m&s leaving the cloud

Leaving the Cloud

Posted on 11th February 2016 by Alex Innard

Whether it be hosted email accounts, online software packages or remote desktop sessions, you can be sure that many small businesses utilise “cloud computing” in one form or another. Some won’t even know it!

Bringing the cloud back down to earth

Cloud computing comprises two distinct variants, public and private cloud. I will primarily focus on the “public cloud” for the purpose of this article. Public cloud is defined as the provision of capacity (processor, memory, hard disk space) on a server or servers, made available to the general public, via the internet. Public cloud services may be offered for free, such as Outlook.com or iCloud, or on a pay-per-use model, for example; Office 365 or Soonr. This form of cloud service is usually always located in military grade buildings called “data centres” all around the globe, which comprise start of the art access security, internet connections and resilient hardware.

Public cloud offers benefits such as:

  • Self service: Customers can sign up for their own subscriptions and setup their own products without assistance.
  • Scalability: Most public cloud providers offer quick and easy upgrade paths.
  • Multi tenancy: Your information is stored in several data centres simultaneously so that it can be access quickly from anywhere on the planet.

Growth of the cloud computing sector has grown considerably year on year for the last decade, and now accounts for over forty percent of business information technology usage such as; email communication, file and photo storage & voice telephony (Skype etc.)

The problem

Here at Apograph, we have realised that public cloud isn’t everybody’s cup of the tea. For many reasons, businesses may be lamenting the day they chose to deploy a public cloud solution, and looking back at the glory days of on-premise. Reasons for this may include:

  • Lack of flexibility and granular control over applications and configurations
  • Increase in costs over time
  • Concerns over security issues, for instance; data location, hacking, and regulatory compliance
  • Public cloud outages causing loss of service beyond control of the customer
  • Slow or troublesome technical support
  • Poor user experience caused by internet bandwidth limitations

Due to these, and many other possible reasons, some companies now find themselves contemplating the rationale behind reversing the public cloud “push.”

Bucking the trend

Already, some large enterprises have taken some of their I.T services away from the public cloud and back on-premise. For example, the case of Marks & Spencer in 2014, who’s CIO decided to pull the main e-commerce applications back in-house to offer greater flexibility to end users and lower cost to stakeholders.

Undoubtedly there is a case for public cloud services in the right circumstances, and for the right customer. However, too many companies were too quick to jump on the public cloud bandwagon over the last decade without giving the reasoning much thought. Cost is an important factor in any I.T budget, but should usability and control be sacrificed to save a few pounds and join the public cloud elite?

Recently we have worked with small businesses who are not only experiencing trouble with their public cloud provider, but have asked us to put together cost benefit proposals for carrying out the same exercise as Marks & Spencer due to dissatisfaction with their public cloud service.

Whether you have a hybrid public cloud presence, or a fully public cloud based I.T infrastructure, there is no reason why the cloud cannot be brought back down to earth, and into your own server estate to give you back the control and flexibility you need to run your I.T successfully. Similarly, there need not be a reduction in disaster recovery options by having “all your eggs back in one basket.” One such disaster recovery solution leverages usage of the “private cloud.”

Private cloud – a better alternative?

“Private cloud” is the often overlooked alternative to public cloud, and in most cases provides the same basic benefits. This method of cloud computing is dedicated to one organisation using its own equipment, physical buildings and infrastructure to service its information technology cloud requirements.

Private cloud is great for businesses who wish to leverage all of these benefits but maintain direct control over their environments. Other benefits of private cloud include:

  • Finer control and flexibility over mission critical systems.
  • Better security: Your business data is always located on your own systems and is not shared with other subscribers.
  • No nasty shocks at the end of billing cycles for unplanned extra usage
  • No threat of service disruption or suspension if the cloud hosting provider shuts down

Examples of private cloud in practical use are:

  • A company has its main server at its head office. It has an identical server at its satellite office one hundred miles from its head office.The company uses its own internet connections at each office to replicate the live server to the duplicate server throughout the day so that in the event of the main office suffering a disaster, employees can relocate to the satellite office and continue working with minimal disruption.
  • A company has several small offices around the East Midlands. It also leases space in a private data centre. It has its own server in the private data centre, in its own storage cabinet and only accessible physically by its own staff.The company hosts all of its core file, email and accounts systems on the server in the private data centre. Staff at the offices access the server via private point-to-point “leased line” connections between their office and the private data centre. Remote staff access the server via the traditional internet connections directly into the private data centre.

If you are currently a public cloud user, considering changing back to on-premise, call us to discuss your requirements. We have the expertise to tailor solutions around your requirements.

Alex Innard
Alex is a third line IT engineer and works at Apograph Ltd which owns Computer Support Northampton. He has extensive experience in the IT industry and believes in doing things properly.
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