Information technology is quickly migrating to the cloud. Gartner predicts that the cloud will grow at exponential rates for the next few years.
The reasons why are straightforward, though there are important considerations that should not be overlooked when you’re thinking about your own IT systems.
The rest of this article will talk about the practical things you need to think about when moving to the cloud.
First, a myth that needs to be busted.
It’s easy to get the impression that moving to the cloud is like flicking a switch from on-premise to cloud-based. This isn’t how it goes.
In practice, moving to the cloud is a transition that happens in parts and pieces. Bit by bit. Most businesses are already using a hybrid approach, with some on-prem mixed with some cloud.
That’s the main way forward, not a wholesale switch.
Second, let’s talk about why the migration is happening so quickly.
Migrating to the cloud makes sense because it generally means:
- Less complexity to deal with/easier to use/less administration
- Faster to get up and running (no hardware required)
- Costs are easier to predict (pay a fixed monthly cost, no maintenance surprises)
- Less downtime (provided your internet service is reliable)
- Easier to ratchet up and down/easier to scale
- Easier to backup data
- Updates are automatic
- Fewer IT staff required to maintain hardware/less people management
In other words, the cloud is generally quicker, easier and a lot less headache, though not necessarily cheaper, depending on your current situation. But we’ll get to that.
Third, let’s talk about why it’s not all sunshine and roses.
Though none of these are deal breakers, there are a few concerns about the cloud that warrant some attention and should be mitigated against where possible.
- Speed and reliability depend on your internet service.
Being web-based, the cloud is only as fast and reliable as your internet. If your internet goes down, so do your IT systems. If you’re in a rural area and get poor coverage or slow speeds, going cloud-based might not make sense.
How to Mitigate: Fast internet comes at a price, but for a business, it’s usually not a big cost. For greater reliability, you can consider getting multiple internet service providers so that even if one fails, you still have access.
- Security depends on your cloud provider.
In theory, on-premise software is slightly more secure. If you have control over your physical location, a strong IT team who keeps everything up to date, and a good firewall in place, on-prem security is hard to beat.
But the cloud isn’t far behind. Though it’s web-based, a good firewall still gets the job done and as long as you go with a reputable cloud provider (like AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud), there’s nothing to worry about.
In fact, that’s the beauty of going cloud-based—it makes security largely someone else’s concern. Your cloud provider is responsible for ensuring your systems are secure.
How to Mitigate: Go with a reputable provider, pay for a good firewall, and insist on using two or three-factor authentication.
- You don’t own the hardware, so you can’t do whatever you want.
Though going cloud-based makes your systems far more flexible in many respects, it does limit what you’re able to do in terms of running queries and playing with your server. This really only matters if you have an advanced IT team who are doing next-level things, and shouldn’t matter much otherwise.
Not owning the hardware does also impact cost, which we’ll tackle next because it’s really what this all boils down to.
Fourth, let’s talk numbers.
If you were just starting out today, going completely cloud-based would make sense. There are huge benefits and the drawbacks are pretty minor and easy to guard against.
But that’s not likely the position you find yourself today. You may have a ton of money invested in an on-premise solution, in which case it might not make sense to make the move for a while. And all that investment of time and money makes it hard to wrap your head around heading in a new direction. It’s easy to fall victim to the Sunk Cost Fallacy and continue to pour more time and money into something simply because that’s what you’ve done in the past.
Some things worth considering when running the numbers:
- How old is your current system? What’s the Meantime Between Failures (MTBF)? Or, in other words, how often is it breaking? How often are unexpected maintenance invoices coming through? The older your system gets, the more it makes sense to switch.
- How much are you paying IT staff to manage your on-premise systems, including not just salary but also sick days, training, people management and so forth? Would you rather pay for a managed service?
- How fast are you growing? How often are you switching systems, upgrading, and so forth? It’s easier to scale and switch on the cloud.
In general, on-prem systems cost more upfront but can still be cheaper in the long run (though there are many hidden costs that add up fast). Cloud-based systems are a fixed monthly fee, but that fee continues indefinitely. You might end up paying more in the long run, but that extra price does buy peace of mind, makes issues someone else’s problem, and allows you to enjoy all the other benefits of moving to the cloud listed above.
Realistically, most companies will have a hybrid environment for the foreseeable future, with a mix of on-prem and cloud-based solutions. But over time, that mix will steadily become more cloud and less on-prem.
I hope this article helps you navigate the transition.
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Steele Roddick is a Content Specialist at Microdea where he creates content that helps transportation companies drive their business forward. He’s endlessly fascinated by technology trends, chess, and discovering new places to travel with his wife.