We’re generating more and more digital data every day, from emails to rich media files. We’re also increasingly looking for fuss-free applications that don’t involve specialist software and individual licensing. And at the same time business users expect to have a similar level of mobility at work as they enjoy with their IT at home. All this means that organisations are having to find cost-effective and secure ways of sharing, storing and backing up their data and applications, in the workplace and on the move.
Given that reports suggest an average worker generates up to 5000MB of data per day1 as they create and share digital files, this can create a significant burden on in-house facilities.
This is one reason why cloud has gone from being perceived as a cost-effective, but perhaps slightly risky platform, to being a major strategic consideration for any organisation. Companies wanting to retain control have crept towards the cloud through co-location – storing servers in a shared facility. But cloud can also deliver infrastructure as a service (giving flexible access to server facilities hosted remotely), right through to software as a service, where only a network connection is required to access externally hosted applications.
Cloud products are proving particularly popular with growing businesses which can scale their purchases as the organisation grows. But cloud is also being embraced by the mainstream, with many of the world’s largest software vendors – such as Microsoft, SAP and Oracle – moving their products to the cloud to remain competitive with newer vendors that have adopted flexible cloud models from the start. But outsourcing to cloud-based providers (or ‘cloud sourcing’) doesn’t have to be all or nothing. In a large organisation you might have a ‘hybrid’ mixed mode model where smaller sites are cloud only, other sites have some resilience against WAN failure, and large or critical sites could have a combination of on-premises local services backed up in an active-to-active fashion with cloud services..
Even in sectors where resilience and security are of paramount importance there is room for hybrid models – and the increase in sales from the UK government’s cloud services marketplace, G-Cloud, suggests a growing interest in such services from the public sector, with sales increasing by GBP409 million between 2014 and 2015.
If designed and implemented properly, a cloud solution should:
- allow scalability, with no need to upgrade physical server facilities or increase the burden on IT support staff
- reduce capital costs and overheads, as long as you get the right deal on operational costs
- allow more flexible access to applications, and better sharing of information (allowing collaborative projects such the police SAP implementation in the UK).
However, there are some key considerations.
Data integrity is a risk
Are you the kind of organisation that just can’t store your information outside the UK? Does some of your data need to be held in house to allow you to meet data protection and other laws ? How can you make sure that your data cannot be accessed by your cloud supplier?
Is your network up to it?
A cloud service is only as good as the infrastructure supporting it. Moving to centralised applications increases resilience against local hardware failures, but can introduce complexity in dealing with legacy data and systems.
Cloud can reduce total cost of ownership, increase agility, and improve service delivery. But with the benefits of off-site IT solutions, come concerns regarding access, security and data governance – Mason Advisory can help you assess the options and manage the risks.