Many SMBs and conglomerates have adopted cloud services, either fully or to supplement their inhouse services. A proper cloud strategy can provide easy and affordable services in terms of both infrastructure and software. It is important though, to first identify the needs of the company, and then analyse and decide among the myriad cloud offerings, the best possible fit for your organisation.
Defining the cloud
The first step in deciding on a cloud strategy is to identify the different aspects of this technology. A cloud strategy can include one or more of the below.
Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)
This can be considered the starting point of cloud computing. This offers the most basic IT services, including storage, virtual machines, and networking. Investing in IaaS can help you reduce capital costs of purchasing IT infrastructure, while simultaneously reducing operating costs of maintaining said infrastructure.
Further IaaS gives you the ability to start at a suitable level for your organisation and pay as you grow for any further services or expansions you may require in the future. This gives you the ability to scale your IT requirements up and down with organisational demands, and not being stuck with expensive hardware purchases down the line.
Platform as a service (PaaS)
Moving up from IaaS, PaaS supplies the platform required to develop, test, and deliver anything from simple inhouse applications to enterprise level software applications. In addition to the services provided by IaaS, PaaS also provides middleware, dev tools, database management, and BI services. Providing a fully-fledged environment to satisfy everything from development to deployment and further. Similar to IaaS, you purchase only the services you need, on a subscription basis, and applications can be programmed to scale up and down with some demand-forecasting on the part of your team, saving both time and money. Once again, the cloud service provider would manage the environment for you, leaving your team free to focus on creating and deploying applications.
Serverless - Building from the PaaS model, serverless takes it a step further by removing all concerns of scaling from your team. Serverless applications can scale instantly, and automatically without needing any further configuration on the part of the development team or cloud vendor.
Software as a service (SaaS)
The final layer of cloud computing provides users with the ability to subscribe to software running on the cloud. The cloud provider hosts and manages the applications, applying all upgrades and security patches etc, while users connect to the applications and pay on a subscription basis. Again, this reduces the Capex of expensive software purchases, and moves it to a OpEx model. This further removes the need to worry about upgrades as in many cases you will receive them free of charge.
Common myths surrounding the cloud
IaaS costs more over time
The economics surrounding a cloud migration are still hotly debated in some organisations. In terms of infrastructure, you cannot just look at the cost of buying hardware, but also the cost associated with maintaining the hardware and servers including the cost of climate-controlled rooms and upgrading and the cost of a specialised team to maintain the hardware.
It's better to pay for a software licence than a subscription
In terms of software, while it may appear that buying a single licence would be more economical than paying for an ongoing subscription, you have to also take the cost of patching and upgrading software. In a SaaS strategy the vendor will take care of these for you, making your life easier and also saving you money.
The main reason to move to the cloud is to save money
While the cost benefit is definitely one of the reasons to consider moving to the cloud, we must also consider how much easier our life becomes once this step is made. Not only are the main infrastructure and platform considerations removed from us as an engineering firm, but they are also given over to a team of experts for whom it is their bread and butter. Making it easier and faster for you to focus on what you do best and focus hard on your business vertical.
I'm worried my data isn't secure
Security is always a major concern in the IT industry, and some organisations and executives just don't feel safe unless their data and their customer's data is on their own premises. However, cloud service providers provide the best available security features, investing heavily in ensuring that your data remains safe. To the point that they have separate security teams whose sole job is to try and break their security and find out all the holes in their security.
To move to the cloud I need to either 'shift and lift' or totally refactor my applications
While both these options are on the table, companies don't need to solely pick one of them. The ‘lift and shift’ is a quick and cheap way of getting your applications to the cloud, it lacks the ability to gain most of the benefits the cloud offers.
Refactoring or rewriting your applications entirely for the cloud can be expensive and time consuming, meaning other companies will get there before you.
A better approach, perhaps in the interim is a mixed solution which provides the best of both worlds. While this may not be as flexible as a fully cloud developed application, it would still allow you to take advantage of certain features, such as heightened security and scalability.
Cloud technology is still unreliable I stand to lose all my data
If you are in the IT industry, and this is still a concern to you… You really need to get out and read more. Cloud service providers give you much better data reliability than you can afford in house. You don’t need to worry about constant backup or storing data offsite. CSPs will provide these services, sometimes as a part of your basic package, along with amazing recovery times in case of any disasters. Additionally, given that cloud data centres are maintained in different geographical locations, your data is backed up on different geographical sites for no additional cost, with the same security as your main installation.
In addition to these, there are other reasons while organisations still second guess the move to the cloud. A thorough and unbiased evaluation, however, will point out the many benefits of a cloud migration as soon as it is viable. For your organisation, your employees, and your customers this may be an unprecedented move in the right direction, helping you and your organisation grow and thrive.