In our previous posts, we looked at two key considerations when planning a move to the cloud, namely organisational agility and location. We also looked at the impact of mobile users on your IT infrastructure, and how cloud hosted systems make sense for organisations with a high number of mobile users.
In this post, we’ll be looking at the third question which will help you determine the benefits of cloud computing to your own business, namely: reliability
Question 3: How important is the uptime of your system?
Once again, we’re looking at IT in context of the business strategy. If your business model calls for a high reliance on your IT systems, then it stands to reason that any downtime is going to be expensive. Conversely, if your business isn’t very IT reliant, then downtime is less concerning.
Determining the cost of downtime is not as simple as it may seem but to get a rough idea, you can ask yourself a few quick questions:
- How many users are working on the systems at any time? The more there are, the greater the cost of downtime.
- What is the average salary paid to those staff? The higher the average salary, the greater the cost.
- Are the systems accessed by external parties, such as clients or business partners? If so, that increases the cost of downtime once again.
So, by this logic, a small bakery that produces goods regardless of whether the computers are up and running can probably go for a short period of time with minimal financial penalty. On the other hand, a large accounting firm or law firm, with a workforce of highly paid professionals who are always on their computers, will pay dearly for any downtime at all.
So how does the cloud come in to all of this? Well, cloud computing can provide you with a fully redundant network. That means that there is no single point of failure – an entire server, or multiple servers, can fail without any impact on your productivity. And because it is hosted in a world-class data center, with redundant power supply systems, redundant cooling systems, automatic fire protection systems and high levels of physical security, the chances of your systems suffering any kind of environmental damage are significantly reduced, compared to running your systems in your own office space. And of course, such a data center also has redundant connectivity, so you are no longer reliant on a single data circuit, such as your office line, to keep your systems accessible. Your workforce can connect to those cloud systems using whatever connectivity is available – including cellular connectivity, for example.
All this means is that cloud infrastructure is far more fault-tolerant than physical hardware in your own offices would be.
So here’s the bottom line: The more critical your IT systems are to the functioning of the business, the more peace of mind you can gain from the fault-tolerance of the cloud.
In our previous post, we looked at the question of agility, and how cloud computing can help your business to compete in the market.
In this post, we’ll be looking at the second key consideration that you should ask before planning a move to the cloud, namely: location.
Question 2: Where are the users of this system located?
The physical location of the user base is another key consideration and again, it is informed by the business strategy. The key here is that we’re trying to make IT work for the business, not the other way round! So let’s refer to your business plan. What does it call for, in terms of the business’ physical footprint? Do you intend to have a dispersed organisation, with multiple branches, or will you run a highly centralised operation, with all of your staff in a single physical location?
As a rule of thumb, the more dispersed the user base is, the more benefit you’ll gain by moving that system to the cloud. This is because a cloud-hosted system (or at least, a good one!) is located in a world-class data center, with reliable high-speed Internet connectivity. So no matter where your users are connecting from, they will get the best possible experience. On the other hand, hosting a system within your own branch office means that you’re increasing reliance on your branch connectivity, or inter-branch connectivity, both of which are far slower and less reliable than the connectivity in a proper data center.
Of course, mobile users are an important piece of the puzzle too. These days, most users have multiple devices and it’s quite normal for some users to have three or more devices – a PC, a tablet and a smart phone, for example. Each of these devices typically connects to your internal systems (for email, for example) and the bandwidth requirements of a roaming user can therefore be multiplied by three if they have three devices collecting email simultaneously. This means that the load on your data circuits increases significantly if your mobile workforce increases. The benefits of a cloud hosted model are magnified in such cases.
So the second rule of thumb is to look at the physical location of the user base. The more dispersed your users are, and the more mobile they are, the more benefit you’ll get from the cloud.
In the next post, we’ll discuss the third consideration: reliability.
So you’ve heard about cloud computing and now you’re considering moving your business systems to the cloud? Great! But does the cloud really suit your business model, and if so, should you move all of your systems or just some of them?
While it’s tempting to apply a one-size-fits-all approach to your cloud migration, that may not always be the best approach. In this series, we’ll talk through 3 quick questions you can ask yourself to determine the best way forward.
Question 1: How important is agility to your business plan?
It’s important to remember that IT is only there to serve the business. So let’s begin with the business plan. Most executives agree that agility, the ability to move quickly and take advantage of opportunities, is essential to the modern business. Opportunities come and go in the blink of an eye and a business can easily be hampered by rigid IT infrastructure.
For example, if your business plan includes opening of new branches, or increasing your mobile workforce, then giving those staff access to your central systems is going to be one of the challenges you face. If your systems are on the cloud, giving those remote users access is simple – in fact, they can gain access to those systems from anywhere in the world, via a secure VPN. But if you’re still hosting your systems in-house, then you don’t have that flexibility because you’re limited by the bandwidth available to your office. In many cases, this means increasing the capacity of your circuits or applying for dedicated circuits between branches, both of which are costly and can take weeks or even months to implement.
Let’s look at another example. Let’s say you launch a new product or service and, to your delight, it takes off. You see rapid growth in demand and in order to serve that demand, you hire additional staff. Before you know it, your internal systems are overloaded. If those systems are on the cloud, you can increase their spec gracefully, often without any downtime at all and without any capital expenditure. On the other hand, if you’re running those systems internally, you’re tied to the spec of your physical hardware. Increasing capacity is expensive and in many cases you’re forced to buy new hardware altogether once your servers have reached their capacity.
The bottom line is that rigid IT infrastructure is one of the biggest hurdles to the agility to a business. The cloud is a great way to overcome those limitations.
So the first rule of thumb is this: The more agility your business model requires, the more value the cloud can add.
In the next post, we’ll discuss the second consideration: location.