Although cloud technology has been taking over as the preferred company data infrastructure for over a decade now, if you haven’t spent much time going through the ins and outs of the set of services that it provides, your firm may still have some questions.
The Important Basics
For most firms, cloud services make sense because they are able to provide your company with greater flexibility, lower cost, and a higher level of security than you already have with your established IT infrastructure. Here is how they make a difference in those areas:
If you have a mobile workforce, it can be difficult to provide the same level of services across platforms and devices without looking at putting some of those services into the cloud so that access can be accomplished anywhere in the world. Companies that leverage the cloud effectively end up with employees that can work wherever they need to without losing access to productivity tools.
The city of Los Angeles switched their office and productivity applications over to a cloud-based model several years ago. They had a few fits and starts fitting the cloud into their operations, but experienced a significant amount of savings on IT costs because the per seat price was lower and they didn’t need to have installation and support staff around all the time. Most companies that switch a great deal of their application set to the Internet also end up with a large cost savings.
It may seem strange that an application that can be accessed via the Internet could be safer than it is on your own servers on-site. Then again, if you remember what happened to Sony when they were hacked after spending tens of millions of dollars a year on security, you will likely agree that serving your applications from a vendor data center with world class security certifications might be an upgrade over what you can provide. The nice thing about using a data center with security built-in is that they normally provide the same services to all sizes of customer, leveling the playing field for smaller companies that would otherwise need to spend a higher proportion of their IT budget on security.
What You Can Actually Do With A Cloud Presence
Not every executive needs to have the benefits of cloud technology explained to them, but understanding the implementation options is certainly an important part of making a move to the cloud a consideration. Here are some of the ways that companies are leveraging their applications and presence on the Internet in order to take advantage of the cloud:
The lock, stock, and barrel approach:
If you have taken a look at the different infrastructure options available to companies, you will know that the choice that leaves you with the most autonomy from an IT development standpoint is to move your applications, your platform, and your need for hardware to a vendor like Amazon that offers the ability to instantly scale your operations or co-locate them around the world when you need them. Access to your vendor’s virtual hardware network gives you a lot of flexibility when it comes to planning- and will cut your internal IT maintenance costs considerably. On the other side of things, before you choose a vendor for your employees’ usage, consider looking at usage statistics within your company on your internal network to verify that the level of expected participation is going to be as cost-effective as you expect it to be given the vendor’s pricing scheme.
Virtual platforms and security:
A step down from having you manage your hardware in terms of real-time flexibility is an option that allows firms to choose their platform, using the hardware that is available. The maintenance costs that you experience should be lower, although you may have some spikes in activity if you need to upgrade your hardware. In most cases, this type of service is akin to having a virtual Internet server: your can choose your platform and applications and the hardware is either fixed or virtual, but typically requires account changes in order to scale up.
Whether your company would like to put its CRM or ERP, ecommerce site, or human resources web application into the cloud, you can do so with vendors that allow you to use their hardware to serve your applications as a service. Moreover, if you are purchasing functionality from known vendors, you can likely either serve their applications as well or use their data center to just use their applications as a client.
From a data security standpoint, some professionals in accounting and IT remain cautious about having companies host their intellectual property that is confidential using cloud applications. Part of this cautiousness stems from breach laws that require firms to disclose when their client information has been hacked. So if you are working on a design for a client and the details are stolen from your cloud application, you might have explaining to do that you would not have to do if you hosted it completely within your own facility. Other skeptics point to the fact that when you use an application vendor to host your data, you might experience the Sprint paradox, or the old story about how 100 years ago, operators at the local phone company switched a businessman’s calls to his competitors, leading him to have to develop the automated switch and found the company that became Sprint.
On the other hand, with cloud technology explained properly and best practices followed, most analysts will still point out that, as mentioned, there can be just as many if not more dangers for the average company to host their data locally. One security expert recently dressed in brown to mimic a delivery company and brought a package to a medium-sized company. He asked to be let in to deliver to someone’s desk. The receptionist let him pass. He then filled the box with a key data server from the back room, closed the box, and carried it back out. As the company was his client, he called them and asked if they wanted their server back.