Why a move to the cloud makes a whole lot of sense
“I wandered, lonely as a cloud…” - undeniably classic poetry from Wordsworth, but less and less applicable to today's modern enterprise IT environments, it would seem.
The cloud is in fact becoming rather crowded across Australia and New Zealand, with digital transformation and the need for more flexible options driving enterprise away from on-premises deployments to cloud-based technology.
There are a number of reasons why a move into the cloud makes sense. Right up front, it removes the age-old challenge of budgeting for a large-scale IT roll-out, and the associated effort of saving up funds – or approaching the board and explaining how a software solution is going to improve operations, and why that necessitates a large outlay of funds.
The Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model relies on monthly subscriptions, and therefore negates any large up-front investment. This also means that the software platform is maintained and administered by the vendor, resulting in less hands-on work for the IT team.
Upgrades and updates are performed in the cloud, taking the stress out of performing major changes to a platform. Cloud-based updates can be rolled out continuously, with little to no disruption to the end-user.
Previously it was the norm for an IT administrator to miss an entire night of sleep performing updates in the hope that business could continue the next day with an updated application. With cloud-based software that is updated and maintained frequently, data and information is always available to the end-user, and they are always using the latest iteration, with the latest security patches, updates and enhancements.
With on-premises solutions, updates are often delayed while an IT department waits for the optimal time to take a whole suite of software down, apply fixes and patches, then push those out to each machine.
Content security is another major factor driving people towards the cloud. A reputable cloud-based content services solution will have high-level security built into the platform itself, as well as enterprise-grade security at the data center level.
Not all cloud providers are equal, of course. As efficient and easy as it is to have software stored and maintained in the cloud, there is still an expectation that the service is properly administered on the vendor side, and that all applications, files and other content are accessible and available nearly 100% of the time. This necessitates working with a vendor that has a good reputation for managing their software in the cloud, and one that provides a very high level of uptime.
In a SaaS solution, the cloud vendor is responsible for actively managing the cloud environment in which their software resides and ensuring that the delivery to the end-user is optimal at all times.
Risk is significantly reduced, if data resides outside the organisation's premises in a vendor-operated cloud – and indeed, further reduced if data is replicated to more than one data center.
On-prem deployments are only as safe as the organisation's own hardware, and will generally not have the same level of high-grade security, failovers, redundancy, disaster recovery (DR) platforms as the professional-grade data centers leveraged by a privately-managed cloud.
Carefully-selected data centers are purpose-built, with high-grade air-conditioning, uninterrupted and backup power supplies, storm and weather-proof building and more. All this adds up to a safer, lower-risk environment for housing content in the cloud.
Looking again at cost savings, using a vendor's hardware also removes the capital expenditure required to house that data within the organisation – not to mention the cost involved in running it efficiently.
It also reduces the need for IT resources required to constantly monitor and maintain the hardware, there are no end-of-life replacement expenses, or the need for continuous upgrades and expansions. Again, the onus all lies with the vendor. As stated, the cloud environment will be managed and optimised by the vendor, to deliver the best possible outcomes to customers. In standard corporate terms – only one neck to throttle!
A cloud delivery model also works best for public sector bodies, who often require data to be stored in more than one location, and have strong governance around the movement of data.
In most cases, governments will not allow data to leave the physical bounds of their country. This means that the data must be stored either in a hybrid-cloud scenario, or at two separate, locally-based data centers.
Vendors who want to work in the public sector will be aware of this and have very tight governance and visibility over the data of all their customers, both public and private sector.
Ultimately, cloud-based software deployments make a whole lot of sense in the modern world. In fact, they may just free up enough time and mental clarity to allow the average IT manager to do some lonely wandering, contemplating the white fluffy things in the big blue sky…