As an IT consultant my job is to first understand an organization’s important workflows and processes, and then to recommend a solution that will suit them best. It’s a challenging assignment that requires me to be part communicator and part engineer. One of the most taxing and exhaustive questions to answer is, “Should our company use a cloud solution or should we use on premises servers and storage?”. As with all nuanced questions the fast answer is, it depends. The exhaustive answer requires a little more work than that.
There is no magic bullet, or “easy button” to make this decision. In this blog post, I would like to consider some of the main factors involved in making the right decision. But first we need to define our terms and what they mean. It’s also good to take note of the fact
The first thing to know is what is driving the change. Some questions to ask are:
- Is your organization or industry serviced by a required or highly sought after application that is cloud based only?
- Are you planning a project that requires spending a considerable amount on IT infrastructure?
- Are you experiencing a shift, or a shortage in IT staffing that requires you to offload some of their current responsibilities.
The answers to these questions Will help you decide if you need to move into cloud services right now, or if it will be a decision you can put off for now.
It is more than likely that you are already using some cloud software already. Microsoft has done a great job of moving organization to their Microsoft 365 suite of applications and services which incorporates many cloud based services. In fact studies suggest that an increasing number of organizations are moving towards cloud services as they offers various benefits such as reduced costs, scalability, and improved security. While we can’t make any predictions about on premises storage systems and applications it seems that in the near future they will be the exception and not the rule. According to a report in 2022 cloud computing is to to explode into a $1 trillion dollar market in 2028.
Where Are We At Now?
The Microsoft 365 push to the cloud was only step one. Currently we are in the midst of the second phase of this transition, the transition of group applications, CRM’s and other applications from on premises data center or servers to cloud servers. Server hardware has to be regularly refreshed so the question of whether this capital investment in on premises infrastructure is worthwhile will continue to come up.
What is the Cloud?
The “cloud” is a term used to describe a network of remote servers that are accessible over the internet, used to store, process, and manage data, applications, and services. The term “cloud” refers to the fact that the data and resources are not stored on a single physical device or location, but rather in a remote, centralized environment that can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. Using this term we can describe either storage or software applications in which the hardware and software components are hosted by a third-party provider and accessed over the internet
Cloud storage can include various types of data storage services, such as object storage, file storage, and block storage. Even your favorite shared document applications like Onedrive, DropBox, or Owncloud are good examples of cloud based storage.
What is on-premises?
On-premises storage and applications refers to a type of data storage or application solution in which the hardware and software components are physically located within the premises of an organization, typically within its own data center, or server. In other words, the storage is not hosted by a third-party provider and is instead managed and maintained by the company itself on some sort of internal server.
What are the Advantages of On-Premises Storage?
On-premise storage and applications can offer several advantages for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Some of the key benefits include:
- Control and Customization: On-premise infrastructure gives organizations the ability to have full control over their IT systems, which can be particularly useful for SMBs that have unique and complex requirements. This control also enables organizations to customize their IT systems to meet their specific needs and requirements.
- Improved Security: For SMBs, security is a major concern and having their sensitive data stored on-premise can offer a higher level of security compared to storing it in the cloud. Many of the breaches that have been widely reported on in the last few years have been of cloud applications or services. On-premise infrastructure allows organizations to control and monitor access to their data and systems, which can be critical in ensuring the security of sensitive information.
- Predictable Costs: On-premise IT infrastructure can offer SMBs more predictable costs as they only need to pay for the hardware and software upfront. This is in contrast to cloud computing, where organizations typically pay a recurring fee for the services they use.
- Offline Access: On-premise infrastructure can be useful for SMBs that need to access their data and applications when they are offline. This is particularly relevant for businesses that operate in remote locations where internet connectivity is limited.
- Compliance: For SMBs that are subject to strict regulations (e.g. healthcare or financial organizations), on-premise infrastructure may be a better option as it can help them meet regulatory requirements that may not be possible with cloud computing.
- Denial of Service Attacks: More and more organizations that offer applications and services that are hosted in the cloud are coming under denial of service attack by bad actors who seek extortion money. I have personally seen the chaos that results when a small business can no longer access it’s principle line of business application due to one of these attacks. In 2021 a Canadian VoIP provider came under such an attack which resulted in disruption and stoppage of phone service to some clients for nearly two weeks.
Why On-Premises Storage May Not Be the Best Option
Even though there may be one or two benefits of on premises solutions for your organization it is important to also note that they are not always that best fit, why?
- On-premises storage requires a significant investment in hardware and software
- The costs associated with powering and cooling the storage devices
- The costs of upgrading and replacing them as needed.
- Additionally, on-premises IT infrastructure can be more complex and costly to maintain compared to cloud computing, which can be a drawback for some SMBs.
Is Cloud Computing Truly the Best Fit for SMBs?
As an IT consultant, I understand that different businesses have different needs and priorities when it comes to technology solutions, and that the “best fit” will vary from one organization to another. That being said, cloud computing has become increasingly popular among small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) for several reasons, and in many cases it can be a great solution for SMBs.
Here are some of the key benefits of cloud computing for SMBs:
- Maintenance Costs: Cloud computing can be more cost-effective for SMBs than on-premise solutions, as businesses can access cloud resources on a subscription basis, without having to invest in expensive hardware and software up front. This can also reduce operational expenses, as the cloud provider takes care of maintenance and upgrades.
- Scalability: Cloud computing can be easily scaled up or down as a business’s needs change, making it a great fit for SMBs that are growing or need to be able to respond quickly to changing market conditions.
- Accessibility: Cloud computing makes it easy for employees to access data and resources from anywhere, at any time, as long as they have an internet connection. This can be especially important for SMBs with remote workers or multiple locations.
- Reliability: Cloud providers have built-in redundancy and disaster recovery measures, which can help ensure the continuity of a business’s operations in the event of a disaster or system failure.
However, it’s also important to note that cloud computing is not always the best fit for every SMB. For example, some businesses may have specific regulatory requirements that make cloud solutions more challenging, or may prefer to have more control over their data and systems.
What are the Advantages of Cloud-Based Storage?
One of the key benefits of cloud storage is that it can be more cost-effective and flexible than on-premises storage. Business owners do not have to worry about the costs associated with purchasing and maintaining hardware and software, and can instead focus on using the data storage resources they need. Additionally, cloud storage can be easier to scale and manage as an organization’s data storage needs change over time.
Cloud storage can be a great option for businesses that want to minimize their IT overhead and scalability issues, while still being able to access and use the data storage resources they need.
Why Cloud-Based Storage May Not Be the Best Option
However, some business owners may be concerned about the security and privacy of their data in a cloud storage environment. It is important to choose a reputable service provider with strong data security measures in place, and to understand the provider’s data security and privacy policies before entrusting them with sensitive data.
When Do You Choose Cloud Based Applications?
You might consider cloud-hosted applications for your business needs when:
- You have limited IT resources: If your company has limited in-house IT resources, using cloud-hosted applications can be a more cost-effective solution, as the cloud provider takes care of the hardware, software, and maintenance.
- You need to scale quickly: If your business is growing rapidly or needs to be able to respond quickly to changing market conditions, cloud-hosted applications can be scaled up or down more easily than on-premises solutions, without requiring any additional hardware or IT resources.
- You have remote workers or multiple locations: If you have employees who work remotely or from multiple locations, cloud-hosted applications can be accessed from anywhere, at any time, as long as the user has an internet connection.
- You have concerns about data security: If you have concerns about the security of your data, cloud-hosted applications can offer additional security measures, such as built-in redundancy and disaster recovery, as well as a higher level of physical security for your data centers.
- You have concerns about the cost of ownership: If you have concerns about the upfront investment and ongoing costs associated with on-premises software, cloud-hosted applications can offer a more flexible, pay-as-you-go model, without requiring any large upfront investments.
Don’t Forget the Past : Integration of apps and legacy systems
Legacy applications refer to older software that has been in use for many years and may no longer be actively supported by the vendor. Companies often continue to use these applications because they are critical to their business operations, but they may struggle with the limitations of the outdated technology.
When it comes to cloud computing and legacy applications, there are a few things to consider:
- Upgrade or replace: One option for dealing with legacy applications is to upgrade or replace them with newer, cloud-based solutions. This can offer a number of benefits, including improved performance, security, and scalability. However, it can also be a major undertaking, requiring significant investment and planning.
- Hybrid approach: Another option is to take a hybrid approach, where some legacy applications are migrated to the cloud, while others remain on-premises. This can be a good fit for businesses that need to maintain control over certain applications or data, while also taking advantage of the benefits of cloud computing.
- Keep on-premises: In some cases, it may be more cost-effective or practical to keep legacy applications on-premises, especially if they are still meeting the business’s needs and are well-supported by the IT team.
Ultimately, the decision of whether to move legacy applications to the cloud or keep them on-premises will depend on the specific needs and goals of the business. An IT consultant can help you assess your options and determine the best course of action for your company.
Choosing between cloud and on-premise storage and applications can be a complex decision for a business owner, but there are a few key factors to consider.
For storage, it’s important to consider the security and control requirements of your data, as well as the cost and scalability of the solution. Cloud storage can offer ease of access, but it may also come with higher costs and less control over your data. On-premise storage, on the other hand, can offer more control, customization, and security, but may also require a larger upfront investment and ongoing maintenance.
For applications, it’s important to consider the needs of your business, including the number of remote workers, the need for scalability, and the resources available for IT support. Cloud-hosted applications can offer improved accessibility, and scalability, but may also come with higher costs and a reduced level of control. On-premise applications can offer more control, customization, and security, but may also require a larger upfront investment and ongoing maintenance.
In conclusion, the decision between cloud and on-premise storage and applications will depend on the specific needs and goals of your business. Start by considering the security and control requirements of your data, the needs of your employees, and the resources available for IT support, and then work with an IT consultant to determine the best solution for your company.