Part 2 of my Cloud Assumptions is alternately titled “Show me the money”, because many businesses are looking to move their Servers, and Services to the Cloud with the expectation of saving money. Whether you save money, or spend twice as much on the Cloud, will be a situation unique to your business.
Let me take one step back, and give you a really simple definition of the “Cloud”. If you are accessing some computer/software, and it isn’t running in your office, it is in the “Cloud”. Someone other than you is running the computer/software, and you are accessing it across the Internet. Before the Internet we used to call this accessing a Mainframe using a Terminal, but no one had a soft cuddly name like “cloud” for it.
Some company’s requirements are almost a “no brainer” for using the Cloud. For example, if you have extreme peak periods in your business, say for Christmas online orders, when you need 100 web servers available, instead of your normal 10. Cloud providers allow you to rent those additional 90 web servers for just the Christmas season, and then shut them down, and not continue paying for them, which is an easy “win”. However putting your company’s general computing needs into the Cloud is much more complex, and will require considerable research into not only the costs, but the risks.
So how do you start determining whether a Cloud service makes sense for your business? I would start by creating a Worksheet. If you are comparing the cost of running a specific software package locally, versus in the cloud, start entering the relevant costs, as well as requirements, required resources, and any compliance regulations you may need to meet. For example, if your industry compliance rules don’t allow customer data to be stored outside of Canada, and your proposed Cloud solution is based in the U.S. that will quickly make your decision for you.
When estimating your costs, make sure you include any startup/migration professional services costs, as these can be quite significant for those migrating to the Cloud. For completeness, I would also investigate the costs of returning from the Cloud, back to an in-house system. In the past, customers have found that this could be very difficult. Vendors may need a week, or more, to provide you with your data, and may not provide that data in a file format which is immediately useful to you. The more responsible vendors are however providing the necessary tools for customers who wish to migrate away from their Cloud.
Don’t forget that with a Cloud based solution, there may be additional costs should you need to upgrade your Internet bandwidth to handle the increased traffic. Depending on how heavily utilized your Internet connection will be, you may require a firewall capable of prioritizing traffic, so that your Cloud services don’t slow to a crawl. If your Cloud services are critical to your business operation, perhaps you need redundant Internet connections from two different Internet Service Providers.
Each businesses requirements and situation is unique, and with thousands of Cloud based services, it is impossible to come up with a definitive checklist for you. What will save you money is to do as much planning as you can, and then do even a bit more. You will find that as you revise the costs in your worksheet, you will discover additional expenses that you forgot about. For example, moving to a new software version may require updating, or replacing existing desktops and laptops. Don’t try to shortcut the planning process.
Some companies expect that moving to the Cloud will allow them to benefit by cutting the number of support staff. Be realistic as to whether a Cloud based solution has any real impact on your staffing requirements. For example, if you have a Microsoft Exchange Administrator today, moving to a Cloud based Exchange solution will not change your need for that person’s expertise and assistance. Cloud based solutions may increase your need for staff, or decrease your needs, so be careful before you make any assumptions regarding staff cost savings.
Lanworks has moved customers into the Cloud, and moved customers out of the Cloud. We have seen what works well, and what doesn’t, and are happy to share our experiences Lanworks has their own Cloud based Disaster Recovery and Backup services. We welcome your questions, and are always happy to assist you in your journey.