What is Cloud?
IT environments can be vastly different, whether in size and scale or by the various software and hardware solutions chosen in order to meet an organizations’ specific needs. How these environments were accessed has been changing rapidly over the last decade, perhaps even more so with COVID19 pushing a greater need for an always-on, secure, and readily accessible IT environment. So where does Cloud fit in?
At the crux of it, everything you do in the cloud is run by computer hardware under the hood – the core difference from On-Premise to Cloud is simply where the hardware and software being used resides. On-Premise implies the organization keeps all its IT environment onsite with its management being handled internally (or outsourced to a third party). With Cloud, the IT environment is hosted offsite and the cloud provider is responsible for its management and maintenance. There are three types of Cloud to consider –
This is where services provided are owned and held with the hosting provider (such as Microsoft, Amazon or Google). The hosting provider offers resources and services to multiple organizations and users over secure network connections (typically the internet – making fast and reliable connectivity crucial). Services such as Dropbox, Office 365 or Netflix are all items held in the ‘Public Cloud’.
This is where an organization will create their own cloud environment in their datacentre (or main offices), this is in a way an On-Premise environment. It is owned and operated by the organization and so they are responsible for all elements of the services and infrastructure – this gives the organization the greatest control over resources and security but often comes at the highest outright cost.
With a Hybrid cloud, it combines both Public and Private clouds in order to provide a mix of services that can then run in the most appropriate location. An example might be running email in Office 365 and a company developed Web Application or Remote Desktop Services via existing organization owned infrastructure in a Private Cloud.
Who manages the Cloud?
This depends on the type of cloud offering chosen. In general, if using a Private cloud the organization will be responsible for managing and maintaining everything themselves. This would include things such as the purchasing of network and server hardware, ensuring warranties are maintained, physical installation, configuration and maintenance of software and applications being run as well as keeping software updated. In a public cloud environment, the cloud provider would take the majority, if not all, of those responsibilities on themselves. At its core, this covers all the hardware elements but may extend further depending on which ‘as a Service’ solution is utilized. Below are key examples –
IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service
With IaaS the cloud provider will generally manage and be responsible for the networking, storage, servers and virtualization components of the environment. IaaS is the most flexible cloud service as it still allows the organization to configure and manage a large part of the platform (such as the hardware resources assigned to virtual servers, the applications or databases these servers have installed and company data that may reside on them).
PaaS – Platform as a Service
PaaS tends to focus on application development – so the provider manages the networking, storage, servers, virtualization components and operating systems/runtimes leaving you and your developers to focus on the testing and deployment of your apps and data.
SaaS – Software as a Service
This is the most utilized option for many organizations. Everything from the Storage right up to the Application is managed by the cloud provider, this just leaves the data and access to be handled by the organization. The best examples of SaaS would be Office 365, Dropbox or Salesforce.
So why Cloud? There are several reasons why Cloud can be a good fit for your organization, a few of the core benefits are below –
Scalability & Elasticity
Cloud offers a near-instant ability to scale both up (e.g. extra processing power, memory or storage) and out (e.g. additional web servers) in order to meet the growing demands of a business. It is also Elastic so you can scale down when those resources are no longer needed.
With an On-Prem environment, scalability becomes much harder and often quite costly in both time and money. In order to scale up and/or out the required hardware would need to be purchased and then deployed – this could take days, weeks or even months to complete.
With Cloud being a ‘pay-as-you-use’ platform it turns IT spend into an operational cost (OpEx). Billing is often immediate, and you only spend on the services or products needed. This can make it a very affordable option with predictable bills and no upfront costs. It can also mean lower energy use and ‘better bang for buck’ compute power.
For On-Prem environments there is a high initial cost (CapEx) as the core spend will need to be on the physical infrastructure needed (network/servers/software etc). The value of this investment will reduce over time as the hardware ages and it will often cost more than what cloud vendors pay for similar levels of compute power given bulk discounts they obtain.
Resilience & Security
A huge benefit of Cloud is that it brings enterprise-level capabilities to the SME market. The infrastructures used to run cloud services are held in highly resilient datacentres that have multiple levels of redundancy both locally and globally. Datacentres also bring top tier security protocols, offering levels of physical security to the infrastructure that are rarely seen in an On-Prem environment.
If you are yet to test the waters when it comes to Cloud, the Hybrid route could be a perfect starting point. Hybrid can often be thought of as ‘Cloud on your own terms’ – it lets you mix and match required services that best suits your business.
For us here at Sedcom we believe Microsoft’ Azure and 365 are offering a fantastic portfolio of Cloud services. Many of which can seamlessly integrate with On-Prem environments, it’s proving to be a cost-effective, easy to manage and more importantly secure infrastructure for your end-users to access all the time and from any device.