What is the "cloud" and why should I care? This term "cloud" or "cloud computing" is a fairly new term. The concept has been around for quite awhile, but has only taken traction in the last five years. The cloud's rapid rise to notability started with IBM in 2011 when it announced a major cloud based framework called SmartCloud. The buzz started to go viral from that point and has not stopped since.
But what is it exactly? Simply put the "Cloud" is any group of resources - PCs, servers, storage (like Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive or Dropbox), services (like email), etc - that are accessible over the Internet. That's it! It is basically the same stuff you use everyday that is probably sitting in your office's server closet or under your desk, but instead of sitting in your office, it is in a server room somewhere else. Instead of paying for it once and using it until it breaks (or becomes useless), you pay for it on a monthly basis. Forever. Sounds terrible ... right? If that is all you consider, then it does not sound very attractive. You might even say something like ... why is this so popular!?
Why should I care? There are far more benefits to leveraging the cloud over traditional IT infrastructures. Here are the top four in the order of relevance:
1) Security. That's right, you heard me. I saw you glance up to see if we were talking about benefits or downsides. This is the biggest misconception of all when it comes to the cloud. Security. Somehow we have the idea that the server that sits in my closet is safer than a server that sits in a server room in another part of the country. A server room that has secure access - only a choice few can even touch your cloud server or the data on it. A server room that has redundant environmental control systems that not only control temperature but humidity. A server room that has 24x7 maintenance. A server room with redundant power sources. A server room with generator and battery backup support. A server room where all the servers are backed up nightly. A server room that is located away from flood zones and secured from extreme weather conditions. Can you say any of that about your server closet? Your data is safer and more secure on the cloud that is in your office. 2) Scalability. Next to security, scalability is the next biggest advantage to cloud computing. With server hardware if you run out of RAM or need more disk space, you are looking at making a change in the hardware and some degree of downtime. To add RAM or storage to a cloud server is a matter of a mouse click and (maybe) a reboot of the server. Done! You can add processors or more network interfaces in seconds without leaving your chair. Because of this, cloud based IT infrastructure tends to maintain performance. As opposed to traditional IT infrastructure where the infrastructure keeps getting slower and slower, and more out of date until it dies or becomes totally obsolete. 3) Availability. Since your data is not housed at your office, you can access it anywhere where there is an Internet connection. Have you ever had an extended power outage at your office forcing you to send workers home? I have. Have you ever had bad weather strand your workers at home and effectively shut down your business. I have. No more! Send your workers home ... to work. Let them stay at home safe and secure from snow and ice while your business keeps going as they can, enabled by cloud technology, do what they do at the office ... from home. Extreme weather like tornadoes or a fire can send your servers into the next county or melt them down to a blob. If you had your data and software on the cloud, you just hit a bump in the road and are not down for the count. Statistics show that if a business affected by a catastrophic event is not back in operation in five days, it never will resume operations again. Separating your IT infrastructure from your office is a great way to protect your business! 4) Cost. Ok, ok, ok, I hear the groans! How can a platform that costs me money every month be more cost effective than a platform I buy once and run it until it is dead, be more cost effective?!?! Well, because you don't! I've been in IT for over 30 years and I have never encountered a situation or met anyone who has ever met anyone who paid for a platform ONCE and never paid again until it died or was replaced. The fact is that as platforms age and the demands on the platforms increase, money has to be spent to maintain and keep those platforms up-to-date. The older a platform gets, the more the costs go up for a variety of reasons. At some point, the law of diminishing returns kicks in and you spend more and more cash and get little (if anything) for it. It is at this point that business owners decide to change platforms. The truth is that keeping platforms relevant and properly maintained will always involve spending money on a regular basis. From this perspective the reoccurring monthly cost of a cloud platform is lower especially if you factor in all the tangible benefits the cloud infrastructures provide that you could really never justify (i.e. redundant power feed, Internet connections and environmental controls, etc) for your in house traditional IT infrastructure.
In conclusion, the cloud is certainly a different way to think of IT. Things that are different are always a little scary. You don't have to make the plunge right away, but you should definitely start moving that direction. At Aspire Business Solutions, we have been helping our clients make that migration and would be very interested in discussing how we can help you and your business take advantage of this next generation of IT infrastructure. Click here if you would like to arrange a free, 1 hour consultation.