Part II – The Advantages and Disadvantages of Cloud Computing
Last year, when countries around the world were forced into lockdown measures to slow the spread of Covid-19, businesses responded with immediate shifts in how they supported remote employees, ran their business, and reached their customers. For some businesses, this meant utilizing private data centers and colocation facilities to support their IT environment, especially as the workforce transitioned to remote work. These businesses surmounted challenges by leveraging the colocation facility’s reliable network and internet connectivity, leveraging remote hands, and using cloud on-ramps to connect physical environments to cloud resources. Some organizations opted for a cloud-first model, to save the initial investment on equipment and take advantage of the cloud’s economies of scale.
The movement to digital infrastructure came rapidly, and the bottom line is that complexity and costs for infrastructure and operations teams also increased. Whether your business IT environment landed in the cloud, in a colocation facility, or remains on-premise, IT leaders are finding they have less time to maintain their own in-house data center.
The pace of digital transformation initiatives requires a greater focus on business outcomes. IT functions that have been stable for decades are changing, with operations teams examining a diverse platform of choices into a connected solution that can be deployed with versatility and cost-efficiency. Beneficially, IT operations teams no longer have to limit their choices based upon one selected environment for hosting their servers. Instead, they can optimize workload placement and outsource the physical management of data centers to colocation data centers and cloud providers.
In this multi-part series, let us first examine cloud hosting to better understand the workloads best supported in the cloud environment. In our next series, we will examine colocation hosting.
The Cloud – Utilizing Virtual Assets
For those who may be new to the cloud, it is an on-demand IT solution that allows businesses to let a 3rd party company essentially manage all their IT needs. Software applications and data are stored on the cloud provider’s servers and accessed via the internet through a virtual machine. This allows applications and databases to be accessed as needed from almost anywhere.
Advantages of the Cloud
When renting space and assets from a cloud services provider, the options to customize the services/subscription are nearly infinite. It is not just server space that is being rented but virtual machines, storage accounts, advanced analytics tools, and much more. This customization allows a company to pick and choose just the services that fit their business needs. Companies that would have struggled to amass computing infrastructure can now grow quickly.
The cloud provider manages all servers, storage, and network equipment at a remote location. Any required maintenance or repairs are handled by the cloud provider. If there is a problem with the network, servers, or any other equipment, a quick phone call to the provider is all that is needed, and they will handle the rest. Each client can be as hands-off as they wish to be with a host of subscription paid solutions at the ready.
Almost every type of software available today is a cloud-based service. Cloud providers also provide development tools to create and host new applications. With a conventional server and network via cloud computing services, a world of possibility is open for companies that might not otherwise possess the infrastructure resources to build their own solution.
Moving workloads to the virtual environment made available by cloud providers can save money upfront when compared to building their own data center solution. Without the cost of constructing a data center yourself or purchasing hardware, users can cut down on IT-related capital expenditures by opting for an operational model.
This also applies to any future expansions. There is no need to purchase additional hardware. Simply contact the cloud provider to discuss growth needs.
With the cloud provider hosting and maintaining all databases, software applications, and servers, operational expenses may be much lower. There are no building and equipment costs to consider, and there is no need to employ a dedicated team of expert IT professionals.
The Shortcomings of Cloud Computing
The biggest challenge that accompanies using a 3rd party cloud hosting service to manage a business’s IT needs is the loss of control and transparency. This may initially relieve stress for cloud-based organizations to scale quickly, but the increased security concerns and other limitations that come with setting up the wrong cloud computing model could end up causing more stress and costing more money in the long run.
Public cloud platforms limit information on resource utilization. As a result, companies get hit with hefty overage fees on their monthly bill. Additionally, it is nearly impossible to gain insight into the infrastructure side to ensure high uptime and operational efficiency. Providers offer SLA’s of 99.99% uptime, which translates into 1-hour of downtime each year. The risk of downtime – revenue loss equates to a total cost of $300,000, according to Gartner.
The Cost of Data Expansion
One of the downsides to having all IT resources managed by a cloud provider is that ease and lack of control around spinning up a new virtual machine, higher than expected usage and add-on charges are that the mounting cost of hosting all the databases and workloads in the cloud can quickly eat into your bottom line.
Cloud providers charge based on both storage capacity and usage hours. The greater the database capacity needed and the more it is used, the more customers will have to pay. This model is beguiling in the beginning but constricting as the data mounts, usage increases, and egress fees are applied for data that is transferred out of the cloud.
Last year Adobe accidentally incurred a daily charge of $80,000 for a single computing job while Capital One saw a 73% spike in the price it paid its AWS cloud platform. Smaller businesses that might overspend could have tragic consequences with unexpected cloud costs that could hamper corporate growth or delay much-needed improvements, despite the agility the cloud provides.
Edge computing is where the future is and practices capturing, storing, processing, and analyzing data near the client instead of in a centralized data-processing warehouse. Those companies running applications that require minimal latency, utilization of the IoT devices, or who plan to move into augmented reality or artificial intelligence as part of their future offerings will need data storage closer to where their users and applications live.
When customers shift their workloads to the public cloud, they live on the cloud providers’ servers in a physical data center. New requirements, workloads, and applications are being built to support a distributed architecture—leading more and more companies to utilize edge computing technology.
Cloud providers view security as a shared responsibility, which can be a tough pill to swallow when users realize that the cloud providers are the ones in control of nearly all of the IT assets and resources. Cloud providers view the security of the cloud as their responsibility and the security of what is in the cloud as the company’s responsibility.
McAfee lists 25 of the top security concerns facing businesses that move to cloud computing. Some of the key security risks include:
- Theft of data
- Lack of data visibility
- Difficulty maintaining regulatory compliance
- Lack of control on who can view data
- Inability to assess the cloud provider’s security
- Lack of expert cybersecurity staff
The hands-off model that cloud computing provides is great until it comes to the potential cyber threat that intellectual property and sensitive data face every day. Many cloud providers offer supplemental and expensive security plans to help fill in the gaps, but these tools can still fail to meet security needs.
Many industries are subject to compliance regulations limiting how they can transact, distribute, and store sensitive data. Because cloud providers are vague about ensuring compliance, many companies may have to maintain strict control to protect against fines. Cloud computing remains a top risk for concern regarding audits and compliance, according to Gartner’s survey in 2019.
Learn More About How Colocation Can Make Cloud Connection Most Efficient For Your Business
Pure colocation architectures or pure cloud solutions may work for some companies; it is important to remember that these IT infrastructure approaches are not incompatible. The acceleration of cloud adoption won’t be a panacea for all businesses. Many companies find that their initial jump to the cloud or the immense amount of data they need to host requires cost-efficiency strategies. Hybrid cloud architectures optimize based upon workloads rather than an either-or colocation or cloud solution. Hybrid cloud and colocation models or multi-cloud solutions can provide companies with the best features of each platform when implemented in a robust data center environment with dedicated connections to all the cloud providers you need.
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