There are four main advantages to adopting Cloud Computing for your enterprise infrastructure:
- Reduced Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
- Quick, seamless upgrades and minimal maintenance
- Lower threshold for adoption, including lower capital investment
- Scalability of capacity and cost
Let’s discuss these in depth…
Reduced TCO — Total Cost of Ownership
The old way: You buy your own servers, install and configure them, and maintain them. You pay 100% of the start-up costs, even if you only use 10% of their capability. Yike$, that $mart$!
The cloud computing model: You buy only the required space, bandwidth and expertise that you need. Your cloud services provider merely allocates a fraction of their resources for your use. Accordingly, you’re invoiced a fraction of what your start-up costs would be.
Cloud computing risks: It’s always smart to have a backup plan in case something happens to your provider, like an earthquake, or an economic down-turn.
Quick Seamless Upgrades, Minimal Maintenance
The old way: You have your IT folks take servers offline, upgrade them, make sure the new configurations are all set properly, reinstall them, and make them available on the network again. If you have a simple server farm of just one or two units, this could have your whole enterprise down for quite an extended period. So this situation behooves you to postpone the upgrades because of all the trouble, which can lead to compatibility and security issues. Ouch!
The cloud computing model: Your cloud provider has an enormous server farm with hundreds or thousands of machines. On top of that they likely run “virtualization” software to simulate virtual servers within the ‘real’ servers. This allows them to allocate portions of various (virtual) machines to serve your needs; and then they allocate new (virtual) machines with upgrades in place, and then swap these in to replace your old (virtual) boxes. It makes for a very quick upgrade, and in some cases the actual switch-over can happen in a matter of seconds.
Cloud computing risks: Here’s one case where it’s a pretty big win to go with cloud computing.
Lower Adoption Threshold
The old way: Wrangle the hardware and software until you have the system working the way you want it to. Have you ever paid someone to come up with a custom website? It’s quite a task!
The cloud computing model: If you want to explore to discover a new feature or new service, your cloud provider is likely to have the systems in place to at least get you started, if not deliver and end-to-end solution. Looking to collaborate on documents or spreadsheets or presentations? Try Google apps. Want a blog? You don’t have to program one yourself from the ground up — give WordPress a try. Want a content-management system? Try Drupal or Joomla. These are often available as a one-click-install at your friendly neighborhood hosting service. (And cost is minimal!)
Cloud computing risks: Seldom does one size really fit all, but software and systems have been developed in the past ten years that really deliver a powerful punch when it comes to features and customizability. You may be surprised to find out what you can do these days with a couple of clicks.
Scalability of Capacity and Cost
The old way: When you outgrow your single-server setup in the closet and decide you need three times the horsepower and fifty times the storage, it’s a mess to get new hardware in place, get the software you need, configure everything so it’s all humming along smoothly, and then start using it to support your core activities. Infrastructure headaches, personnel distractions and more. Yuck!
The cloud computing model: A few clicks, or maybe a phone call, and you’ve got more storage, more bandwidth, more ram… If you’re handling a temporary spike and want to scale back again when the rush is over, a few more clicks or another phone call and your storage and bandwidth and ram are back down to a reasonable level — and so’s your invoice!
Cloud computing risks: This is all predicated on your cloud provider having enough resources “on call” to handle changing/growing demand. If you request 100 Terabytes of storage and your provider doesn’t have it available, you’ll have to wait until other customers free some up, or until the provider expands. A good cloud services provider will have space to spare.
Summary: Cloud Computing Rocks!
Cloud computing minimizes TCO through resource-sharing, where you just pay for the portion of the storage and bandwidth that you use, instead of paying for 100% of the systems you might only use 30% of. It allows easy upgrades through the enormous resource pool that your cloud provider has, instead of wrestling with taking servers offline, upgrading and configuring, then reinstalling them, yourself. It makes experimenting and discovery much more palatable, instead of the inertia and resistance you get from having to wrangle your own systems. Finally, it brings you scalability like never before — with a few clicks or a call, you can have more storage/bandwidth/cpu or less, so you only pay for what you use.
If you have a savvy IT team, feel free to take care of these headaches yourself. For the rest of us, there’s Cloud Computing!
Note: Security is definitely an aspect of cloud computing that you really need to consider. On the one hand, who knows more about security — your local IT guy or the folks at Google? It’s not quite that simple, of course. On the other hand, consider this: at your own home, you’ve got some trinkets in a drawer in your kitchen, some other items in a fire-proof lock box in your basement, and yet others in the safety deposit box at the local bank. You must decide what level of security is acceptable for you, and how (or whether) your cloud service provider can deliver that.