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.
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.
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.
Just as with cloud service types, there are different cloud solutions available. The one you choose will depend on a variety of factors.
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.
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.
As with anything, there are advantages and disadvantages associated with working in a cloud environment. Let’s take a look at some of them.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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