Digital evolution Digital transformation Cloud services

Many organizations are moving to the cloud to house data, infrastructure and applications with many benefits, including cost savings and increased security. Unfortunately, many businesses do not know exactly what the cloud is, what a migration entails and the level of efficiencies that can be realized. To help provide more insight into the cloud, we compiled nine common questions and answers to help you determine if the cloud solution is right for your business.

What exactly is the cloud?

Almost everyone has heard of the cloud at this point, but many do not know exactly what the solution accomplishes and provides. The cloud replaces some or all of your hardware, facilities and software licensing with an outsourced provider, reducing your burden to house and maintain them on premises. The cloud becomes a utility to the business, and can be scaled for as much or as little as you need; you pay only for what you use.

Why should I consider a move to the cloud?

As the cloud has matured, it has become a more cost-effective alternative to a traditional technology deployment. Typical on-premise technology platforms require a significant capital expenditure to build out solid facilities and purchase hardware and licensing. In addition, it is expensive to hire all of the skill sets needed to run information technology (IT) infrastructure, and with the cloud, necessary and costly backup and redundancy are inherently enabled.

Are there different types of clouds?

Many businesses may not realize that there are three cloud options with different levels of security and functionality. With the public cloud, your facilities, equipment and software are all provided by the cloud; with the public option, you just need a Web browser and an Internet connection. In a private cloud environment, you own some (or all) of the dedicated equipment, so you can build out tailored, hosted environments. Finally, the hybrid cloud is a customized integration of on-premise, private and public cloud solutions.

Should I be concerned about the security of my data in the cloud?

The cloud is generally a safe alternative to on-premise technology, but it is always a good idea to perform due diligence on potential cloud providers. In addition, some cloud providers may be more enticing targets for hackers. However, economies of scale allow many cloud providers to implement security measures that private businesses may not be able to afford.

How reliable is the cloud?

Once again, it is a good idea to perform due diligence on potential cloud providers to collect reliability information. Good cloud providers have disaster recovery, redundancy and backup mechanisms and processes in place. The same economies of scale with security allow many cloud providers to implement redundancy measures that most businesses cannot afford.

Will I save money using the cloud?

Typically, companies save money when moving to the cloud, as they pay for properly-utilized equipment instead of underutilized equipment. You pay for only what you use, instead of a depreciating investment over a number of years. In addition, technology transitions from a capital expense to an operating expense, and you do not need to procure extensive facilities or have to hire or consult necessary technical competencies.

Do I still need an IT department with the cloud?

Your organization will still need internal IT resources, although analyst capabilities often become more necessary than technical capabilities. Most importantly, you still require the technology and support to connect to the cloud (the Internet). Furthermore, work must also be done to integrate different cloud structures, and you will likely continue to have some on-premise technologies in addition to the outsourced cloud technologies.

How do I pick a good cloud provider?

To ensure you choose the right provider, you must ask questions, get references and do your due diligence. You must understand the technologies utilized and how they are architected, the backup and recovery mechanisms which are in place and the provider’s availability assurances (service level availability). You also must know how support works and what guarantees are given, as well as the level of audits performed against your provider. Finally, always closely review the contract to know your provider’s responsibilities and the services you will receive.

How do I get started with the cloud?

To understand whether your data and applications are a good fit for the cloud, an assessment from a trusted advisor can help identify which cloud constructs make the most sense for your technical needs. The assessment can also help you understand how the solution is being used in your industry and identify a logical order of events for transitioning to the cloud.

The cloud can bring many benefits to your company, but you must understand how your needs align with cloud capabilities and available platforms. More importantly, as the popularity of the cloud rises, so does the amount of provider options, some more reputable than others. However, bringing the right provider, security and recovery options, and IT resources together can help make your journey to the cloud smooth with greater efficiencies and cost savings.

Lee Voigt is a principal and the national cloud computing leader for RSM LLP located in Des Moines, Iowa. Lee directs RSM’s private cloud (hosting) practice and has also directed application development and enterprise content management practices during his 20 year tenure with the firm. Lee routinely advises executives and information technology leaders on how their organizations can effectively and safely leverage the cloud. Lee can be reached at 515.558.6600 or via e-mail at lee.voigt@rsmus.com.

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