In part one of this two-part series, I provided a detailed definition of “the cloud” and tried to clear up some common misconceptions about what the cloud really is. Click here to read part 1. Now I’d like to share some of the core benefits of transitioning some or all of your business IT operations to the cloud.
A look at traditional IT
In order to understand why leveraging the cloud may be a smart option for your business, let’s review what a typical, traditional IT setup once looked like and examine how and why IT infrastructure is evolving. In the past (and still presently for some businesses) a business would ask an IT provider to present a proposal for the purchase of servers and other equipment that would be housed and managed on-site. These proposals would frequently include a large upfront cash investment for the hardware, installation and backup systems, as well as an ongoing contract to maintain the system on the premises. Plus, most businesses also needed to hire and pay additional internal IT staff for onsite maintenance and management. Along with the substantial front-end costs, this traditional approach came with some other inherent problems, like:
- The backup mechanism was off site and usually quite expensive
- The disaster recovery (DR) systems were cumbersome and inefficient
- The business continuity plans were usually very complex
- New hire onboarding required laptops and phones that were compatible with the system, which could cost between $3,000 to $4,000 per employee
- Employee remote devices also required constant maintenance, repairs and updates
- Ensuring the security of the network and data on employee devices was difficult – one crash could cause critical data losses
As technology evolved, more and more companies began leveraging the Internet to provide employees with remote access. This new Web-based approach was certainly a step in the right direction, but it still relied on VPN or terminal services, which are notoriously slow and lack reliable security. These access methods basically allowed remote employees to log in to a central computer that was still housed in the office.
Today, for most businesses to function efficiently, remote access is an absolute necessity. Mobile devices are so common that many businesses have a “bring your own devices” policy for new hires. While this policy should theoretically cut onboarding costs, it often results in compatibility issues. Mac- and PC-based devices don’t always play well together. How can everyone connect to and work productively within your network infrastructure?
Welcome to the cloud
Just as Albert Einstein’s dream was to discover a unified field theory intended to summarize all matter and forces in the universe into one formula, the dream of all of us “techies” has been to level the proverbial IT playing field by discovering one foundational technology that is compatible with all others. While quantum physicists have yet to realize their unified field dream, we “techies” have succeeded in making our dream a reality in the form of Infrastructure as a Service (IAAS) – The true Cloud.
Thanks to IAAS, business owners now have the opportunity to position IT as a tool rather than a time-consuming business operation. Our local coffee shops, for example, want to concentrate their time and effort on selling coffee, not on information technology – and that’s exactly what IAAS (the cloud) enables them (and any other business) to do.
Here’s how it works.
The first step hasn’t changed – it always has been and still is for your IT provider to gain a clear understanding of your business operations. With this knowledge, your provider can then recommend some viable setup options based on your storage capacity, processing speed and other needs. But, whatever those options are, they can now be centralized in one location that is owned and operated by the IT provider. So instead of managing multiple locations and countless devices on your own, your IT infrastructure is housed in one off-site location and managed by IT experts that do this stuff all day, every day. You simply pay a monthly fee for access to the services your business needs.
Is the cloud secure?
Sidebar here. Before we continue, let me address the frequently asked question of whether the cloud is vulnerable to security breaches. It’s a well accepted fact in the IT industry that a high-quality data center is one of the most secure systems available for your data – far more secure than a server sitting in your office. More about that later.
The virtual desktop experience
In the last five or so years, new technology has made it possible to offer businesses what is called “the virtual desktop experience” within the IAAS framework. In my opinion, leveraging the virtual desktop experience through IAAS represents the most cutting-edge and valuable use of the cloud available today. Virtual desktop builds and mimics the desktop user experience in the central data center. The user will never notice a difference in the functionality of their local device. But in reality, the central data center is the machine that drives everything, and it is in a secure facility, always backed up. The devices themselves are really just a gateway to the data center. All mobile and desktop devices are compatible and the experience is always the same.
So why is a centralized data center better?
The real question is … how does the virtual desktop experience help your business? Or stated another way… what are the benefits of truly leveraging the cloud? There are too many benefits to list here, but here are some key advantages to consider:
Since your entire system is centrally located, everyone on your staff is coming to a common point to work. The latest files and updates are always consistent and available to everyone. New software and other upgrades are installed once and immediately accessible to all approved personnel.
Any employee can access the server and the tools they need from any Internet connection. If one person’s computer crashes or has issues, that person can simply access the system using a different computer and continue working.
Not only are central data centers equipped with the powerful security systems, but also the central location makes controlling access easy. Permissions for access to various parts of the system can be finely tuned and if an employee is fired, his or her password access can simply be turned off.
Companies grow and shrink, and so do their IT needs. When your company spends a lot of money on high-capacity, on-site hardware and software, changes and upgrades to outdated technology can be very expensive. A central data center is completely scalable – you’re basically just paying a monthly fee for the services and capacities you need. If your operational needs change, the IT services to support those changes (and the monthly fees) can be quickly and easily adjusted up or down
Instead of providing every employee with expensive mobile devices that need huge memory capacities to handle all of your software applications and memory storage, almost any simple, inexpensive device can be used as a gateway to the central data center. Whether you have a “bring-your-own-device” policy, or you’re supplying devices, you can simply download a single app to a $300 laptop and it’s ready to go. The app opens the door to all of the software functionality, which is powered at the data center. Even memory grades for individual machines can be made from the central data center.
Here’s one thing to keep in mind. Leveraging an IAAS solution on the cloud is not always the lowest monthly cost. However, in the long run, the value and advantages of IAAS clearly outweigh those of in-house infrastructure investment when you consider:
- The savings from eliminating the need for infrastructure and all of the management, repairs and updates which come with it.
- The efficiency of uninterrupted access to the latest tools and information for all employees, 24/7.
- The flexibility to adjust the system to meet changing needs, all from one location.
- The redundancy, backup, security and disaster recovery capabilities.
IAAS on the cloud represents a transformation from expensive, inflexible infrastructure to a versatile, agile IT strategy that empowers users to focus their attention on their core business.
Shaun Olsen is the CEO and President of CloudWyze. CloudWyze was created to help businesses focus and perform at their optimal level by crafting and executing custom technology plans for businesses of every type and size. To learn more about CloudWyze, visit www.cloudwyze.com. Shaun can be reached at [email protected] or 910-795-1000.