Should your business adopt cloud-based IT services? Usage of the cloud is expanding among all sorts of businesses due to the many benefits it provides. In addition to hearing about the cloud’s advantages, you may have also heard that it can introduce risks if not deployed correctly. This may lead you to question whether using the cloud is right for you.
Introducing any type of new technology comes with risks, but the benefits of the cloud can make the challenges worthwhile. If you take the proper steps and work with the right partners, you can minimize risks and enjoy the benefits cloud-based IT services can provide.
Businesses can access a wide range of IT services and applications through the cloud from data backups to communications solutions. Here’s why your businesses should consider the switch to cloud computing.
Cloud Migration Benefits
Many of the advantages of cloud computing are due to its flexibility and accessibility, though the benefits of moving to the cloud hardly stop there. Some of the reasons why businesses migrate to the cloud include:
- Low Total Cost: Cost is one of the main reasons why businesses choose cloud-based IT. On-premise systems are often expensive from the get-go, between necessary hardware and implementation costs and continuous management and updating from in-house personnel. That doesn’t even include the costs of hiring personnel to manage the software. Through a SaaS subscription, you get all the functionality of an IT staff and program without the cost.
- Easy Implementation: Implementing software on-premises can take months, if not years, of adjustment and re-adjustment as your company’s priorities and resources shift. SaaS implementations, however, last anywhere from a month to half a year at most. This ease of implementation is primarily due to the reduced coding needed and the simple scaling and configuring capabilities of these programs. Therefore, with SaaS software, your team can start using the software and generating value as quickly as possible.
- Automatic Updates: On-premise software immediately begins to age as soon as you purchase it. Bringing your system up to date with the latest technology is often costly and takes a great deal of time to implement properly. With a cloud-based solution, you automatically get the latest technologies without any hidden upgrade fees and minimal adjustments.
- Scalability and Flexibility: Cloud-based services are an excellent choice for businesses that are experiencing continuous growth or that undergo fluctuations in bandwidth demands. By their nature, these internet-based services scale to your usage with little to no adjustment, giving businesses greater ability to take on greater workloads.
- Security and Recovery: Breaches come from all sources — from lost laptops to leaked passwords. Each incident can cost millions of dollars in lost data, labor and reduced revenue. Cloud systems help by encrypting data and keeping it stored in a secure and centralized location so hardware losses don’t affect your productivity.
- Accessibility: Cloud-based programs are more accessible than hardware-based programs, allowing employees to access data from anywhere so they can continue their work on-the-go. Some programs even have mobile options. The cloud also facilitates greater collaboration between teams, allowing various groups to access and update the same data continuously.
Risks of Adopting Cloud IT
In terms of risks, the primary difference between traditional and cloud-based computing is that the cloud service provider (CSP) and the customer share responsibility for reducing risk. Understanding this division is crucial to proper cloud system management. Companies that use cloud-based IT services must also take steps to protect themselves from cloud-specific risks, such as:
- Reduced Control and Visibility: Hiring a third-party CSP to handle some of your data means you don’t have complete control over all of it anymore. The cloud provider may store some of your data on their servers. You also don’t own a cloud-based software program outright. Instead, you pay a subscription fee for access to it. To navigate this, users need to be sure they understand which responsibilities fall to them and which fall to the service provider. This depends on the cloud service model being used.
- Broader Exposure: CSPs use application programming interfaces (APIs) to manage cloud-based services. These APIs have the same kinds of potential vulnerabilities as those used for other purposes. Those used by CSPs, however, are accessible via the internet. This means they’re exposed to a broader range of threats. If a hacker finds a vulnerability in an API, they could use it to enable attacks. Reliable cybersecurity programs and procedures are necessary for detecting these vulnerabilities and preventing breaches.
- Incomplete Data Deletion: When you control all copies of your data, it is easy to determine where all of the copies of it are. When using cloud storage, the CSP may store your data in various locations. When you delete data, this makes it more difficult to know whether all instances of it have been erased. Deletion procedures differ between cloud providers. Users need to be sure they understand the procedures of the company they’re working with to ensure their information is deleted completely.
- Failed Separations: CSPs typically have multiple clients, so they store data belonging to numerous organizations. This increases the attack surface and the number of potential vulnerabilities. A hacker could theoretically use these vulnerabilities to bypass the separation between a cloud’s users. To date, no attacks based on logical separation failure have been reported, but the concept has been demonstrated. Organizations that handle especially sensitive information sometimes use private clouds that are not shared with any other tenants.
When switching to cloud-based IT services, it’s essential to provide training to employees so that they know how to use the new technology safely. Creating rules about sharing data, updating passwords and using mobile devices can help. It’s also vital to ensure you choose providers that use proper security practices. Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that avoiding the cloud can also be a risk as it may cause you to fall behind competitors and lead to you using outdated equipment.
Types of Cloud Services
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) are often called the computing stack because of how they work together. IaaS consists of the basic building blocks. PaaS is built upon SaaS, and SaaS is built upon PaaS.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
With IaaS, rather than managing physical servers and other infrastructure on-site, you access it over the internet. Typically, the CSP manages the infrastructure while the user manages the operating systems, middleware and applications. With IaaS, you have more control over your IT resources and enhanced flexibility. Accessing infrastructure through the cloud means you can easily scale your computing power up or down.
IaaS is useful for various types of business applications including testing and development, website hosting, high-performance computing and big data analysis. The flexibility of the cloud allows development teams to quickly set up test and development environments. The cloud also enables companies to perform tasks that require large amounts of computing power without having to host infrastructure on-site.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
Like with IaaS, you pay as you go. PaaS includes the infrastructure that IaaS does but also includes components such as development tools, middleware, database management systems, business intelligence services and more. PaaS can support the entire web application lifecycle including building, testing, deploying, managing and updating of applications.
PaaS development tools may also help to reduce coding time due to pre-coded components built into the platform such as search, security features, directory services, workflow and so on. They may use development tools for multiple platforms, such as computers, browsersand mobile devices as well. It also enables affordable access to sophisticated development tools through the pay-as-you-go model.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
Typically, an SaaS is an end-user application. Companies, IT professionals and individual consumers all use SaaS products. Examples include web-based email, customer relationship management systems and payroll applications.
When using an SaaS program, you don’t have to install it on on-premise devices, and you don’t have to manage the underlying infrastructure that enables the program. The CSP handles all of these aspects including app software, hardware, middleware and data. Depending on the service agreement, the CSP may also ensure the security of your app data. SaaS minimizes the upfront costs and deployment time required to start using a new application.
Unified Communications as a Service (UCaas)
UCaaS also enables superior flexibility. You can easily add or remove services as needed. It also improves resilience. Because you don’t have as much physical equipment on site, there’s less that might break. Your CSP will have enough redundant equipment to provide continuous service. If a problem does occur with any on-site equipment, you can easily reroute calls to a cell phone or to another office.
With UCaas, you can receive voice and internet service, continuous monitoring, unlimited local and long-distance calling, a central location for communications tracking and billing and a wide range of features, all through the cloud.
Public, Private and Hybrid Clouds
Cloud-based solutions, including Iaas, PaaS, SaaS and UCaaS, can be hosted on public, private or hybrid clouds:
- Public Clouds: Public clouds are the most common type of cloud environments. In this arrangement, a third-party CSP hosts and manages all of the cloud resources, such as servers, storage and software. CSPs use these resources to provide multiple clients with services, although they will keep their data separate. Public clouds are the fastest to deploy and the easiest to manage, but the users have less control over the resources.
- Private Clouds: Private clouds work similarly to public ones, but only one organization uses a private cloud. The resources that support the cloud may be hosted by a third party or by the organization using the cloud. With a private cloud, also called an enterprise cloud, the user has more control over the resources but also invests time and money into managing them.
- Hybrid Clouds: Hybrid clouds combine aspects of public and private cloud computing. With a hybrid environment, data and applications can move back and forth between public and private clouds. The organization may use the private cloud for more sensitive information and the public cloud for everything else. They may also use a private cloud except when demand is especially high, in which case they will use some public cloud resources. This solution allows for increased flexibility and offers privacy as well as enhanced scalability.
Examples of Cloud-Based Services
There are many different IT services you can access through the cloud, especially when you consider all of the different layers of the cloud computing stack. A few of the services CSPs provide are:
- Data Backup: CSPs may offer data backup services as a way to help organizations protect their data. With cloud backup, businesses can send a copy of their data over a network to an off-site server hosted by a CSP. The service provider charges a fee based on capacity, number of users or bandwidth. Using a cloud backup service enables you to protect your data without investing in additional equipment or increasing the workload of your IT team. Sending data to a cloud backup might involve transferring it from an on-site server. If it’s already in the cloud, such as in an SaaS product, it might involve copying it to another cloud.
- File Storage: The cloud can also serve as the primary location for data storage. Storing your data in the cloud reduces the need to have physical data storage equipment on-premise. It’s also ideal for files that multiple people need to access, especially if those people are scattered across several locations. With the cloud, anyone with internet access and the necessary credentials can get to the files. Cloud storage offers many of the same organizational benefits as other types of storage. Any type of data can be stored in the cloud including data used for content management, web serving, big data analytics, media, databases and more.
- Cloud-Based Telephony: Organizations can also obtain telephony services via the cloud. A cloud-based phone system works similarly to a standard voice over internet protocol (VoIP) business telephone system, but the CSP hosts the software on their servers and provides access to the system to their clients via the internet. Cloud-based telephony systems are typically more scalable and resilient than on-site systems. Cloud systems offer features such as unlimited local and long-distance calling, monitoring, extension dialing, auto attendants and conferencing.
- Premise-to-Cloud Migration: Some cloud companies also assist with premise-to-cloud migration, the process of moving data and applications from on-site equipment to a cloud environment. A successful cloud migration process requires the planning of technical, financial and security aspects of the move. When planning a migration, you need to ensure you can get all of your data to its new home safely and securely without causing excessive downtime at your organization. There are various data migration tools in existence, and businesses can also send physical equipment loaded with data to a CSP who will then upload that data to the cloud.
- Co-Location Services: Some businesses also opt for co-location, an arrangement in which a business rents space in a data center for their servers and other hardware. Under this agreement, the user owns their own equipment and is responsible for managing and maintaining it. The co-location facility provides the building space, bandwidth, power, cooling and physical security. Companies can typically lease space in a co-location facility by the rack, cabinet, cage or room. This option is ideal for organizations that want more control over their data but don’t want to host their own equipment on-premise. Some co-location facilities also offer managed services.
Today’s businesses are moving more and more of their data and applications to the cloud. A recent report forecasted that, by 2020, 83 percent of enterprise workloads will be in the cloud. This trend isn’t entirely surprising given the many benefits that cloud services provide, including enhanced scalability and accessibility as well as cost reductions.
Consolidated Technologies, Inc. offers a comprehensive set of IT services for businesses of various sizes. With an experienced staff and detailed design and implementation procedures, CTI has what your business needs to get the most functional solutions available. To date, we’ve helped over 2,000 companies navigate the continuously-developing technological world, and we can help your business too.
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