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Cloud VERSUS On-site OR Cloud PLUS On-site?
Is it realistic to run your business completely in the cloud or do you need on-site technology as well?
Black, white or grey?
For some time now, the debate about choosing the right technology platforms for business has been characterised as Cloud versus On-site.
While such black and white, good versus bad narratives are the stuff of Hollywood multiplex blockbusters, they poorly reflect the real world. Reality is more complex than the simple choice between either, and or; there are subtleties and nuances all around us that often mean compromises need to be made.
Often, the real world is shaped by the process of economic determinism. On the macro scale of globalisation, this might mean manufacturing enterprises simply follow the trail of cheap labour across emerging economies to ensure the lowest manufacturing costs. On a micro scale, it means individuals purchase the cars that they can afford.
Cloud technology offers significant advantages, in that it maximises financial and workforce efficiency while reducing costs; so, when it comes to choosing technology platforms for a business, for many, the case for cloud is economically determined.
However, the complexity of the real world means that for some it may be impractical to switch some technology platforms to the cloud because the organisation cannot ditch essential legacy, on-site applications and systems for financial or technical reasons.
In this world of grey reality, here we discuss the case for hosted solutions and how to move to the cloud where there is a necessity to retain legacy applications and systems.
Key considerations when choosing between cloud and on-site
There are a number of key areas where the case for cloud is beyond doubt.
- Digital and network security
- In terms of data privacy, cloud solutions are hosted in data centres secured to ISO27001, the de facto standard for IT security.
- 256-bit encryption is something of a default standard for data in motion and at rest in the cloud. It is unlikely that 256-bit encryption would be available by default for all data in transit or storage on standard office systems.
- Physical security
- Any data centre secured to ISO27001 also meets requirements for standards for physical security. This exceeds the physical security of any standard office environment or business premises, and includes 24x7 security guarding, access control measures, CCTV and other electronic security, no unaccompanied access to data halls, and locked rooms and doors.
Essentially, the best cloud solutions offer digital and physical security that cannot be matched by an on-site approach to IT.
Backup and DR
- Redundancy and Resilience
- For both cloud and on-site, Backup and DR requirements are determined by the levels of redundancy and resilience of the infrastructure.
- In a data centre, where there is plenty of redundancy and resilience, a Backup and DR plan may be seldom if ever invoked. (But never say never!) If we consider power alone, backup batteries and diesel generators provide redundancy to ensure continual resilience. Data may well be protected by a raid array (capable of self-healing once a blown disk is replaced) and be mirrored to another array in a secondary data centre. This is all protected by a system of alerts to ensure timely human intervention when sudden failure occurs or problems are predicted.
- In an office there may be a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) with a 1 hour runtime if there is a mains power outage - basically there’s an hour to shut the sever down to avoid the stress of a sudden powerdown. An office is far more likely to have data on a single server, so Backup and DR contingency planning is far more important.
Essentially, there’s far less redundancy and resilience in the on-site approach and the cloud presents a much better option when it comes to avoiding disruption to business as a result of technology or utility services failure.
Latest software updates
- To prevent the vulnerabilities which may exist in software applications it is essential for updated versions or security patches to be applied as soon as they are released. New viruses are rapidly created to exploit newly discovered vulnerabilities, so speed is of the essence.
- Software application version updates provide the latest features many of which may accelerate productivity, so it is good to have these from the point of view of workforce efficiency.
Software updating is often included in services from cloud providers but frequently has a cost attached for those electing for an on-site approach. The cost is either for in-house staff to perform patching and updating or for a 3rd party to provide service.
Maintenance and Upgrades
- Maintenance and housekeeping
- General systems housekeeping might include data archiving, configuring backup and maintaining documentation.
- Looking after hardware and software across the IT estate
- Asset management of hardware and auditing software are necessary.
Admin they may be, but avoidable they are not! Once again, these often included with cloud services but have a cost within an on-site model.
- Voice calls
- On-site telephony is now considered a legacy approach to providing business voice services. The underlying connectivity, ISDN, is obsolete and is due to be terminated by BT. Cloud PBXs offer significant advantages, especially when it comes to scalability and connectivity across multiple locations such as head offices and satellite sites.
Cloud squashes many of the costs including:
- Hardware - desktop
- Thin Clients or Zero Clients for a hosted desktop cloud solution reduces costs by around 60% compared with desktop PCs in an on-site system.
- Hardware - servers
- With cloud, servers and associated infrastructure items are eliminated, offering a complete saving of something in the ballpark of £25,000 for a firm with 50 seats.
- Software costs for cloud solutions are absorbed within the subscription fees for the service, so there’s no direct cost for software licensing or upgrades. Typically, for a firm of 50 people on-site software licensing may exceed £30k per annum. As an annual subscription, the same amount of money buys you an entire cloud solution including servers, software licensing, telephony, support, DR and set up fees.
- Power and cooling
- Electrical power to run servers and network, PCs and monitors and air conditioning is reduced by up to 90%.
- IT Management
- A capable in-house IT manager is unlikely to leave you much change out of £50k. With a good cloud solution support is part of the service bundle and the IT manager’s role is allowed the space to become more strategic. Do you want to pay the thick end of £50k for a strategic thinker that can add value to your business or a firefighter running to keep up on a treadmill of technical issues?
As can be seen in this section, cost plays a huge role in making the case for cloud. In a world where decisions are frequently economically determined, perhaps it is the strongest part of the proposition.
The cloud is an extremely strong business proposition. There is little doubt that the best cloud solutions offer unparalleled value. In many instances they offer superior capability, flexibility and security while significantly reducing costs when compared with an on-site approach.
Items such as physical and network security, software updates and maintenance come as standard with a good cloud solution but incur significant costs in any scheme that uses an on-site approach to provision business technology.
However, sometimes there may be elements such as proprietary line-of-business applications, or legacy systems for which it is essential for the firm to continue with in their on-site form.
Faced with such realities, for many organisations the best choice is to adopt a compromise position, retaining only the on-site applications that are absolutely necessary while putting as much as possible into the cloud.
Cloud and on-site the Serviced Cloud way
HTL Support is a specialist provider of cloud technology solutions to the professional services sector. HTL Support has the expertise and experience to help service sector companies and those supplying services to regulated businesses to meet their regulatory obligations or follow guidelines on the use of technology.
It is our confirmed belief the cloud offers outstanding opportunities for services sector firms to leverage technology so it returns more value to their businesses. Faced with the reality of needing to continue with some on-site systems and applications, the best solution is to adopt a hybrid approach. The best option is to put as much as possible into the cloud, while only retaining an on-site approach for the elements for which it is an absolute necessity.
HTL Support works with in-house compliance experts or external consultants to ensure any solution exceeds interpretation of the applicable regulatory code(s). HTL Support provides the appropriate level of services required by the majority of SME businesses, whether governed by a mixture of state legislation and frameworks devised and enforced by regulating authorities or by professional standards bodies and trade associations.
About HTL Support
HTL Support is a close knit and highly professional team of technology professionals that are evangelists for cloud solutions. This is because we believe the benefits are unrivalled by equivalent on-site approaches to provisioning business technology.
The business benefits of the cloud are regularly highlighted in the press and deliberated in boardrooms. Cloud technology is a topic about which the vast majority of business leaders are likely to have more than a passing interest.
Based in the heart of London in Canary Wharf, HTL Support was incorporated in 2009 with a clear and simple vision. We are dedicated to helping business leaders in financial service organisations find the best way of successfully adopting cloud technology in their businesses. We offer best of breed Hosted Cloud Services in our ISO27001 London data centres, and help clients to create their own Private Cloud systems in their own offices or data centres.
Our friendly and professional engineers and consultants have extensive experience, proven track records and ‘can-do’ attitudes. We offer independent advice but partner with the leading cloud technology companies to ensure seamless support. We are serviced focused; our client’s satisfaction is paramount.
References and further reading
Cloud Services FAQ guide
Talking your way to a more successful business - A cloud PBX guide