Businesses seeking greater operational flexibility are finding the cloud to be an increasingly attractive solution due to its flexible deployment options and its ability to help reduce the need for costly dedicated infrastructure. That is especially true for small and mid-size businesses, which often require reliable, high-performance computing infrastructure but are hampered by limited IT budgets that prohibit a large in-house data center.
Not surprisingly, cloud adoption is on the rise. According to Gartner, by 2021, over 75 percent of midsize and large organizations will have adopted a multi-cloud and/or hybrid IT strategy.
Like with any technology investment, there are certain risks that come along with the benefits of cloud computing. Mitigating those risks requires a careful, pragmatic approach, factoring in core business needs, risk elements, performance requirements, and budget constraints.
Essential to developing a smart cloud strategy is understanding the capabilities and requirements of your current IT environment. This means identifying the types of workloads your run and anticipated shifts in capacity demands and resources.
With diligent planning and the right approach, you can reap a number of performance and efficiency benefits from the cloud, including:
- Cost efficiency. One attractive benefit of the cloud is its potential to reduce costs over the long term. By relying on cloud infrastructure, you reduce capital costs associated with purchasing hardware, equipment, and building space. You simply choose the amount of capacity you need and pay on a month-to-month basis. With responsibility for operating, maintaining, and updating the infrastructure delegated to an outside provider, overhead costs are kept to a minimum. Meanwhile, your business can preserve its in-house talent and resources for more strategic business priorities.
- Rapid scalability. Changes in local IT networks and infrastructure can require substantial in-house development and testing, adding to your cost every time your needs change―even if it’s only temporary. With cloud-based solutions, your business can scale capacity up or down quickly to meet shifting demands. Flexible deployment models help accelerate time to market, providing greater workload elasticity to match available resources while minimizing cost. One appealing attribute of the cloud is its ease of scaling, allowing you to meet changing workload requirements and only paying for the capacity you use. Automated load balancing can help achieve scalability on-demand while workflow management tools can monitor application performance to help prevent disruptions that could impact users.
- Disaster recovery. Cloud-based infrastructure is flexibly configured to enable rapid data recovery in the event of a natural disaster or malicious attack―from power outages to a security breach. To help ensure reliable data access and recovery, cloud providers frequently distribute their backups among multiple data center sites in different locations. This multi-site data redundancy allows cloud providers to deliver a highly reliable recovery solution. The ability to access your data and recover your operations quickly can minimize downtime and help ensure ongoing business continuity.
- Efficient collaboration. Cloud environments help support collaboration by allowing multiple teams in disparate locations to share files in real-time and work together more efficiently from anywhere in the world. You can give contractors, employees and third parties working on a project access to the same files while maintaining control over which documents can be edited, viewed and shared. With cloud’s flexible computing models you can easily share records with your accountants or other business advisers. More flexible collaboration and work practices also allow you to more easily transition your hiring to offer remote positions, helping to reduce office size and expand the reach of your potential applicant pool.
- Reliable performance. While cloud infrastructure has a lot of moving parts to manage and maintain, it actually has a solid track record for reliable performance. Because their livelihood depends on providing reliable, trouble-free infrastructure, cloud providers are diligent in the effort to make their services efficient and bug-free. In many cases, their data centers are more reliable than your on-premises infrastructure. In fact, whenever an issue arises, your cloud provider is likely already working on a solution. If this were your on-premises equipment, you would have to alert your IT team and schedule a repair. Cloud infrastructure can also help with loss prevention. With your data stored in the cloud, that data remains accessible and available. Even if something happens to your end device, such as a lost or stolen notebook or PC, your data remains accessible from any computer with an internet connection.
- Document control. Cloud provides superb visibility and control over your data. With document control capabilities, you can determine which users have access to your data and the level they are granted. You retain control but also are able to streamline work flow since team members can readily see what documents are authorized to them. Since one version of the document can be worked on by different people, and there’s no need to have copies of the same document in circulation. Cloud computing also allows you to easily pick out which documents can be edited, viewed and shared by which users.
- Enhanced security. A data breach or ransomware attack can prove devastating to your company’s finances and reputation. Cloud offers a number of advanced security features that can help safeguard against data loss. Cloud providers implement a number of baseline protections such as authentication, access control, and encryption that help prevent attackers from gaining access to critical business applications and data. Cloud providers are also more diligent about conducting regular security audits than most on-premises infrastructure environments. Safeguarding systems and assets against rising threats is crucial, but levels of protection should be carefully balanced against your unique business objectives.
- Improved productivity. One major advantage of cloud computing is the potential for improved productivity and efficiency. On-premises IT teams are often short-staffed and resource-limited, which can hamper their ability to respond to employee demands and IT issues in a timely manner. Cloud computing can give your employees immediate access to advanced tools and resources to perform their best work without the drag of outdated technology. Employees can quickly access the latest productivity tools like file sharing, instant messaging, web conferencing, and live streaming in the office or remotely, helping to accelerate performance on a more consistent basis. Cloud resources can be easily stored, accessed, and recovered with just a few clicks. In addition, all system updates and upgrades are performed automatically, off-site by the cloud provider, saving time and effort, and reducing the workload demand on your internal IT team.
Cloud strategies can vary greatly from one business to the next, depending on workload demands, security and compliance needs, and existing IT capabilities and resources. For optimum results, begin with the long-term vision. Consider the level of performance and functionality you need your cloud environment to have; your internal resources and budget constraints; and the existing infrastructure you have in place and how you plan to manage it.
As businesses move toward more on-demand resources, many are capitalizing on flexible cloud infrastructures that can adapt and scale to meet shifting market demands and fast-changing business needs. Whether you’re looking to make an initial move to the cloud or planning a major shift in strategy, the cloud provides a solid technology framework that enables you to launch applications quickly, efficiently, and securely.
A cloud environment provides computing resources where you need them with minimal business disruption―keeping your operation running around the clock. While designing and implementing an efficient, high-performance cloud environment can be time-intensive, when deployed correctly, the effort will pay dividends far beyond the initial investment.