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Storage in the cloud: the pros, cons and challenges

Gowri Shankar (Shane) Prem Kumar, ITR Technology's Technology Evangelist, outlines the biggest advantages, and the potential problems associated with cloud computing.

Gowri Shankar (Shane) Prem Kumar, ITR Technology's Technology Evangelist.

Gowri Shankar (Shane) Prem Kumar, ITR Technology's Technology Evangelist.

Cloud computing offers considerable advantages to businesses, but also comes with its fair share of risks, says Gowri Shankar (Shane) Prem Kumar, ITR Technology's Technology Evangelist.

While the pros and cons vary by company, it's important that you understand both sides before moving towards the cloud.

Here are the biggest advantages, and potential problems associated with cloud computing.

Despite its growth in the business, cloud computing is still surrounded by debate.

Some believe it saves money. Others believe it's more expensive.

Some believe it adds agility. Others believe it locks you down.

Some believe it's more secure. Others believe it puts you at risk.

I could go on.

So, which side is right? Actually…both sides.

Yes, the cloud offers some great business advantages. But it also comes with its own set of potential problems. While advantages and problems vary by company, it's important that any business considering the cloud understand both sides.

What does the cloud offer, and what potential problems should you watch for?

Pros

Reduces spending on infrastructure

With typical IT organisations spending over 30% of their budget on infrastructure (primarily data centres and data networks), shifting some or all of this work to the cloud can save organisations anywhere from 10-20% of their annual IT budget

This cloud run-rate economic advantage comes from two primary cost drivers: higher utilisation rates as a result of a significant drop in "capacity hoarding" and lower unit costs from the increased scale, newer technologies, best practices, and improved operational efficiency of the cloud providers. The cost of ownership gap of 30 to 40% between traditional IT and public cloud services is predicted to continue, if not widen, over the next few years, driving growth in the market for high-quality and secure externally-hosted cloud capacity at over 40% per year.

Besides the reduced spending on infrastructure, time savings also comes into play. Does your staff spend time maintaining/updating/installing new hardware? With the cloud, they can focus on other mission-critical tasks.

Provides flexibility

In the past, your software selections depended largely on your database and enterprise systems. Your choice of database, OS, and enterprise application software limited your software selection.

The cloud removes many of these limitations. Most cloud services provide ways to integrate with other services – letting you focus on the software that best fits your needs.

With fewer machines to manage, your IT department can have greater flexibility in determining new or improved solutions for the devices your organization actually uses.

Scales up (or down) as necessary

Before the cloud, what happened when you needed extra servers? What happened if you needed more storage capacity? You bought and installed new hardware–a process that might take hours or days. With the cloud, you can scale up in minutes.

Makes your applications more accessible/ Offers immediate time-to-value

In the past, the applications you used in the office weren't accessible from anywhere else…unless you carried a laptop around with you. That's all changing. We're coming to expect that applications work on any device and be accessible from any location. Cloud computing is the driving force behind this change.

Speed is one of the biggest advantages to the cloud. In the past, deploying a new application software system might take months. Now, you can get up and running in minutes. This advantage can revolutionise business –offering agility to both large and small businesses.

Cons

Sure, those advantages to the cloud sound great. Who doesn't want time savings, scalability, and flexibility? But, be careful. Here are a few potential problems to monitor before moving towards the cloud.

Is your architecture "cloud ready?"

The sad truth that many businesses face: The cloud requires modern architecture, but they're tied to outdated systems. They're stuck with applications built for a different era. If they want to move those applications to the cloud, they must overhaul their architecture.

Will your cloud vendor lock you down?

What happens if you need to move away from the cloud vendor? What happens if they go out of business? Can you move your data and applications? Some vendors make it purposely difficult for you to move away from them – a problem you don't want to learn about after you sign up.

How do you keep costs in check?

While the cloud can save money, costs can just as easily spiral out of control. The long-term operating expenses (OPEX) of the cloud may surpass the initial capital expense (CAPEX) savings you saw from moving to the cloud.

Additionally, you must keep a close watch on what you're paying for. It's easy to sign up for a cloud service. It's hard to keep track of which cloud services are still in use, and which aren't.

Will performance suffer?

Many companies focus so much on cost, availability, uptime, etc…, they forget about application performance. They don't factor in the physical server location, or data transfer speed into their decision.

Why is that important? The farther away a server is from the users, the slower the application will perform. For small applications, this performance decrease is hardly noticeable.

But, the effect on data intensive applications will be dramatic. For instance, suppose you have an in-house business application that pulls hundreds of thousands of database records. That application's performance will suffer dramatically if moved to a server halfway across the country.

While these are all great questions, here's another question to ask: What happens if a government agency requests confidential user data? Will your cloud host turn it over? The legal side of cloud computing is tricky, and varies from company to company.

So, what do you think? Is there anything you would add to this list? If so, please share your thoughts to shane@itrtech.co.za

ITR Technology

ITR Technology has been the sub-Saharan African partner to Zoho Corporation for a number of years, providing resellers and end-users local access to the ManageEngine enterprise management solutions. ITR has successfully built a strong reseller and end-user base through cost-effective solutions and management applications. Apart from ManageEngine, ITR Technology is also the distributor of Prism Suite, Empirum Pro from Matrix42 and EgoSecure Endpoint Security. For more information, please e-mail lauren@itrtech.co.za, call (+27) 12 665 5551 or visit www.itrtech.co.za.

 

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ITR Technology
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