“The Cloud” is a term that gets thrown around a lot lately. Whether it is in new movies or snappy IBM commercials, the cloud is being characterized as this mysterious, yet dangerous entity that is a must-have for your business. But what exactly is the Cloud? And, more importantly, how does the Cloud work? While those are answers that cannot be completely tackled in a blog post, here are the top six facts you need to know if your business is considering exploring Cloud options:
1. The Cloud has a definition
At least, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) it does. Put simply, the Cloud is “the ability for end users to utilize parts of bulk resources and that these resources can be acquired quickly and easily.” The NIST stipulates the following criteria must be met in order for a service to be considered “Cloud:”
– On-demand self-service: The ability for an end user to sign up and receive services without long delays
– Broad network access: Ability to access the service via standard platforms (desktop, laptop, mobile etc.)
– Resource pooling: Resources are pooled across multiple customers/services
– Rapid elasticity: Capability can scale to cope with demand peaks
– Measured Service: Billing is metered and delivered as a utility service
When evaluating the different cloud services out there, this can be a great starting point for helping to figure out which factors to consider.
2. The Cloud involves trust
“The ‘cloud’ simply means moving from in-house infrastructure to hosted infrastructure,” says Matt Haedo, IT Implementation Specialist at Miles Technologies. “Someone still needs to maintain this hosted cloud infrastructure. You trust that the engineers who designed this hosted service did so in a redundant manner.”
If you are going to be utilizing a third party service to host your infrastructure, it poses certain risks. You are relying on your cloud provider to allow you to run your business in a secure and properly functioning environment.
3. The Cloud means giving up control
Moving some or your entire infrastructure to a cloud-based system means adding additional variables to your business. “Application and service uptime are no longer dependent on your ISP, your power company or anything directly under your control,” says Haedo. “Is this good? Often times, yes. However, outages can and do still occur. When these outages occur, they are outside of your control and you are at the mercy of your cloud provider to fix them.”
4. The Cloud, from a business perspective, means moving costs from capital expenditures to operating expenses
This may make certain aspects easier for your business, but it is important to consider whether or not this makes financial sense for your company. “A detailed cost/benefit analysis is necessary to determine if or when you will see a return on investment by migrating to the cloud,” says Haedo. “By moving to the cloud, you can often reduce in-house infrastructure and associated costs. However, the monthly recurring cost of the cloud service is not always cheaper over time compared to implementing in-house infrastructure.”
5. The Cloud is not always easy to get to
One particular area that is sometimes overlooked when considering a move is Cloud access, namely how quickly and easily your users can get to the resources on the Cloud. When the clients exist on the same network as the servers, the connection commonly runs over a gigabit network. (1 Gbps = 1024 Mbps). When switching over to a cloud-based environment, this connection is now usually between 10 and 100 Mpbs. “Do not underestimate the amount of bandwidth that you will need to connect to cloud services,” says Ray Gasnick III, Director of IT Technologies at Miles Technologies, “Many times when resources are moved into a cloud-based environment, that client/server connection now utilizes an internet connection that is typically between 100 times and 10 times slower.”
6. The Cloud needs your users on board
While a business may come to the conclusion that migrating to a cloud-based environment will make the most financial sense, it is important to consider the impact the new environment will have on the user end. After all, the employees are going to be the ones completing their daily undertakings in your new infrastructure or system. Gasnick says that business decision-makers need to be aware of how a move to the Cloud will impact the performance of their business applications. Any issues or problems with applications may cause “the end user, who is very specifically impacted, to begin to lose faith in the solution and the decision-makers who were involved in the migration to that particular cloud service,” he says. “End user buy-in is probably one of the most significant things to have or lose when contemplating a move to cloud services.”
What are some other common questions users are asking about how the cloud works? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.