What Is All This Hype About the Cloud?

What is all this hype about “The Cloud” you ask? Well some is definitely hyperbole, though there is also a great deal of value to this design, but it completely depends on your existing infrastructure and business processes/policies.

Let me start by explaining what exactly is meant by the term “cloud”. This is a very broad term and can include such trivial things as yahoo email or paying bills via your online banking bill pay. Yes, that’s right you “cutting-edge, techno-geek” you! If you have a yahoo email account or logon to your bank’s online banking site, you have been both banking and using email in the cloud! I hope I didn’t disappoint you in what the cloud is all about. It’s been around for a long, long time.

Now, with that said, faster internet connectivity, VPN, and cheaper cost of bandwidth is driving some businesses, both small and large, to offload some of their typically internal services and applications to the cloud, thus reducing the amount of complexity and leaving the IT dirty-work to the IT Pros. This is a different flavor of “The Cloud”.

Let me give you a use case:

Madison Hotels purchased their first server in 2001. Since then, slowly, over the years, they have accumulated 6 additional servers.

Frank, Madison Hotel’s IT Admin has not been keeping the technology up-to-date/maintained and was terminated for this reason.

Brian Madison, the CEO, decides that something must be done about their aging equipment.

Struggling with hiring a new IT Admin, and, simultaneously needing to replace all 7 servers, the CEO is facing some steep capital expenditures, as well as bringing a new IT Admin on-board, which is always rife with its own problems.

Enter “the cloud”…

This is a perfect scenario where “going cloud” can be a life-vest.

Should Madison Hotels choose going to the cloud, it would be able to convert all of its existing servers to the cloud for a fraction of the large, up-front costs that it would’ve taken to update the hardware that was on premise.

In addition, some cloud service providers can also maintain and monitor those very same servers, and, the best part, Madison Hotels will never again be in the predicament they were.

You see, we are in uncharted territory. In the year 2000, most SMB’s were just ramping up their server infrastructure. Slowly, but surely, they accumulated more and more servers, until, here we are, 14 years later, with a 5 or 10 fold increase in the amount of servers, all aging, and in need of replacement.

Now for you numbers folks, let’s do some quick math:

Cost to replace servers with professional services to implement and configure (we’ll assume virtualization is going to be used along with a SAN, UPS, etc.): $90,000

Now also figure that the above does not likely include a professional data center with redundant cooling, power, internet, 24/7 monitoring, secured access, etc..

Cost for moving to the cloud: $5,000 per month, and a $5000 non-recurring charge to do the one-time conversion

Which would you choose if you were a small to medium-sized business?

It looks pretty appealing, right?

-Never have to worry about upgrading hardware again
-IT Pros are configuring, monitoring, and maintaining your hardware
-Can rent, on a monthly basis, licenses for just about every software there is (I.e. Citrix, Microsoft, etc.)
-Easily have your servers monitored and maintained by a professional via Managed Services (yes this is extra, figure about $199-299 per month per server)
-Backups can and typically are included and monitored
-Failing hardware, repairs, warranty maintenance, is all offloaded to the cloud provider… more things to “not have to worry about”
-Small monthly cost (relatively speaking) as opposed to high, up-front costs
-Servers are converted so this means moving to the cloud can be nearly transparent to staff; saves on labor involved in reconfiguration
-Disk space, memory, and CPU can all be increased on-the-fly during the conversion to the cloud
-Future server additions can be done in just a few minutes or hours. (Need a new web server? It can be done in under an hour in most cases.)

So we’ve seen there are very compelling reasons to go to the cloud, but, if you decide this is the right path, there are some questions to ask of your chosen cloud provider.

Not all cloud service providers will do the type of migration I have described above, so be sure to ask if they are going convert your existing server, or create new. Creating new can create some headaches you would be wise to avoid.

Here are some other things to ask your prospective cloud provider: (I would highly recommend you have a trusted IT person sit in with you on these conversations)

-What kind of hardware are you going to run my servers on? What will the disk back-end be?
-Are there multiple points of redundancy in the server, switching, power, and storage infrastructure?
-How will these servers be backed up? How are restores of data done?
-What is the DR plan?
-Are the virtual networks segmented either physically or virtually? (The last thing you want is for someone to have access to your data)

OK, so now that we have discussed the perfect scenario for the “right” time to move to the cloud, let’s give some examples of when it might not be a good idea/fit:

-You have just invested a significant amount in your existing infrastructure and you have a good internal or outsourced IT staff
-You have spotty or slow internet connectivity that cannot be easily upgraded (remember, your life now depends on either the internet or dedicated data circuit to your cloud provider)
-You are bound by certain restrictions that do not allow you to host your data in a shared environment outside of your control

As you can see the cloud is not for every business, at every moment. No you aren’t behind the curve because you aren’t “in the cloud”, and chances are you are already using cloud technologies. Reading WSJ.com online, after all, is in fact, reading the newspaper “in the cloud”!

6 Facts About Cleaning Everyone Thinks Are True

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Finding Similarities Between Resources and Life

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