Why is your SME afraid of the cloud?

On his LinkedIn profile, our colleague Tim writes articles about the most frequently asked questions about the cloud. In this article, he wrote about why SMEs are afraid to switch to the cloud:

Tim Terreur over de cloud

Having their own infrastructure migrated to the cloud seems to be a major concern for SMEs. The fact that IT professionals adopt a wait-and-see attitude when it comes to new technologies is a good thing in itself. However, in the meantime, large companies such as Apple, Google and Netflix have already proven the benefits of the cloud on countless occasions. And yet, many people still have preconceptions about it.

The following issues are regularly raised during discussions about the possibility of migrating to a cloud environment:

  • The abstract “cloud”
  • Security
  • Changes
  • Responsibilities
  • Cost

The abstract “cloud”

The term “cloud” is used to refer to many different things and everyone interprets this term in his own way, which makes it rather difficult for people without IT knowledge to clearly understand it. There is actually no big difference with locally hosted services, except for the fact that providers make sure the services can be accessed easily and experience less downtime. Generally, you could say that the cloud can be accessed where the Internet is available.

For the rest, everything that is created around it will differ from one cloud provider to another. And according to your chosen provider, you will also see a difference in the quality of the data centre, hardware, redundancy, support, etc.

The aspect of security

The security of the cloudOne of many companies’ major concerns is the aspect of security. The irony is that it is usually the other way around: as a general rule, the data in the cloud are better protected than local data. Most local solutions do include a backup, which in the best-case scenario is stored offsite, and sometimes replication is available as well, but it does not stop there.

In larger data centres, thought has been given to fire protection, whereby your server will not go down if your neighbour’s server suddenly bursts into flames. 24/7 physical security and surveillance cameras are also available. The environment is secured with fences and no one is allowed to enter the premises without permission. In addition, our own server rooms are protected by cages.

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The level of security that comes with the cloud

Theoretically, it is also possible to break into your environment in a virtual manner. With a cloud provider, the firewall is not configured by one person only; there is a whole team dedicated exclusively to taking care of firewalls, DDoS protection, encryption, antivirus software, etc. They do not know everything about ICT, but only broaden their knowledge in any field related to securing a virtual environment.

The security level is such that hospitals or banks, which handle extremely sensitive data, also store their data in the cloud.

The security level is such that hospitals or banks, which handle extremely sensitive data, also store their data in the cloud. Many cloud providers hold the necessary ISO certificates and other documents to corroborate these arguments.

What about changes?

The prevailing thought is also that, when the decision is taken to migrate to a cloud environment, major changes will happen. After all, the company currently has little experience with the cloud and the local environment is working well enough…

The end-users’ experience is actually not so different whether you go for a local solution or a cloud solution, but it will be possible for the employee to log in to the environment from home without requiring any extra configuration. Power outages in the company are not a problem, since the data centre will have sufficient power anyway, which allows your users to keep working from home or any other workplace.

Repetitive tasks are taken out of the hands of your IT staff. Backup, for instance, is taken care of for you, and the provider also ensures the availability of the servers thanks to a monitoring service. This way, your IT people can focus on improving the environment, applications and implementing new technologies. Of course, the support provided to end users is also essential.

Responsibilities that come with cloud hosting

The responsibilities that come with switch to cloud

If you decide to take the next step to the cloud, you will most probably have to find a business partner. But then, what about responsibilities and data loss in the event of a system failure?

It has been mentioned a number of times already that cloud providers focus on always being online, and the chances of your system being unavailable for a long time are very low. Of course, there is still a chance that a critical incident causing downtime may happen to your environment.

You can choose from various models, which are usually described as “managed” or “unmanaged”.

Managed cloud environment

When you go for a Managed cloud environment, the provider takes on the responsibility of minimising downtime and will do his utmost to recover your environment as quickly as possible by using the last known good configuration. In order to guarantee this, the parties enter into an SLA (service level agreement), which sets out the arrangements in this respect.

Think of it as your insurance policy. If the SLA is not met, we are talking about an “SLA breach”, which entitles you to financial compensation. Such an SLA is extremely important for crucial IT environments or web stores that generate money. It is like an insurance policy that you sign with your cloud provider. In return, you will receive service and the guarantee that incidents will be handled correctly.

Unmanaged cloud environment

In an unmanaged environment, no firm guarantees are provided and your environment will be up and running again “as soon as possible”, without any firm guarantee that this promise will be fulfilled. This type of solution is obviously cheaper because, among other reasons, no monitoring or backup service are provided, and fewer employees are also needed in the background for managing this type of environment. So, the guarantee provided here may not be the best, but some environments do not need such firm guarantees.

In practice, the terms “managed” and “unmanaged” are often used with varying interpretations and managed environments are very different from one another. So, make sure to be well informed, because price differences between cloud providers usually have something to do with this.

The cost that comes with cloud hosting

The cost of cloud hosting

Lastly, there is yet another issue: the cost. Many SMEs strongly believe that the cloud is still unaffordable, or at least that it is much more expensive than having to purchase hardware and host your environment locally.

Here are two key arguments you should consider:

The Enterprise market has been migrating to the cloud for quite some time now, which makes these environments large and reliable, but also contributes to falls in the prices. The trend shows that the prices of cloud solutions are more affordable than in the early stages. The same thing happens with each new technology; at first, the price is quite high, but once the product becomes more widely adopted, its price drops.

The second argument is the aspect of unburdening. People often assume that if you want to have your ICT infrastructure in-house, you only need to consider the costs for software and hardware. If you compare the sum of these two factors to the price of a cloud solution, the latter will definitely seem much more expensive.

Like an iceberg

I often compare this to an iceberg, whose largest part is below the water surface. The same goes for the cost of your ICT environment. With a cloud solution, a lot of costs are eliminated, but you did not take them into account when you first made your comparison. For example, you no longer need a server room. This will help you save on power consumption, air conditioning, security, network connectivity, system maintenance, guarantee fees on hardware, monitoring tools and many other things. You also no longer need to worry about backup and redundancy, and your ICT staff can focus on other tasks.

The challenges that come with switching to the cloud

Hopefully this will give you a chance to better understand the many reasons why you should at least consider migrating to the cloud. But the story does not end here! Why would you not go for a solution that combines both options? It is perfectly possible to choose a hybrid cloud solution where you can host a part in the cloud and another part locally (on-premises). Or what about a hybrid solution, where a part is hosted on a “managed” cloud environment and another part on an “unmanaged” Virtual private cloud?

Everything is possible. We will be happy to find out what the best path to follow is for your environment. Let us make this effort together!

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