As trusted IT consultants many of our clients ask us about “The Cloud”. Because of media hype and advertising most people read and hear about the cloud on a daily basis. But really, what is the cloud?
Put simply, a cloud service utilizes shared infrastructure to service customers in a cost effective way. The business model of the cloud allows one large company to share expensive infrastructure that would otherwise be out of reach of several smaller ones.
Most companies have already some type of service running on the cloud without realizing it. For years, services like web site, Domain Name Service (DNS) and anti-virus email hosting have been in the cloud. These services are largely behind the scenes and, although vital, most people have little knowledge of and just expect to work. These types of services make business sense for cloud providers since they are very scalable and profitable.
Skeptics will say the cloud is nothing more than a marketing buzz word while proponents will say it is transforming the way companies do business. Who is right? In our opinion, they both are.
Recently, powerhouses such as Microsoft and Google have been to compete for enterprise cloud services such as email hosting. These companies have large capital investments and need customers to start using these services. Competition is fierce – hence the attractive rates that we are enjoying. Take for example, Microsoft Exchange hosting (this is the back end for most enterprise email/Outlook deployments) – not long ago a 25 GB mailbox would have cost $30 per mailbox per month. Now we can offer Microsoft Exchange mailboxes for that size on Office 365 for less than $5.
Even companies such as QuickBooks have begun to offer their own cloud products – largely because they are worried companies like Microsoft and Google will start offering them if they don’t. So in the end the competition has been good for the consumer.
What are the downsides? There are a few worth mentioning.
There have been some outages, such as the Godaddy outage that recently brought millions of sites down for almost an entire day. Even though the cloud providers spend millions of dollars on redundancy the reality is that this cannot protect against things like human error and software bugs that bring down the biggest and most well designed infrastructures. It is always important to ensure your cloud provider has a proven track record to minimize any downtime.
Internet speeds in Canada are still catching up to the rest of the world (recently Netflix called us “internet third world”) and many of our clients are stuck using DSL technologies that do not provide the necessary upload speed to support using the cloud. Many ISPs are also introducing usage limits on connections that can make an on premise solution more attractive. Using the cloud puts your data further away from you and therefore makes you more dependent on a quality internet connection.
Cost is always a concern and although cloud solutions offer services at an attractive rate, many still prefer to avoid long term monthly costs. Medium size companies may find it more financially attractive to host their own solutions when calculating costs. Another cost factor is that many companies still require an on premise solution to provider for such services as Active Directory and file services.
So is the cloud right for your business? As Your IT Department, LTS will provide you with a roadmap for your journey to the cloud.