99 Problems but the Cloud Ain’t One: Five myths about public cloud

Every business has different requirements and so the best cloud solutions for each come from an increasingly lengthy menu: private cloud; public cloud; hybrid cloud; multicloud - with managed and self-service variations on most.   

In turn, each type of cloud has its own reputation. X is cheapest. Y is the most secure. But these reputations tend to get formed when the technology is young, and stick around long after the technology has matured, evolved and become something different. 

Public cloud is a particular victim here. It was probably the first type of cloud technology people heard about. And because it's well…public, everyone knows little bit about it. But as we've discussed, technology rarely stays in one place for very long — and what 'everyone knows' quickly becomes untrue.   

So, let's bust some long-standing myths about public cloud. 

Myth #1: “Public cloud is insecure”   

This is a big one. While perceptions are rightfully shifting, the myth that public cloud is less secure continues to persist. Maybe it's because of the name: if it's a 'public' cloud then it's got to be less secure than a 'private' cloud, right?   

Well, no. Nowadays, the levels of security available through public cloud services are as tight and as configurable as any other forms of IT. Industry standard access controls, such as PCI, and different levels of access can be set. Multiple firewalls can be added on demand. And never forget, a dedicated data centre will be doing more to protect the physical security of servers — and have very much further reaching disaster prevention and recovery plans — than almost any private facility. 

In fact, it's arguably the case that public cloud vendors such as Microsoft Azure are the ones doing most to drive security standards forward. The remaining issues tend to be around data sovereignty rather than actual security, which is more of a discussion about compliance. 

Myth #2: “Public cloud is a solution for everything” 

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the assertion that public cloud can be employed to replace the existing computing environment for any business and any application. This isn't true. There's a solid use case for almost every platform: public, private, bare metal, etc.  

Some applications react badly to almost any kind of latency. Other applications have licensing agreements that have dated badly since they were created and preclude their use in a cloud environment. Some organisations – especially development teams – want to manage their own infrastructure very closely, so a private cloud or local infrastructure becomes more appropriate. Sad, but true: there is no 'solution for everything'. 

Myth #3: “Migrating to public cloud is difficult” 

It was once the case that transitioning major applications to the cloud was a difficult and time-consuming process, that the apps essentially needed to be rebuilt to operate properly on cloud platforms.   

But that time has passed. Cloud vendors obviously don't want any blockages to obtaining new business and so are working continually to make transitioning simpler. And third parties saw an opportunity to help. Moving a VMware environment in a corporate data centre to VMcloud on public cloud servers has been made easy with replication technology from the likes of Zerto. 

Nowadays, it's no more difficult to move to public cloud than it is any other platform. The evolution of APIs and automation tools from cloud vendors have actually made it even easier in many cases.   

There's still a reasonable amount of planning to do: application mapping, and architecture, but once you've done that you can move applications to any cloud easily enough. For most organisations, who won't have the necessary experience in-house, it's sensible to use a managed service provider to assist. For most organisations, they've never completed a large migration project before, but service providers do it all day, every day. They know the pitfalls to look out for. 

Myth #4: “Public cloud is only for non-critical” 

Some critics still maintain that cloud should not be used for your most critical applications. This is a myth that has been thoroughly debunked in recent years.   

For almost any organisation, email is one of its most critical application. If email breaks down, no-one can get any work done. Yet for Microsoft, Office 365 has proven an amazing success. Earlier this year, the company announced it had 87 million users of its commercial email product (so, excluding personal accounts), up 37 per cent year-on-year. It's been the fastest and most profound cloud migration ever, for an application that is very definitely mission-critical for businesses. 

Increasingly, companies are creating their architecture cloud-first, whether that's for communications, or for CRM and Dynamics. Often, access to data is something that really damages productivity for companies, and cloud provides a natural solution. This isn't just trendy online start-ups, but household brands. The movement will only grow: a lot of organisations still have capital tied up in onsite hardware. As that hardware gets to end-of-life, it's being retired and replaced with cloud architecture. 

Myth #5: “Public cloud is cheap” 

Public cloud can, certainly, be cheaper than other alternatives. The providers clearly have enormous economies of scale compared to any local provision, or smaller operators. 

But whether their customers realise cost-savings depends on how well that infrastructure is managed. Often organisations will specify infrastructure for their business peaks - the height of trading just before Christmas, for example.   

They certainly need that capacity some of the time. But the reality is that 90 per cent of the time, they don't need anywhere near that level. The flexibility of cloud infrastructure is where the real opportunity lies. Doing something as simple as spinning down the back-office servers outside the business day can lead to enormous cost-savings. That's again where a managed provider can offer considerable value: they can help plan and predict peaks and troughs in system requirements, and provide only the resource that's required.   

And more… 

We've yet to address the myth that everything in the cloud can be automated. Or that you need to put all your eggs in one basket. But perhaps this is enough to show that public cloud is no longer the platform you may have thought it was, maybe it’s even helped you understand how it could best be used to meet your specific needs. Because whether going 100% public or opting for hybrid and multi-cloud models, it’s important to be armed with correct information when creating your cloud strategy. 

In fact, what else do you think has changed dramatically – where perceptions no longer match reality – in cloud platforms in recent years?

Gary Smallman, Director of Operations, Navisite  

Image Credit: TZIDO SUN / Shutterstock