus, or if they don’t use secure passwords, or they simply e-mail confidential information out to people who shouldn’t see it, the security of your system has been compromised.

Other security breaches occur in on-site networks because the company hasn’t adequately maintained their in-house network with security updates, software patches, and up-to-date anti-virus software. That’s a far more common way for networks to become compromised than a cloud provider getting hacked.

How can you prevent this from happening to you? By definition, cloud hosting involves several users sharing virtual space. To ensure that no other user can access your information without permission, it has to be properly encrypted. Make sure your data is in capable hands by looking for SAS 70 Type II certification, which ensures that the controls put in place by your provider are accurate, suitable, and effective.

To mitigate risks to your data, when choosing your cloud hosting provider, ask whether or not they can verify the security of their network and infrastructure. Without proper oversight, a company’s data can become compromised due to improper security measures.

Preparing For a Move To The Cloud

If you’ve determined that you are ready to make the shift to cloud computing, it’s vital that you choose the right service provider. Indeed, selecting the wrong managed cloud partner can cause serious problems down the road.

Let’s take a look at some common mistakes that businesses make when contemplating a migration to the cloud.

Common Mistakes Businesses Make

One element to take a close look at is a cloud hosting provider’s track record with service level agreements. Set up a protocol for periodically checking how much service you’re using and how you could be working more efficiently in the cloud. This translates into reduced costs and paying only for what you need and use.

Make sure your provider has experts you can reach at all times to walk you through any issues that might come up.

Critical Questions to Ask Your Cloud Service Provider

When selecting a vendor for cloud services, make sure you ask them the following questions:

Taking the time to ask these questions, as well as avoiding the common mistakes we’ve outlined, can go a long way toward promoting a successful cloud computing experience.

Conclusion

What does the future hold for cloud computing? As Marcus Vlahovic, Founder & CEO of Sustainabody says, “Cloud computing is bridging us to a world of unlimited connectivity. In 10-15 years people won’t be talking about routers and individual networks, everything will be the network.”

With faster internet speeds available and many aging computing infrastructures nearing the end of their lifecycles, it’s no wonder that Gartner predicts a “cloud shift” that will see more than $1 trillion in related spending by 2020.

So, while cloud computing isn’t necessarily appropriate for everyone, it does bring clear advantages that can significantly outweigh the disadvantages. From reduced investment costs and operational expenditures to offering improved productivity, scalability, and security, cloud computing is here to stay.

About True North

True North is a leading managed IT services provider delivering agility, efficiency and resilience to our clients through our IT Maturity Model. We are a cloud services provider of choice for healthcare organizations thanks to our unique experience, support, and dedication to unrivaled data security.

Our Service-Driven Cloud solutions give your business a boost by bringing you peace of mind, agility, affordability, transparency and cost effectiveness.

Contact us to learn how our IT services can empower your business to reach your goals.

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