If you’re like most IT managers you’ve got a sturdy infrastructure in place for your applications and you’re comfortable with your ability to support your organization’s mission going forward.  You’ve been aware of cloud IT services for a while and probably have been thinking about how these services might apply to your business and what advantages they might bring, but you’re concerned about the risk.  Why would you want to consider taking some of your hard-won and stable infrastructure and putting it up in the cloud?  Well, there are a few things you might want to consider.

  1. Aging Equipment – if your servers, or some of your servers, are getting older and approaching end-of-life, you are coming to a decision point.  You’re going to incur a big capital cost to replace those servers with new equipment.  Plus, your staff is going to be very involved with finding space for new servers on your racks, setting up the new servers, installing and patching the OS, loading the most recent versions of your software, paying for new licenses, etc.  This is a perfect time to be thinking about moving to a cloud environment, where you are paying services (OPEX) costs rather than investing capital (CAPEX) dollars on equipment that will only have to be replaced again down the road.  A cloud environment is always on the latest hardware and you can pay for services to keep your applications running on the latest patches to the OS and other software.  Many times, software licensing costs can also be built into the service costs of keeping your servers running, giving you the option to spread those costs out on a monthly basis.
  2. Staff Expertise – How much do you pay your staff to maintain their certifications on the latest software and OS/Infrastructure versions?  How much of their time is taken up with break/fix and routine server management tasks rather than being spent on updating and maintaining the applications that keep your business running?  If you could free up that staff time for tasks that support the business rather than support the servers, how would you use that capacity?  In a cloud environment, your staff can be freed up to work on projects that actually affect the bottom line while you let your cloud service provider focus on break/fix (usually with an SLA) and keeping the servers patched and running.
  3. Reliability – Application reliability rests upon a solid foundation of infrastructure reliability, but that infrastructure can be very expensive to configure and maintain in-house.  If you run your own local servers, how much do you have to spend to get redundant power systems, redundant cooling, redundant carrier connectivity and other components of infrastructure reliability into your environment?  As it turns out, infrastructure reliability is a baseline component of cloud computing, available out of the box with any vendor.  Cloud IT’s cost model relies on spreading the cost of data center reliability across many clients – reducing the costs and upfront capital investments for all clients. System reliability is a primary driver for the popularity of cloud computing.
  4. Flexibility – Have you ever been tasked with setting up a development or test environment for a mission-critical application?  Of course.  But how long did it take to provision, configure and load the temporary environment?  Do you keep idle capacity on hand or did you have to purchase new hardware?  If so, what did you do with that hardware when the need was done?  In a cloud environment, spinning up a clone of a production environment can be done in minutes.  And when the need is over, the environment can be taken down just as quickly.  And the costs stop when the environment does.
  5. Backup and Disaster Recovery – You have a solid backup strategy, maybe even an offsite or cloud strategy, but do you have a duplicate environment or can you start one up quickly?  If not, are there situations (like inclement weather or a long power outage) where it would be good to have an environment that was available to workers from anywhere?  You don’t even have to have your primary environment in the cloud to use this – many vendors will sell you Disaster Recovery as a Service.  Moving domain services and VPN servers to the cloud makes your environment available anywhere.  And for disaster recovery – your equipment is housed in a data center and can be replicated anywhere.  So even if your campus is unavailable, your critical business applications will be.

This is just a few of the considerations that might push your organization to consider Cloud Computing as a resource to keep your business operating at peak efficiency.  The benefits are considerable and the the risks can be mitigated with good planning and a solid transition strategy.  Our next article will consider some of those issues and how to plan around them.

Opticom Consulting, founded in 2003, has deep experience in corporate IT Infrastructure and we partner with the largest and most forward-thinking service providers in the industry.

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