To Cloud Host or Not to Cloud Host?

Migrating your data and apps to the cloud is not necessarily the best option for every SME

Cloud computing has revolutionised IT services and how businesses view their IT systems but it’s not necessarily right for every business and every IT system you use. We hear stories on an everyday basis about how good cloud services are and how much money it has saved businesses but as with everything it’s not suitable for everyone. It’s critically important to weigh up the pros and cons plus perform the necessary due diligence on any cloud services and service providers you are thinking of engaging. It’s also critical to investigate whether some of the systems you use will actually work efficiently and perform well as a cloud service.

In Australia and particularly Queensland the speed and the quality of public data infrastructure is a major issue and is the main reason why the NBN has been such a hot media topic for the past 18 months. There are quite a number of businesses who are running ADSL type data connections which are not of high enough quality to allow that business to run services in the cloud. Making the step up to a better, faster performing service can be expensive and depending on what area the business is located, not possible.

If you move your services into the Cloud, then it is critical that you address the performance requirements of the application and the data connection. What businesses have got to remember is that they have moved a service which was traditionally in the same office, directly connected by internal cabling to their computer out to a hosted environment utilising external telecoms providers. If businesses are expecting to get the same performance from those hosted systems as they were from the internal system, then they need to carefully plan and invest in the technology and quality of the infrastructure that enables the similar performance. Moving to cloud may save money up front, but the on-going costs for an upgraded external data connection could be significantly higher than what is being paid now.

Other businesses have very specific applications that have either been developed as critical in-house applications or require the application to be run from an internal system, so for these businesses moving to the cloud is not an option.

For most businesses, cloud services can be beneficial and many have taken the “dip our toe in the water” approach where they have moved non-critical, non-real time services to the cloud. Services like email anti-spam, anti-virus and hosted email are commonly available for a monthly subscription. Those businesses are also now increasingly looking towards cloud backup and archiving solutions, but again that brings its challenges with regards to the speed of the connection and the data allowance.

Data security is currently a hot topic in the media, and data security issues have affected major cloud providers like Google and Amazon in recent months. The Heartbleed security flaw has caused large ripples in the IT community with the huge amount of global media coverage it received. No-one still knows the full effect of the flaw, and how many people worldwide could potentially have had their personal details including usernames and passwords discovered. Staff still need usernames and passwords to access cloud services and having to remember multiple usernames and passwords for multiple sites creates major headaches.

Data backup is also an issue that needs addressed and is commonly overlooked by businesses moving applications and data to the cloud. They only find that their data is not backed up when some is accidently deleted or lost and they can’t get it back, or the service provider they are with charges them a significant fee to restore it. The largest providers like Microsoft and Google have made significant investment into ensuring that their systems are robust and reliable, but they don’t protect businesses when those businesses experience a data disaster. Imagine if a disgruntled employee decides to delete critical files from your data hosting service, unless you are backing them up, you won’t be able to restore them.

My advice for any business looking at cloud is to look very carefully at your options, look at the existing applications and services you run in-house, do the necessary due diligence and if need be invest in getting impartial advice from an expert.

About the Author

Geoff Stewart is a highly experienced and skilled Technology Director at Surety IT. His knowledge is based on years of industry experience having created customised, stable, well performing systems both for multi-national companies in the UK and Australia and Surety IT customers.

Surety IT can help you create the right system to enhance your business, ensuring you know how it is right for you and how to use it. We will tailor a solution to suit your needs with leading systems, local support and more, building your vision for a more flexible and capable business.

Call us today on 1300 4 787 389 or email info@suretyit.com.au to discuss your requirements.