Is the cloud right for your business or should you keep your applications in house? Mike Puglia of Kaseya gives the pros and cons of cloud vs on-premise.
The cloud has been a great leap forward. You can leverage tools like Gmail to store messages in the cloud and then get them from any device anywhere. DropBox lets you do the same with documents, photos and other files. Meanwhile core IT apps such as ERP and productivity tools like Office are now commonly run in the cloud.
Tech start-ups who want to get new inventions to market fast tend to operate 100% in the cloud. Some venture capitalists will only invest in start-ups that use cloud for IT infrastructure, but most environments are not so pure. The majority of established SMBs have an array of legacy gear that works, is understood by IT, and is paid for. So even as many new apps, such as ERP, email and backup move to the cloud, others, such as DBMS and accounting run effectively on in-house servers.
Here’s some of the factors you must consider to decide the cloud vs on-premise question.
Respect the Law
Moore’s Law postulates that the density, and power of a processer doubles every 18 months. Since servers generally last five years, if you want to replace your five year-old server, either it will be 7.5 times faster for the same price or 7.5 times cheaper for the same speed.
SMBs, therefore would do well to compare maximising the benefits of their existing on-premises applications and infrastructure against the benefits of migrating these to the cloud. Keep in mind that once you move to the cloud, it might not be so easy to move back.
Be sceptical of cloud economics
Cloud pricing and contracts can be complex, which is why businesses turn to experts like R “Ray” Wang, principal analyst at Constellation Research. Wang helps customers negotiate a minefield of issues. Contracting with a cloud service provider might appear cost-effective, but there are conditions and hidden costs that can turn what sounds like a great deal into a money pit. The main issue is the pay-as-you-go model. IT knows that data use and processing power always experiences increased use. So when you start using more capacity, your costs rise – in often unforeseen ways.
Another issue raised by Wang is that cloud providers control cloud pricing. Unlike a piece of on-premises software which you already own, you may find the cost of cloud service rising – apart from fees for increased use. Often there is little recourse than to absorb the cost as it can be difficult to migrate to another service.
Vendor lock-in is a further concern. “While users have access to and ownership of their data, the hurdle in moving from one cloud vendor to another increases with usage over time. Without rights over the app’s functionality, users face lock-in if they cannot easily export their business processes that are instantiated in the vendor’s functionality,” the Cloud Bill of Rights argues.
Cloud vs. the WAN
Internal IT networks can be very snappy. We have high-speed network adapters, wireless routers, and Ethernet LAN backbones. These connections are almost always faster than the WAN connections that attach the LAN to the internet. While the LAN is only as fast as its slowest hop component, the cloud is only as fast as the slowest WAN connection and the slowest network and hops in between it and the cloud provider. If you move major apps to the cloud, you may be fielding complaints from end users about lag time. To reduce this latency, you may have to upgrade WAN connections at additional expense.
Case for the cloud
Despite drawbacks and alternative approaches, the cloud is here to stay. Major market researchers show cloud momentum is virtually unstoppable. This means these cloud services, despite some lingering reservations, are providing true value. While you may not need to move all your legacy apps to the cloud now, new apps could easily be deployed as cloud services with less burden on IT.
One hot area is storage. The beauty here is IT doesn’t have to maintain as much backup infrastructure. At the same time, restores are more reliable because the data is in the hands of a provider that focuses on storage. And with the cloud, your backups can achieve nearly infinite scalability. Disaster recovery as a Service (DRaaS) is also hot, according to MarketsandMarkets, which says DRaaS will be a $5.7 billion market by 2018. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is another boom area. Volume licenses for on-premises software can be insanely complicated whereas, in comparison, licensing for SaaS apps is far simpler. Upgrades are easier too since, in the cloud, they are automatic. Just as important, end users can get their application-related files from most devices and location.
Finding an answer
So what’s the solution? The short answer is there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach that matches all scenarios here. The choice will inevitably depend in large part on your specific objectives as a business. A private cloud may be a great option – and easier to do than you think. If you are already virtualized, it is not a big leap to turning your data resources into a private cloud, where the systems act as a unified, scalable utility. Here you gain all the benefits of a public cloud with fewer of the downsides.
Any cloud solution does, however, present special network monitoring and management challenges for IT. That’s because internal IT doesn’t have full control of the provider’s cloud infrastructure or a full view of all the network pieces that support these cloud applications and services.
And while IT struggles to monitor and manage the cloud, it still needs to take care of internal networks and even hybrid cloud configurations.
The latest full-featured network monitoring solutions are key here in holistically monitoring performance across on-premises, cloud and hybrid infrastructure and allowing IT staff to have oversight of even the most complex infrastructure based on service-level views. This service-oriented perspective enables fast root cause analysis, so network and service problems are quickly resolved and don’t hold operations up.
On the other side of the coin, on-premises computing can be fast, affordable and highly efficient. Managing it all, though, can be difficult. IT automation, such as that offered by Kaseya VSA, can dramatically reduce the administrative burden while ensuring all endpoints remain up and secure.
Many businesses may decide to opt for a hybrid approach, keeping some core capability and legacy processes in-house while moving other functionality and applications into the cloud. Whatever option they take, it’s worth remembering that IT automation, network monitoring and performance measurement will be key in maximising the benefits achieved.
Mike Puglia is chief product officer for Kaseya.