Many companies have moved entirely into the cloud, some have moved only select services and some have chosen to keep everything on-premise.
With so much choice out there how can a business choose, what, if anything to move into the cloud.
I think this question is best answered by firstly understanding what “The cloud” is. It’s certainly not some magical system high up in the sky!
What is the “The Cloud”?
Let’s go back to how IT systems used to run before the cloud. Traditionally businesses would have a server at their offices that would store all of the files, emails and business software. This is what we call an on-premise solution. Users would connect to this server via their local networks (the cabling in the walls!) and access the resources they need.
In its simplest sense, the cloud is a whole bunch of these servers stored in datacentres across the globe. Users then access them across the internet. In summary, a cloud service is one that is accessed across the internet. It’s really that simple. Because it is accessed across the internet cloud services work better when you have a quick and stable internet connection.
Cloud computing is also defined as being scalable, resilient and flexible. Cloud systems normally use the “pay as you go” model. You pay for the number of users or the amount of data you use each month. This way you can easily scale up or down according to your needs. Unlike on-premise systems, cloud services are made up of many servers in different locations providing greater resiliency.
So now that we understand what the cloud is, how do you know if its right for your business?
This depends on what technology you use. Some things work very well in the cloud whilst somethings do not. Let’s look at the four main types of technology a typical business will use.
- Files – word, excel and image documents.
- Line of business software – Accountancy, SOP, stock control and manufacturing system.
- Security services – Security services, such as Microsoft Active Directory, give you control over your network. You can apply policies to your devices and allow users to roam between computers with the same login.
Lets now talk about each of these services and what the pros and cons are of moving them to the cloud.
Any business fewer than 250 people should consider moving their email to the cloud. Email works very well in the cloud and the total cost of ownership vs an on-premise email server is much lower. Whilst you do pay a monthly fee for cloud email, on-premise email servers are expensive to buy and maintain. Our recommendation to any business would be to move their email to the cloud. The only exception to this is if you have recently invested in an on-premise email server and it is working well for you. Make the most of this investment and when the time comes to upgrade, migration your emails to the cloud.
There are lots of cloud-based file storage services. Onedrive, Dropbox and Google Drive just to name a few. Storing files in the cloud has it’s pros and cons. In the long run, it can be more expensive than storing your data on-premise. Especially if you have 20+ users. This is because the cost per user for file storage services Is usually higher than the cost per user for email. For example Dropbox for business costs around £13 / user / month. The advantage of a cloud file service is the ability easily share files and folders with people outside of the business. The data is also more easily accessible when working remotely. The decision to move to a cloud file service will depend on the number of users you have, the type of data you are storing and the amount of data that you have.
Line of business software (LOB)
Line of business software is the most tricky and costly to move to the cloud. Some LOB software is already cloud-based. The software provider will host the service for you and you will access this across the internet. If this is the case you have no option but to host it in the cloud! If your software requires an on-premise server to run then you are probably better off running the system on a server at your office. If you have your heart set on putting it in the cloud you can use a Hosted Remote Desktop service that will allow any software to run in the cloud. This often comes with a higher price tag.
Currently, there are no reliable ways to run your security services from the cloud. I’m sure this will change in the future but if you want to have control over the devices on your network you will need an on-premise server to manage this.
Hopefully, this has given you a better understanding of what the cloud is and if its right for your business. If you are thinking of taking the plunge we would be happy to discuss your requirements and help you make an informed decision.
We have extensive experience with moving businesses into the cloud and know all the pitfalls.
Please get in touch if you have any questions, ask for Dave or Steve.