To Cloud, Or Not To Cloud?

Everyone knows about “the cloud” these days. From the cynical techie definition “running your stuff on someone else’s computer” to the CEO-who-got-religion “it's the only way we can stay in business!”, opinions run the gamut between skepticism and naive exuberance.

Rapid developments of internet and web technology have made the cloud possible. In past years, the model began to evolve as rather primitive (by today's standards) hosting services. ASPs or Application Service Providers were some of the first examples on the market. But they were limited in their ability to deliver performance based on available bandwidth and ubiquity of bandwidth at endpoints. There was also a lot of downtime. Nowadays, most (if not all) of those problems have been solved, at least in the developed world.

In my experience, whether you decide to move or purchase a system in the cloud depends on several factors including:

  • Risk - how risky is it to locate a portion of your business on "someone else's computer"?

  • Cost - what are the costs associated with moving a system to the cloud? Does it result in lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) or is it more expensive?

  • Service - will locating your system in the cloud result in improved service to your customers?

  • Reliability - will the cloud based system be more reliable (accessibility, uptime, throughput?) than an on-premise system?

Occasionally, you will still hear objections based on data security. Keep in mind that there is a strong sentiment that having your data on premise adds to security. But, is this true? How can a single (especially small) organization’s “data center” compete with an ANSI/TIA-942 compliant professional operation? It amazes me when some organizational leaders still think that physical proximity to their data automatically makes it “safer” than encrypted hosting with a world-class data center provider accompanied by a rigorous contract protecting privacy and data integrity.

There are still some things you should NOT put in the cloud. But that list is shrinking daily. Corporate directories, DHCP servers, and security systems are at the top of the shrinking list. Unencrypted personal identifying information (PII) and sensitive medical records need to remain on site. In addition, some legacy apps are just not worth moving to the cloud - it’s better they remain where they are, or go away altogether replaced by a new solution that is totally cloud based from the start (e.g., SaaS systems). Often the effort to encrypt and reposition legacy data in the cloud is more trouble than it is worth in terms of an expected ROI from “moving to the cloud”.

But, whatever you do, keep in mind the four factors above - Risk, Cost, Service, and Reliability - when deciding about whether to locate your system in the cloud or not.

If your organization is struggling with decisions of “what to cloud and what not to cloud”, contact me for assistance and more information.

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