Things to consider before investing in the Cloud
The greatest advantage of Cloud services is their interoperability and flexibility, allowing individuals to access their data, files and applications anywhere, anytime, and from any device. The Cloud benefits companies too, allowing them to externalize aspects of their operations that would require considerable initial outlays and cumbersome management, yet are essential to their smooth functioning (software, servers).
Following is a quick overview of what to consider before deciding whether to adopt Cloud technologies.
Cloud technologies offer three main types of service.
1. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).
This allows enterprises that are unable or unwilling to make massive investments in hardware and related maintenance to rent servers or space to store their data.
2. Software as a Service (SaaS).
This is by far the fastest-growing and most popular service. It follows the subscription model, with users paying per amount of time used, per data volume used, or for one-off use.
3. Platform as a Service (PaaS).
This variation of Cloud computing adds a preconfigured software environment to the infrastructure service. For example, for a virtual server, the server provider supplies, installs and maintains the operating system.
Cloud technologies allow users to amortize their IT investment: the huge initial outlay to purchase hardware and software is replaced by a recurrent, fixed and predictable cost per user or per volume of use.
Besides saving on acquisition costs, companies also save on labour, since installation is no longer required and the Cloud services provider takes care of updates and other routine tasks.
But do your math; over the medium term, Cloud solutions may not be the most economical for you.
At a time when IT security is crucial, how can you be positive that your data on the Cloud is actually protected? After all, threats abound, and hackers’ “exploits” are all over the news.
Your Cloud technology provider must be completely trustworthy. Make sure that potential providers follow best-practice standards, and check out Cloud technology assessment sites like Chekkt, which lists over 3,000 business technology tools and ranks them by level of user satisfaction, along with their comments.
Since support and maintenance are no longer provided in-house, you must obtain the best support plan possible, ideally 24/7. Total time during which the service is unavailable should be as low as possible and should be guaranteed not to exceed 0.01%.
Before signing on with any given Cloud service provider, get a free trial or test their service through a pilot project. This trial period allows you not only to try out the tool, but also to better identify your needs and the level of service you require.
Worst-case scenario, the Cloud solution may simply not work. This is why potential suppliers should provide an easy way to export data to an off-Cloud location. This feature could also be a life-saver in the event that the provider closes shop.
All in all, exceptional circumstances notwithstanding, the advantages of migrating to Cloud technologies usually outweigh the downsides. But as always, when dealing with data and business processes, due diligence is a must!