The most recent thrust within ICT has been to embrace a Cloud Solution. There does however seem to be some confusion around what exactly the cloud is, what types of cloud there are and the business benefits to be gained by adopting a Cloud strategy.
Some definitions first:
- Cloud Solution
Prior to the Internet, all computer installations were based around a local computer centre where all the hardware and software driving the business computing was located. As the Internet developed, sped up and became sufficiently reliable to support business solutions, it began to make business sense to move business applications and/or data to an Internet base. Simply put, a Cloud Solution is where an organisation’s business computing platform, to a lesser or greater extent is based on Internet tools and techniques and reached, user location independent, by using Internet style connections .
- Public Cloud
A Public Cloud is a cost-effective way of sharing external resources provided by an external service provider of Cloud Services. The service provider shares infrastructure between several clients all seeking outsourced Cloud Based Solutions.
- Private cloud
A private cloud is again provided by an external Cloud Service provider, either overseas or by a Cloud Service Provider UK, but the infrastructure is dedicated to a single organisation. The infrastructure can be external to the organisation, or can be in their premises, operated on an outsourced basis by the service provider.
- Hybrid Cloud
A hybrid cloud, as the name suggest is an integrated solution carrying out distinct functions within an organisation incorporating both public and private cloud techniques.
If you have decided as a matter of strategy to adopt a Cloud Solution, then there are several considerations to be borne in mind. These include, but aren’t the only ones, security, stability and cost.
If you intend to move your day to day business operations to the cloud, the very first thing to do is to look at your business to see what can be moved to the cloud. What is generally best in the cloud are outward facing portals for searchers, customers and suppliers, closely followed by secure portals to internal systems that provide support to staff working away from home base.
Some parts may not be moved to the cloud. Recent ransomware attacks have raised concerns about the security of hosted solutions. For example, a pharmaceutical company will not want its research and development data held by a third party, potentially making it more easily available to hackers. A company might find that it cannot lawfully outsource employee personal information, except under the most stringent of conditions.
it is a given that the cloud infrastructure and the means of access to it must be as close to 100% availability as possible. The cloud based systems, public or private, need to be available to your staff and all third parties such as suppliers and customers. If your business is such that even a short loss of service is unsustainable in business terms, then a cloud environment is not for you. Such businesses might include online shops, reservation services, and financial services. You need to be very clear about service levels and the penalties for failure, and have them written into a service level agreement with your Cloud Service provider.
You must also be very strong on security. What security will your potential Cloud Service provider put in place to safeguard your applications and data? What Disaster Plans do they have? Again, they must be documented, reviewed and approved.
In terms of cost, you need a structured financial model, showing the cost savings to be achieved with a Cloud Solution. There will be intangible benefits, but most will accrue from the cost savings consequent on reducing the operational costs of running a full ICT department.
Moving to the cloud is potentially a very big deal for a business. You need to consider all these factors before committing to a cloud solution, particularly a public cloud. Speaking in very broad terms, the most likely solution will be a hybrid cloud, where external facing functions are transferred to the cloud, and some functions retained internally within the company, but still based around cloud techniques.