Television, newspapers, and online media are full of advertising promoting the benefits of the cloud.
The cloud, they purport, is the next great thing for you, your family and your business. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on the latest and greatest software programs for your PC or laptop, the idea is to get you to use the cloud instead.
The cloud will enable you to utilize everything from the newest Microsoft Office programs, to cutting edge photo tools, to accessing and storing files online, all without the investment and installation of separate programs at your computer.
The technology enables you to subscribe to the services you need and access them anytime, anywhere over the Internet.
The benefits include ease of use, ease of sharing and since you typically pay only a subscriber fee, a savings in overall costs. Total cost of ownership is frequently greater, in a business atmosphere.
Keep in mind, however, that a cloud solution for the average consumer is not designed for the enterprise or growing business.
As opposed to someone who needs to coordinate family photos and soccer game schedules, business applications can be more sophisticated and more challenging to integrate across an entire workforce.
Microsoft offers a cloud solution geared toward sole proprietors and small business, called Microsoft 365. This solution provides their most popular office programs on a hosted platform, available on a monthly subscription basis. Limitations such as security and availability are a factor which is why you won’t see it being offered as a serious solution for mid-size and large business.
Businesses needing a more dedicated model may select a private cloud solution. Several vendors now offer the ability to transform your business to your own customized cloud.
In this private cloud computing model you utilize those resources which are dedicated for your organization commonly referred to as a pay-per-use model. You can still share services and elasticity of the public cloud but also integrate your private resources. The goal is to enable you to customize and add services as necessary. Custom solutions have a propensity to offer you greater control.
One key point to consider is that a with a private hybrid type cloud model it still requires that you maintain a greater portion of your IT infrastructure in-house.
The private hybrid model does offer a number of benefits. It allows you to retain sensitive data behind your firewall while taking advantage of the cloud’s lower cost and flexibility. It can also improve scalability and provisioning at a decreased cost, allowing resources to be allocated to the cloud for short term projects at much lower costs than changing your infrastructure.
Each cloud solution offers it own advantages. Yet, as with any widely used software or program, security can be an issue.
Those using the public cloud expose their information beyond their firewall. The more devices in-play exposes a business to increased opportunities for an intrusion, breach, and loss of data.
The need for a business continuity plan takes on greater importance. What happens in the event of a natural disaster, extended power outage or a cloud malfunction? The Windows Azure Cloud recently went black for 22 hours.
Many companies are turning to business continuity solutions like the Alliance Vault which provide remote monitoring, off-site backup and an additional cloud back-up option. Businesses can utilize a separate cloud to upload only the back-ups they choose. Should a disaster occur a business can restore its email, web and critical client applications direct from the cloud.
Opportunities exist for many businesses to take full or limited advantage of cloud technologies. Your IT partner or vendor can recommend the best use of this technology to meet your business needs.