WHAT IS CLOUD COMPUTING?
Ask any three business leaders that question and you’re likely to get three different answers. For a technology that’s quickly transforming how businesses approach IT and go to market, there’s still considerable uncertainty as to what cloud computing is.
Amazon Web Services (AWS), a leader in the cloud computing space along with other top cloud service providers such as Oracle, Microsoft, Amazon and IBM, provides a very straightforward answer:
“Cloud computing is the on-demand delivery of compute power, database storage, applications, and other IT resources through a cloud services platform via the internet with pay-as-you-go pricing.”
Perhaps an even better way to explain cloud services is in terms of the beneficial ways businesses like yours can utilize the cloud.
Below is a short list of popular cloud IT services that many of our clients take advantage of:
- Cloud-Based Office Productivity Apps: These are probably the most easily understood cloud services, which include solutions such as Microsoft Office 365, G-Suite by Google, Salesforce and many other Line of Business (LoB) applications. These services are often referred to as Software as a Service (SaaS) and are purchased using a subscription-based model.
- Cloud Data Storage and File Sharing: Cloud data storage is pretty self–explanatory, meaning that your data is stored on remote servers in the cloud, and made available to users via an internet connection. Well-known cloud storage services typically used by small businesses include Dropbox, Google Drive, Box and others, but larger organizations or those requiring advanced features, will want to consult with an IT service provider.
- Cloud Backup and Recovery: The cloud has completely transformed the way businesses back-up and restore data - old-fashioned methods such as on-site tape backups just don’t cut it anymore. Not only are businesses creating more data than ever, an increasing world of cyber-attacks make it imperative that every business be properly prepared with the right cloud backup and disaster recovery (BDR) solution. This should also include a documented business continuity program, which is now a must especially for organizations that must meet strict regulatory requirements.
- Hosted Virtual Desktops: A hosted virtual desktop is an entire desktop experience delivered to your computer over the Internet, turning your PC into a virtual machine. Also referred to as desktop virtualization or virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), you have the option of installing and managing this type of solution in your own data center, or taking advantage of an IT service provider such as Ntiva to install, deploy and manage it for you. One of the more well-known solutions is Microsoft Remote Desktop Services.
- Cloud Infrastructure: Typically referred to as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), cloud infrastructure provides virtualized computing resources (both hardware and software) over the internet. This means that a business no longer needs to invest in on-premises IT infrastructure, nor maintain a large IT staff to manage it. IaaS can be used for firewalls, servers, routers, virtual desktop hosting, storage and much more
WHY MOVE TO THE CLOUD?
Many companies have been slow to adopt the cloud, for various reasons. Until recently, cloud providers were still evolving their capabilities, pricing models were fluid, and security was a concern. But all that is changing very quickly, to the point where there are actually many applications and services that are only offered from the cloud.
This includes solutions such as Slack, Zoom, DropBox, G-Suite and others that were ‘born’ in the cloud and were never offered as an on-premises option. Then there are software solutions which used to be offered as a desktop application, such as Salesforce and Adobe Creative Suite, which are now only offered in the cloud-based version.
Still other vendors are highly encouraging customers to migrate from their on-premises solution to their cloud solution. Microsoft is a good example of this, using pricing to motivate customers to move from Exchange to Office 365.
Regardless of vendor strategy, the benefits of transitioning to cloud are genuine. In fact, businesses who are not actively looking a cloud strategy should be concerned about their ability to compete in what has increasingly become a ‘cloud world.’
Summary of Benefits Offered With Cloud Computing:
- High availability
- Fully managed
- Highly accessible (support users worldwide)
- Minimum capital investment
- Pay what you use
- Fully scalable
- Support included
- Upgrades included
PUBLIC VS PRIVATE VS HYBRID
As cloud computing grows in popularity, several different models and deployment strategies have emerged. This includes public, private and hybrid cloud models, each offering different levels of control, flexibility and management. But which cloud model is right for you?
To help you better understand, we’ve provide high level definitions for each cloud services model.
What is a Public Cloud
Public clouds are the most common way of deploying cloud computing, providing a variety of resources to the general public over the internet. When people hear cloud, it’s likely the public cloud they’re thinking of, e.g. SaaS applications such as Gmail, Dropbox, Microsoft Office 365 and other popular business apps. However, public cloud resources can include not only applications, but also compute power and infrastructure such as servers and storage which is owned and operated by a third party cloud-service provider, e.g. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).
What is a Private Cloud
A private cloud consists of computing resources that are used exclusively by one business or organization, often referred to as a single-tenant environment. A private cloud is typically located at a data center which is hosted and managed by a third-party service provider such as Ntiva, but all the hardware and software are dedicated solely to your business, offering stronger control and security.
What is a Hybrid Cloud
While the definition varies, hybrid cloud is generally thought of as a combination of private cloud (either on-premises or off-premises) and public cloud services. For instance, a business could use a private cloud for sensitive data, and a public cloud for non-sensitive, public-facing operations. Most businesses take advantage of an experienced IT consultant to help decide which cloud solutions are the best fit.
TOP CLOUD BUSINESS DRIVERS
Every organization is driven by different business, competitive, and stakeholder demands. However, while each company has unique requirements, there are common reasons why many are evaluating the migration of applications and services to the cloud:
- Digital Transformation (DX)
Ask any CIO, and they’ll probably tell you that DX is one of their top priorities. CIO.com defines digital transformation as “the application of digital capabilities to processes, products, and assets to improve efficiency, enhance customer value, manage risk, and uncover new monetization opportunities.” While that’s admittedly a mouthful, it’s easier to think of DX in terms of delivering a better, cheaper, and faster user experience. Unlike legacy infrastructure, the cloud provides an attractive platform on which to deliver on the demands of DX. Applications are faster to deploy, and the cloud offers analytics and automation capabilities not available with legacy, premises-based technology.
- Lower, More Predictable Costs
A common belief is that cloud implementations are always less expensive than their legacy counterparts. Is the cloud always cheaper? Not always — IT teams must consider all costs (e.g., maintenance, power, licensing and real estate) to make an accurate comparison. What the cloud does offer is better pricing for launching new systems or applications, with a minimal upfront investment required for hardware and software. The cloud also provides predictable pricing as application requirements or user counts grow — unlike traditional infrastructure.
- Lower Capital Expenditures
Many organizations are looking to preserve capital spending (CAPEX), and the cloud’s ‘pay as you grow’ consumption model definitely delivers on this requirement.
- Speed and Business Agility
Pushed by competition and business disruption, companies need the ability to react quickly to new market opportunities — testing new products and services, rolling out new applications, and forging new partnerships. Building or modifying systems in the cloud eliminates the long lead times generally associated with legacy IT systems.
- Ability to Scale (Up or Down)
Many organizations need to quickly scale their applications — for example, to support new product lines or business ventures. And some, including retailers who face seasonality in their business, need the ability to ‘scale down.’ Cloud-based solutions have the flexibility to quickly and easily grow or right-size, making it ideal for seasonal businesses who want to save money with cloud.
- Traditional premise
based solutions involve integrating and managing complex hardware and software, usually with in-house resources. Moving to the cloud allows companies to outsource complex tasks and consolidate or eliminate redundant processes. The cloud also provides automation capabilities to managed resource-intensive, administrative activities.
- Enhanced Security
Is the cloud secure? In March 2018, the Gartner Group stated that ’60% of enterprises that implement appropriate cloud visibility and control tools will experience one-third fewer security failures’. Jay Heiser, Gartner’s Research Vice President, added that “CIOs need to ensure their security teams are not holding back cloud initiatives with unsubstantiated cloud security worries. Exaggerated fears can result in lost opportunity and inappropriate spending.”
Cloud providers make large, ongoing investments in both physical and cyber security. Using updated tools, 7x24 network monitoring, and physical segregation, these providers are typically less vulnerable to security breaches than businesses that support their own premise-base infrastructure.
This doesn't mean you are risk-free! However, the issue is with human error, not your cloud provider. You can read more here for tips on improving your cloud security.
- Risk Reduction
Aging premise-based systems can create business risk — especially if the underlying equipment is near end-of-life or no longer supported by the manufacturer. Premise-based software can also be a liability, particularly if it’s highly customized or cannot be modified to accommodate updated security requirements. Transitioning to the cloud replaces those legacy systems with updated, secure solutions.
HOW TO BUILD A SUCCESSFUL
CLOUD MIGRATION PLAN
Back in 2016, Gartner predicted that ‘by 2020, a ‘no-Cloud’ policy will be as rare as a "no-internet" policy is today.’ As cloud adoption continues to accelerate, organizations need to take a careful, detailed approach to planning their cloud transition — even as they’re pushed to hasten their migration.
Here are six steps to building a successful plan:
1. Confirm your business priorities
Forbes cites ‘not having a defined strategy and business objectives’ as one of the top challenges of moving to the cloud.
What are the business challenges you’re trying to address?
- Reduce IT costs, or CAPEX spending?
- Accelerate the deployment of new applications?
- Lower the security and operational risks associated with older and non-supported infrastructure?
2. Review your existing infrastructure and applications
When setting your cloud migration strategy, it’s critical to examine your existing applications and infrastructure from both a technical and financial perspective. To properly manage risk, you should transition systems to the cloud based on set priorities — and not every legacy system or application needs to be moved.
- Technology: How old is the current application? Is it still supported, either in-house or by your vendor? How complex is the system — can it easily be migrated or replicated in the cloud?
- Financial: Have you tallied all the costs associated with the legacy application versus those of moving it to the cloud? Is it more cost-effective to keep the current application, and if so, for how long?
3. Prioritize your applications migration — risk versus reward
When setting the order of your cloud migration, look for the applications that have the highest business impact while also minimizing risk:
Applications that can be ‘re-platformed’ should be a top priority. To reduce risk, consider a proof of concept — moving a portion of the legacy application from its current environment to the same cloud platform. That minimizes technology challenges while employing tools and software interfaces already familiar to your team.
- Pick applications that are not business-critical. Moving these applications represent the least risk to the business and should be migrated to the cloud early. Look for applications that are widely used, can be transitioned smoothly, and will have a minimal business impact if they experience some downtime. Email and Microsoft Office are good examples.
- Consider specialized applications. Non-critical systems such as dev test are smaller in scope and can be moved to the cloud early, with limited exposure to the business.
4. Run Pilots
Deloitte highlights a cloud pilot process as one of the five key elements for a successful cloud application migration journey. Pilots offer the ability to test the viability of your cloud transition by first migrating a small user community. This approach identifies potential issues prior to a broader rollout, and also provides valuable experience to your project team.
5. Establish a communication and training plan
Moving legacy applications to the cloud can have an impact across the entire organization. Users can be resistant to change, and may push back if they think the transition will impact their work.
A wide-ranging, executive-sponsored communication plan will create awareness of the benefits of the cloud migration and help generate support from all stakeholders. Consider a range of communications options — emails, internal blogs, ‘lunch and learns,’ and presenting in team meetings across the organization.
Training is also critical. Users impacted by applications migration will require training to know what is expected of them, and how to optimize their use of new systems and applications once the rollout is complete.
TIPS FOR DETERMINING YOUR ‘CLOUD ROI’
Customers looking to transition applications from legacy infrastructure to the cloud need to ask a fundamental question early on in the process. Assuming the legacy application is still technically feasible, does it make financial sense to migrate it to the cloud?
Determining that answer (and your potential return on investment) can be a challenging task. While cloud licensing and usage frameworks make overall cloud pricing relatively transparent (and easy to project growth costs), the same can’t be said for the other side of the ledger — legacy costs.
When calculating legacy costs, you’ll need to consider all factors, such as equipment, maintenance, power, real estate, staffing, and more. Without completing a full legacy cost inventory, cloud solutions (‘fully loaded’ with all costs) may initially appear high in comparison. On the cloud side, you must also ensure you’re taking advantage of all cloud vendor programs, such as bulk discounts, rebates, and multi-year contract incentives.
Finally, you must undertake this ROI exercise for each application or system you’re considering moving to the cloud. Some applications may not clear the hurdle, and it may make sense to keep them on their legacy platform, at least for the short term. The bottom line is the ROI of cloud computing can be confusing, and we advise you speak to a cloud migration specialist to get the full picture for the right cloud IT services for your business.
Ntiva Managed Cloud Services
CLOUD READINESS ASSESSMENT
If you’re not sure where to start, consider a Cloud Readiness Assessment to help you determine the specific benefits available from the many different cloud services. We can recommend various technologies, discuss the merits of
CLOUD PRODUCTIVITY APPLICATIONS (SAAS)
There are many popular cloud applications that businesses take advantage of today, but one of our most requested services is migration to Microsoft Office 365. We can help you choose the right plan, provide a fully managed transition, and offer ongoing 24/7 support. We also offer expert advice on other cloud applications that may be specific to your particular industry.
BACK UP AND DISASTER RECOVERY
Successful data backup is critical for all
INFRASTRUCTURE AS A SERVICE (IAAS)
If you’re looking to reduce or eliminate the need to buy and maintain expense servers, you can move some or all of your business’s computing components, such as your hardware, software, data management, networking
We worry about the maintenance, design, security, upgrades
Ntiva currently partners with Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) offering high performance, high availability and cost-effective infrastructure services to our clients.
DATA CENTER HOSTING / VIRTUAL SERVER HOSTING
Many clients are often confused between the “cloud” and a “data center.” The main difference is that the cloud is considered an off-premises form of computing and storage - whereas a data center typically refers to on-premises hardware.
Many companies are choosing to use a
We offer a range of hosting options, including:
- Colocation. This option is for businesses who have in-house IT resources, and want to utilize their current equipment and staff to manage and maintain their infrastructure, but need to house it in a secure, state-of-the-art facility. (Can access be granted for approved individuals to perform necessary maintenance 24/7.)
- Managed Colocation. This option is for businesses who have their own hardware but want to take advantage of the expertise of the Ntiva data center engineers. By allowing us to manage your infrastructure, you gain cost savings and increased efficiency.