This is a two-part blog that will cover why you should move to the Cloud and what the challenges are in adopting it. Over the last couple of years I have spoken to a number of CEO’s, COO’s and CIO’s about the move to Cloud based services and hosting. I find that our conversation begins with ‘please tell me in plain English what you mean by the Cloud’
What is the Cloud exactly?
The first thing you should understand about the cloud is that it is not a physical thing. The Cloud is a network of servers, and each server has a different function. Some servers use computing power to run applications or “deliver a service.” Some servers simply store data and documents.
For example, Adobe moved its creative services to the Cloud. You can no-longer buy the Creative Suite (Photoshop, InDesign, etc.) in a box. Instead, you pay a monthly subscription fee to use each individual service. That’s why it’s now called the “Adobe Creative Cloud” instead. When you take a picture on your smartphone, it is stored on your phone’s internal memory store or you can choose to store it in the Cloud negating the need for a large memory store.
What are the benefits of moving to the Cloud?
Our conversation then quickly moves onto what are the key benefits and how easy is it really to move to the Cloud. I have listed what I believe to be the key benefits in this blog. I would stress that I have found some incumbent IT functions to resist moving to Cloud services usually siting risks, security issues, lack of controls etc. to convince CEO’s/COO they are making a mistake. Equally I have found others to embrace and adopt to new benefits of the Cloud quickly to drive value and address the challenges and risks moving to Cloud can bring. I address this topic in part-two:What are the challenges of moving to the Cloud?. So what are the benefits of moving to the Cloud?
01. Fixed vs. Variable costs
In general the motivation to move to Cloud based services is driven primarily by cost reduction. In the past the norm was for companies to buy their own hardware infrastructure and software and install them in a privately owned or shared data centre, the value of which depreciated over time. Regardless of whether they needed the processing power and software equipment all of the time they were paying for these fixed costs. I call this ‘lights always on’ when you need the capability to switch them on and off when required. Something I have been telling my son to do for many years, as electricity isn’t free!
The Cloud enables you only to pay for what you use. You no longer have to worry about those big up front capital costs. That is now the Cloud provider’s problem who has the ability to spread the load across a large number of customers and drive economies of scale. You can now invest that capital in other things to drive value. You also become less reliant on your own IT workforce that can be expensive to keep and attract. This variable cost model also makes it easier to scale up or down during perhaps seasonal changes or during marketing campaigns. You no longer have run applications on your own servers in a data centre. The Cloud allows you to access the same applications through the Internet and of course you can install your own bespoke applications on the Cloud to allow for easier access.
Working on the Cloud allows your Company to be agile, efficient and cost-effective. If your company quickly needs access to more processing power, it can scale quickly in the Cloud. Conversely, if it needs to downscale or reduce resources, it can do so just as easily. In addition the ease of setup and management reduces the complexity of implementing new projects.
My first recommendation is to assess how much IT fixed versus variable cost is on the balance sheet and analyse how easily through the Cloud these costs can be transitioned to variable costs. You will also find through this analysis you have a much better handle on your transactional costs which is very important in the digital age when transactions are multiplying as services are automated.
02. Scaling up and down
Working on the Cloud allows your company to be agile, efficient and cost-effective. If your company quickly needs access to more processing power, it can scale quickly in the Cloud. Conversely, if it needs to downscale or reduce resources, it can do so just as easily. In addition the ease of setup and management reduces the complexity of implementing new projects. You also have access to unlimited storage on-demand, which in this digital age can be very important to keep your business on top of the demands of your consumers.
My second recommendation is to assess the need for scaling as an imperative in your business plan and how prepared your systems are to scale fast up or down. See if the weak points can be addressed by moving to Cloud based services
03. Resilience and disaster recovery
Cloud is now helping small businesses in particular to have implemented Cloud-based backup and recovery that save time, avoid large up-front investment and roll up third-party expertise as part of the deal.
Most organisations will have a mix of physical and virtual systems and need to account for both in their disaster recovery plan. In addition, there are many options available and businesses have to select what will suit them the best.
For those with a mix of physical and virtual infrastructure, using the Cloud for disaster recovery is not a case of simply replicating data; it largely depends on the size and scope of the production workloads to be protected, and selecting the disaster recovery solution that is the most suitable for its replication.
Cloud computing can also provide separation between production systems and their disaster recovery counterparts. A suitable geographical distance helps avoid knock-on effects in the event of a localised disaster.
While the cloud certainly has its place in today’s disaster recovery strategies it is essential to stress the importance of proper planning – and testing. With the correct approach, disaster recovery in the Cloud can be the perfect solution and often at a much lower cost point when compared to traditional models.
My third recommendation is to assess how resilient your systems are and the cost of that resiliency including disaster recovery. You are usually paying for a great deal of redundancy when this can be more effectively delivered by Cloud solutions.
04. Ease of access, improved collaboration and deployment
Accessing Cloud services can be simple and enables both your customers and workforce to use your services. For example, take Microsoft 365, you can now have a new entrant into you company access mail, documents, files etc. within minutes rather than days and you no longer need expensive IT administrators to manage everything. Once you register yourself in the Cloud, you can access the information from anywhere, from most devices that have Internet connection.
When your teams can access, edit and share documents anytime, from anywhere, they’re able to do more together, and do it better. Cloud-based workflow and file sharing apps help them make updates in real time and gives them full visibility of their collaborations. Accessing collaboration tools such as Quik or Evernote is now easy. You have the power to adopt and exploit quickly the tools and innovations launching in the market.
Businesses can offer more flexible working practices to employees so they can enjoy the work-life balance that suits them – without productivity taking a hit.
This enables employees to collaborate on documents without the need for version control. You no longer need to send files back and forth as email attachments to be worked on by one user at a time.
My fourth recommendation is assess how enabled and collaborative your workforce is and how moving to Cloud services can improve collaboration and engagement. Improved collaboration ultimately means better work and a healthier bottom line. If you’re still relying on the old way, it could be time to try something different.
Last but not least is the hot topic of security. This is the area that most CEO’s lose sleep over.
The question I pose to many CEO’s is: ‘are you better off dealing with security threats on your own or as part of a community?’ Cloud based security solutions are advantageous because they can implement the very latest threat information immediately. Zscaler software is a good example. Zscaler addresses the challenge of mobile data and app security for both employee-owned and corporate-issued devices. Employees forward their entire mobile traffic to Zscaler which analyses the inbound and outbound traffic in real time. This ensures that users are protected against advanced web browsing threats such as phishing and spyware.
Cloud service providers have to invest in the latest security software to tackle such threats. Their business model is based on being very safe and secure. They can invest in detection as well as prevention more than most companies can afford to do.
Of course the emotional agenda of being in control is a factor. If you are reliant on the Cloud to secure your data and services are you in control? Many traditional IT departments will persuade you to keep control have secure your data within your company own firewalls. But can they keep up with the latest threat detection and do they have the expertise in-house to keep you secure in a digital based world? Maybe or maybe not.
Most governments across the globe are moving to Cloud based services. And they will continue to invest heavily in making these services secure. However you can never be 100% secure. You can only reduce risks by educating your customers, colleagues and investing in capabilities to protect and detect breaches quickly. The Cloud helps you to share this investment.
My fifth recommendation, I believe you are safer together than apart. However making that step requires to you to break the emotional barrier of control and potentially ignoring some of those dissenting voices in your traditional IT departments. Start by moving your non-business critical services and data to the Cloud and over time, as you become more confident, begin to move your critical business services.
If you found this blog useful and would like to discuss how iCore can help you with your transition to the Cloud then contact us on +44 (0)207 868 2405 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.