An increasing amount of companies are moving their processes and applications to the cloud and there are a large number of reasons for this. This HP whitepaper looks closely at those and seeks to help companies that are considering a cloud migration.
With the cloud, you have the ability to lower capital expenditure by not having to purchase and maintain expensive hardware. A cloud service provider can host your data on their own high performance systems, and you will no longer have the expense of maintaining and upgrading them either. Instead, cloud users can concentrate on improving their own products and services.
In addition, there is also the potential to either reduce headcounts in areas of server and application management, or to re-allocate those staff to research and development or more strategic business roles on the technology side.
Increased scalability and flexibility
With cloud computing, companies only pay for the computer power they are actually using. Without the cloud, firms have to predict what processing power they need now and in the future, which can lead to the over deployment of servers and software licenses. Instead, cloud service provision is built on offering cloud users the flexibility to scale their IT capacity in response to actual business needs in a timely fashion.
If a company needs a more powerful ERP or CRM processing engine, for instance, in response to a big spike in demand, then that cloud hosting partner should be able to speedily provide it. Similarly, if business demand goes down, then the cloud customer should be able scale down that ERP and CRM engine, without being locked into long-term software licensing or data processing costs.
Improved data storage capacity
Improved data storage is possible in the cloud, as cloud users are not curtailed by their own finite capacity constraints. They do not have to go out and buy extra storage hardware to cope with spiralling data requirements, as they can rely on the large data centre capacities of cloud providers.
Cloud providers make sure they can provide cost-efficient data storage and data sharing systems for processes like backup and archiving, as they have multiple customers often sharing the same equipment for their operations. Such economies of scale for data storage means that cloud users benefit from not only cost-efficient storage, but big capacity storage built on up-to-date storage technologies.
Good collaboration is key to business success and the cloud makes it easier to achieve. A more mobile workforce often using their own devices means that many companies need help to support and manage staff wanting to access business systems and applications on the move.
Cloud service providers can do this by hosting those applications in the cloud and providing reliable and secure access to them from any location via the web. This means that companies don't have to pay for more expensive on-premise user licenses, and their helpdesk costs are reduced, as internal IT teams aren't responsible for upgrading and managing those applications on multiple staff gadgets.
Supporting utility computing
Companies need to allocate budgets and expenditure in precise ways, but to be able to do that they have to know what departments are spending. The cloud offers a great opportunity to do this on the technology side, as the finance, HR, sales or marketing departments, for instance, can purchase unique applications in the cloud which can be directly billed to them.
Instead of one large, chaotic IT department being responsible for the purchase, deployment and management of all applications used by all areas of the business, the HR department, for example, can be responsible for the cost of a cloud-based staff self-service people management system. This makes for good accounting for the overall business and takes the pressure off the central IT department, allowing it to concentrate on mission critical areas like network security.
Improved network performance
If organisations are using the remote data centres of their cloud service providers to process, search and analyse their data, the workload on their own networks can be reduced, meaning better performance for functions using the internal network. This means organisations can avoid the types of data congestion that can impact business performance, while at the same time reducing the amount of costly network switching equipment and bandwidth needed to support the local area network. Some cloud service providers even allow you to locate your servers in their data centres to aid these network efficiencies.
Improved integration and compatibility
The big data needs of organisations means they must be able to access and analyse data stored across different platforms. In turn, this demands close integration and compatibility between those platforms.
However, it often isn't easy to get Linux machines to share data with Windows machines, for example. With cloud computing the emphasis is on data extraction and not operating systems. Cloud providers can use industry standards such as Apache, PHP and MySQL to eliminate the compatibility issues organisations run into while running their own servers.
The worst aspect of hardware failures isn't usually the cost of the kit to replace, but the downtime that results. When maintaining your own servers or data storage systems downtime is inevitable, meaning there is a threat to your business data.
The cloud model dictates that all types of potential failure are considered, whether that be related to hardware, timeouts, failover faults or network problems. Multiple copies of data are maintained for you, so if any machine fails your whole system can continue to function without the cost of extensive downtime.
While data security is often cited as an obstacle to cloud adoption, the argument can however be turned on its head. As mentioned above, multiple copies of an organisation's data can be stored in the cloud using a cloud provider's systems, so there is no reliance on a single on-premise corporate data storage network, with the resulting business continuity risks that come with that.
Cloud providers usually comply with industry data security standards to match, or exceed, whatever a cloud customer complies with themselves. Even if organisations want to maintain their main data systems themselves, they can still backup and replicate those systems securely in the cloud at lower cost, without having to maintain their own additional data centre.
Try before you buy with no lock-ins
Companies can test cloud services before they fully subscribe to them to make sure they are up to the job. They can test some existing and established applications in the cloud, or they can build and test new applications using a cloud provider and its pay-per-use model. After a beta phase in the cloud, the process can be scaled up or you can walk away, it's up to you. But remember, once your applications are being run in a managed cloud hosting scenario you have continued access to support.