The Cloud is everywhere nowadays. But what the heck is “The Cloud” and why would anyone care?
The basic definition
The Cloud has many different definitions which is why it can be difficult to fully understand what it is and how it can benefit it you or not. The Cloud to me, at the highest level, and simplest definition, is any software, server, or system, which lives outside of your office and is accessed over the Internet.
More detailed definition
The next level of the definition comes down to software and hardware. The software level has been around for many years and most likely you are using it today. This can be in the form of Google’s Gmail, Office 365, Salesforce, and many others. All of these systems live outside of your office and users access them over the Internet – in the Cloud. For the hardware side, this pertains to having your own server, just like the one in your office, except it resides in the Cloud and you do not own any hardware. Like all Cloud offerings you pay monthly instead of the capital cost of equipment or sometimes software.
To complicate things even further, you can have a public Cloud and a private Cloud. Basically this just means that if your software or system is in a pool of shared resources, then it is most likely in a public Cloud and if you have dedicated resources then it is in a private Cloud. In general, a private Cloud is more secure but also more expensive. Not to say that a public Cloud is insecure because that is not the case at all – a public Cloud is often more secure than a lot of companies’ own servers/systems in their office. A private Cloud just gives you more options and flexibility for security.
Soooo, to Cloud, or not to Cloud?
There is no one right answer for all situations. We have clients that are 100% Cloud based, some who don’t use the Cloud at all, and many using some Cloud systems and some on-premise systems. We look at the Cloud as just another business case scenario to leverage technology. We look at all of the systems individually and not just as a whole.
- What is the business goal for each system?
- How do the users work in the system?
- What would the end user impact be if it was Cloud based?
- What is the risk for having the system in the Cloud or in the office?
- How would downtime impact the business and users?
- Are there any regulations that would impact this?
- What are all of the advantages to putting the system in the Cloud?
- Are the users that access the system all in the same office or distributed in different locations?
- Can the Internet provider handle accessing a Cloud based system? Speed, redundancy, reliability, etc. are all factors to consider.
- What is the ROI for all of this?
Once you have done a review of a system and gathered some answers and feedback, the direction to head towards is usually pretty obvious. Some systems like email will be much easier to determine compared to line of business applications or whole server platforms. Spend a little time thinking it all through since you might find that leveraging the Cloud could be a smart thing to do for your organization.
How does Waident use the Cloud?
We leverage the Cloud exclusively. We migrated all of our internal servers to secure Cloud based servers years ago. We did this because it made economic sense, was more reliable, has more redundancy, and just as importantly, it fit the way our team works in our systems.
- Economics – Our server hardware was aging and needed to be upgraded. Our options were we could go out and buy a new robust server and rebuild our own servers on that platform or we could just use another company’s hardware which was much better than anything else we could do. Running the numbers showed that we could cut a big check for new hardware and by the time we added up that cost along with the other costs (offsite backups, collocation fees, etc.) we found that using the Cloud was a cost effective option and also afforded us the benefit of greatly increasing our reliability and redundancy.
- Reliability and Redundancy – There is no way we could have cost effectively built our own server with the same high level of redundancy and reliability. All major Cloud providers have multiple Internet providers, redundant power, redundant air-conditioning, and everything else you would expect from a collocation facility. The Cloud servers are in a cluster and minimize hardware failure. There is also the additional benefit of the servers being backed up nightly. This is an optimal environment if there ever was one.
- End users – The Waident team is distributed among several offices and locations. Most people were already accessing all of the systems over the Internet. Moving our servers from an office to the Cloud would have no negative impact on how they work and need to get things done. It turned out that it was all positive impact since the Cloud servers are much faster than what we had previously.
So should you be looking in to leveraging the Cloud? Definitely. Just because something is in the Cloud does not make it less expensive. If the driver is just about cutting cost, you may be disappointed. If you have aging servers then it would be a good exercise to investigate how moving to the Cloud compares to a traditional hardware upgrade. If you need a higher level of security, reliability, and redundancy, then looking at Cloud options might be worth your while. “The Cloud” is really what you make it so it is up to you to see if you can take advantage of it or not.