If you use computers in any way in your business then Coronavirus will have definitely raised the question over how to work remotely from the workplace or office and many conversations will have included questions over ‘The Cloud’ and the inevitable question: Should I move to the cloud?
If you are a business owner or a member of a business leadership team in capacity then moving to the cloud will have come up in conversations with friends, colleagues or other business associates and had you wondering if you should move to the cloud and how would such a move affect your day today? In order to answer this question properly we need to break this question up into pieces and tackle each in turn.
What is the Cloud?
‘The Cloud’ is a generic term used to describe the storage areas for Applications, Programs and Data held by various providers on your behalf where the primary method of access for you is via the Internet. Typically Data Centres are the storage areas for these services and these tend to be secure buildings containing thousands of managed servers and very fast Internet connections.
What is Cloud Migration?
In simple terms, cloud migration (aka moving to the cloud) involves systematically taking at all your IT software applications, your files, folders and data storage areas along with any traditionally hard wired solutions such as telephone systems and moving them away from your office space into ‘The Cloud’
Why Would You Move to the Cloud?
Moving to the cloud is advantageous for a number of reasons and we’ve pulled out the most common here:
1. No longer relying on IT hardware such as servers and phone systems running in your office.
All applications and data such as your accounting system, CRM system, telephone system and files and folders containing your quotes and spreadsheets are accessible from your laptop or PC at home in the same way they are at the office without and solutions such as VPN being required.
2. More resilience, reliability and availability.
The Cloud offers improved resilience reliability to a level typically far exceeding that of most office IT infrastructure hardware setups. Data Centres benefit from economies of scale as far as hardware procurement and design of systems is concerned. Very expensive and complicated combinations of IT Hardware and Software Solutions are used to create a platform or backbone that is used to serve many customers and so the cost for each customer to benefit from this infrastructure is far lower than if they were to go out and purchase equivalent hardware solutions themselves.
Resilience and reliability become relevant because systems used in the data centres make IT hardware highly fault tolerant and available for example: If a server (or hardware within one fails) there are usually numerous others operating in a team that take its place immediately and generally without any outage.
Cloud Services are available from the Internet but that doesn’t mean it has to be a particular Internet connection. Generally Cloud Systems will be available from any available Internet connection meaning that if you have a problem with the Internet at your office or at home or if you’re working on the road at a client’s office or in a hotel you can easily switch to using the Internet hotspot on your mobile phone from your laptop and gain access to all your cloud services.
4. Low capital investment access to leading IT solutions.
In years gone by companies with deep pockets were able to gain competitive advantage or differentiate between themselves and competitors by increasing their spending in IT services and solutions.
Today’s cloud offering levels this playing field by allowing newcomers with limited budget access to the same cutting edge technologies that larger organisations are able to leverage. This is made possible because the vast majority of cloud service providers operate a per user/monthly subscription model for their products and delivery. Thus a five user start-up with minimal IT budget can gain access to the same services as a 2000 user blue chip company with comparatively unlimited resources.
5. Forever In flight upgrades.
With traditional hardware and software solutions, upgrades were purchased and renewed typically on a 5 year cycle. Software Solutions when purchased typically get the current version installed as vendor supported annual upgrades etc. Any hardware or software upgrade for on premise systems requires a degree of advanced planning and resources within the business to allow testing of new systems and downtime or an outage during the upgrade procedure.
Cloud IT services and infrastructure offerings tend to be kept current by the vendor and constantly upgraded to the latest build, version or back end hardware solution. Play generally service providers will carry out upgrades migration seamlessly without any investment in time or money required from its client. Additionally, upgrades seem to take place more frequently. Microsoft for example have two upgrade channels for the Microsoft Office 365 desktop suite, monthly or biannually.
6 . Instant Performance Upgrades.
With traditional physical or tin IT infrastructure upgrading hardware performance generally means considerable downtime and therefore a project plan is required which involves input and feedback from teams across an organisation as far as scheduling is concerned.
Critical applications may need to be moved to alternate hardware while their primary host undergoes maintenance for example. This process tends to be quite costly and time consuming however when done using cloud based infrastructure this is not so. In the cloud, assigning more hardware resources such as CPU cores, RAM, Disk Space or even changing the type of hardware used to host the cloud servers can be done instantly or within a few minutes.
7. Removing Guesswork.
When making choices about purchasing traditional on premise IT hardware and software solutions a degree of skill is required but also an element of guesswork in order to predict potential demand five years in advance (five years being the typical life cycle of IT hardware).
No matter how well management teams work they simply cannot predict accurately this far in advance and as a result IT purchasing and product specification tend to be over either over specified using the ‘just in case’ logic or under specified using the ‘if we need it we’ll buy it later’ approach. Neither of these are particularly great because they lead to either wasted money with underutilised IT hardware or lost productivity due to slow systems waiting to upgrade.
Cloud offerings by comparison offer the business the opportunity to start small then grow/increase resources as required and pay accordingly. This model is super-efficient allowing the business to match expenditure and resource requirements directly with IT demand by the minute if need be.
8. Constantly Improving User Experience.
With traditionally deployed IT systems the user gets a brand new desktop or workspace when the initial investment is made and then periodically, (maybe a year or two down the line or even as far away as five years later) another upgrade takes place and their working environment is upgraded. With Cloud infrastructure small upgrades can take place as frequently as daily but monthly is a typical cycle.
As an example the new features in the Cloud based Microsoft Office Suite (which includes used applications such as Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel etc.) have two upgrade paths, users can opt to receive the new features either monthly or twice semi-annually. This means that user experience is constantly upgraded allowing them to benefit from new features and better application experiences which in turn means improved productivity and comfort.
9. Unified experience in or out of the office.
When cloud environments are deployed correctly employees benefit from workspaces, desktop experiences and applications that work just as well from their homes, hotels or on the road as they do when they are working in the main office buildings. More recently this has allowed businesses to move to a hybrid workforce model where some staff members work from home either partially or in some cases entirely. Employers operating like this have been able to benefit from reduced office space requirements and expenditures while gaining greater employee job satisfaction.
10. Security you simply cannot afford on your own.
Perhaps most important feature of moving to cloud based services is Security. Historically people questioned whether or not data was safe in the cloud given that access was possible from anywhere with an Internet connection and some of the concerns were valid.
Today however, when the right mixture of cloud services are deployed (correctly!) even small businesses gain access to the best security feature set available in the world. The cloud vendors constantly invest, improve and update the security offering as new vulnerabilities are discovered and deliver these updates as part of the ongoing subscription cost. The resource and technology required to keep pace and deliver this level of security to an individual organisation is something that even blue chip companies would struggle to afford.
So, should you move to the cloud with your IT systems?
The answer is it’s up to you, but we think you should consider it.
777 Networks has a history of deploying superb, traditional tin- based Windows Server architecture that spans over 20 years.
About seven years ago we started to float the idea of the ‘Cloud Migration’ with our clients. Initially the take up was slow, however, in the last two years elements of cloud deployment have reached 100 percent of our client base.
We are an Independent Outsourced IT Managed Service Provider and as such work to deploy infrastructure solutions that match client requirements exactly. We’d never force a particular solution or brand for financial gain as we get paid to make the ‘right’ IT decisions regardless.
That said, we believe Cloud IT infrastructure offers so many business benefits that it has to be included as an option in all our proposals and so far none have had the cloud elements cut from them prior to deployment.