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Thinking About Moving to the Cloud? 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

Rob Waggoner

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Moving to the cloud can be exciting and scary at the same time. While it is exciting to use new technology, it can also be scary to try something new, especially when you can’t actually see anything. Moving to the cloud means no longer purchasing hardware. Whether you have been thinking about moving to the cloud or have already started researching, here are 5 questions to ask yourself.

#1 Do I need to provide access outside of the main location?
Some ways you may currently have solved this question are to have users carry files and documents on their laptops and sync them when they return to the office. While tedious, it can work, but then you might run into file versioning issues if two people update the same file while offline. Some may have set up remote connectivity through a VPN, which can grant users access outside of the office, but you still need to maintain it. The issue you may have ran into before is needing more capacity, but not being able to quickly adjust. For example, if the office closes due to a major snow storm and everyone is trying to access the VPN, it is going to quickly reach capacity.

Something to consider with the cloud is the ability to easily provision the extra capacity and reduce it back to normal when needed. Then there is only a cost for that period of time and doesn’t require any major changes. The cloud can provide an easy solution to a more common problem as the workforce continues to become more mobile.

#2 Do I have concerns about the security of the cloud?
As with anything, it is always a little more concerning when you can’t see it or touch it. While some may think their hardware is more secure on-premises because they know where it is, nothing says someone can’t break into the building and steal it. The physical security of the hardware is not as extensive as most would think. This can be a little scary when you think about it. While the data may be encrypted, it could most likely be unencrypted eventually, it is just a matter of time.

While some may be able to provide some more heightened security around their hardware, it probably still can’t match that of the public cloud providers. Take Microsoft Azure, for example. They have cameras in the parking lot that also show past the parking lot, so they know when someone is coming before they get there. They also have a physical gate the person would need to drive through so not just anyone can enter the parking lot. In order to get behind the massive, thick walls a person would need to go through a two-door security measure where they would also have to surrender their driver’s license. Once inside, there are additional locked doors where the servers reside. Visitors are supervised the entire time and are required to walk within the painted lines that keep them away from computers. If that isn’t enough, the hard drives never leave the building once inside. When a hard drive dies, it is then put through a hard drive shredder, which turns it into metal shavings to be recycled.

The physical security exists, but what about the data security in the cloud? When it comes to the data, Microsoft Azure is no exception. There are actually two encryptions, the hard drive and then the data. It is not unencrypted until it is presented to the user. This means, even as the data is transmitted it is encrypted.

So when it comes to security, it is easy to see the benefits of the cloud and how it can provide extra protection that is becoming more critical in today’s world. 

#3 Do I want to get out of the server/hardware business?
While it can be scary to think a portion of your business would disappear, you would also be able to add other areas where you can provide more value. When you worry about servers and hardware, you are trying to guess growth for the next 3-5 years and the best use of the budget. What happens when the business doubles in size compared to the projections and more hardware is needed sooner than anticipated?

A great example is a user who uses max capacity for a few hours a day on their computer. In this situation, the user would most likely get rid of their current computer and purchase a higher capacity computer.  Sound a bit extreme? When the hardware starts to effect performance, people are willing to make extreme decisions. In the case of the cloud, you can just provision more capacity for that period of time and go back to normal capacity at the end of the day. Why spend excessive amounts on hardware that may or may not stick around awhile?

#4 Do I want to be able to leverage the newest hardware and solutions quickly and not have to wait?
With on-premises hardware, most will do a hardware refresh every 3-5 years. When this happens, in an ideal world, that means the hardware is replaced and new capabilities are added and no more money will need to be spent for 3-5 years. Through experience, this has most likely not been the case. 3 years is a long time. What is to stay the next latest and greatest technology doesn’t come out until right after the purchase is made. Then what? In most cases, you just have to deal with it or more money needs to be spent.

With the cloud, new capabilities are added over time, which means you can always use the latest technology. A great example of this is when someone wants to purchase a new vehicle because their current vehicle does not have a specific capability such as having enough power to pull a boat. This is essentially a refresh of the vehicle. They would need to purchase a new vehicle for the capability.  While they don’t have to pull a boat all of the time, the small percentage of time they do need, makes a big difference. With the cloud, they would simply need to provision some additional capacity for the time they need. As a result, a new vehicle wouldn’t need to be purchased and they would still be able to accomplish what they needed.

#5 Do I want to be able to keep multiple copies of data?
While some may have several backups and even backups of the backups, the next question to ask yourself is where are they kept? If there are 3 backups, but they are kept in the same place, what is the point? Of course, there are also those who don’t keep backups and hope for the best. An estimated 97% of the time, there are no problems and IT can run for less. But, preparing for the 3% is what keeps IT professionals up at night.

One unique feature of the cloud, specifically Azure, is the default number of copies. There are 3 copies kept. Two copies are kept in one building and the third copy is typically kept in another building within the same region. It is also possible for Azure to keep 6 copies where the other three are kept in a different region so even if a major disaster occurs, the other region is safe. This is known as geographic redundancy. In case you aren’t familiar, a data center is one physical building. An Azure region is a square block of physical buildings, each filled with servers and storage.

By answering these questions and understanding the difference between using the cloud or using on-premises hardware we can help you in your decision to move to the cloud.

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