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One of our Senior Cloud Consultants explains the five biggest reasons businesses are moving to public cloud and how it can help you to achieve your business goals such as growth and compliance.

I’ve worked with IT for over 12 years, and in that time I’ve seen huge advances in the delivery of IT infrastructure for businesses. Over time, I’ve noticed an increasing amount of small to midsized businesses adopting public cloud. According to a recent study, this is set to continue rising, with “cloud” coming in at the top of businesses’ IT priorities for 2018 in front of “mobility”, “managed services” and “collaboration” – more on achieving these later.

What is “the cloud” – and what is the difference between public, private and hybrid?

Private cloud is normally the first step in a company’s journey into adopting the cloud, because you can continue to use your existing infrastructure either on-premise or with a third-party provider. Servers are maintained on a private network, meaning you have high control over the customisation of resources to your exact requirements. The problem here is that this option needs to be managed, maintained and later replaced, either by an internal IT team or by a third party.

Hybrid cloud gives you network connectivity between on-premise and cloud infrastructure. For many companies, this can be a transitioning step towards public cloud. Other organisations may want to keep some infrastructure on-premise for sensitive operations such as accounting data, and public cloud for high-volume computing power applications or emails. If you’ve just bought a server and then your organisation decides to migrate to the cloud, you could keep the server and create a hybrid solution.

Public cloud is the most common method of utilising cloud computing. It is a powerful service offering of servers, storage and services, owned and managed by a third-party cloud provider and delivered on a public network. Amazon and Microsoft are the leading public cloud providers. Though there is less control than private cloud, public cloud offers the same high, world-class levels of security and compliance for their customers, whether a huge corporation or a small company. Customers benefit from practically unlimited scalability, high availability and reliability, and manageable monthly costs that include maintenance, management and updates of the environment.

Why are some businesses not yet taking advantage of cloud computing?

The shift for businesses to use cloud computing hasn’t come straight away, but that is simply because many organisations haven’t yet been faced with a “server refresh”. Typically, a server refresh – replacing servers that are out of warranty – happens every five to seven years. Before warranty is up, it may not immediately appear to make sense to migrate to the cloud and waste that huge investment.

For others, they don’t look for alternatives to on-premise or private cloud until they have to, because their operating system has had its support discontinued. For instance, if you have the operating system Windows Server 2008 on-premise, by 2020 Microsoft will no longer support that product, so any vulnerabilities will remain and put businesses at risk of certain exploits or vulnerabilities.

Businesses come to us at Perfect Image with the issues they are experiencing with their on-premise or private cloud infrastructures. They want a solution that can lower costs, improve productivity, increase scalability, boost business growth, etc. It’s usually quite clear to us, for nearly every single case, is that cloud or hybrid is the solution they need.

So, what are the typical problems found with traditional infrastructure, and how can public cloud meet business needs and eliminate these issues?

1. Recruiting and retaining expensive IT talent

Having a small IT team means placing reliance on individuals for the management of on-premise IT infrastructure. I’ve seen these problems before: an employee takes annual leave or has to take time off unexpectedly, and others in their team don’t know how to pick up their workload and certain tasks are left undone. With traditional infrastructure, you have three core areas: storage, virtualisation and networking. To be qualified to the most basic level in that whole stack would take years and cost thousands of pounds in total.

Public cloud ensures that this reliance is instead on dedicated providers who have the means to invest in the best and most expensive IT experts in the world to manage your cloud environment. Your internal IT staff can focus on more value-add tasks to progress your organisation.

Another helpful option can be working with a Managed Service Provider like Perfect Image. Cloud experts, certified in a wide range of cloud proficiencies, can become an extension to your internal IT team, to fill in the gaps in resource or skills for more complicated tasks. Or if it’s more convenient, you can look to a partner that can take over the whole responsibility of looking after your cloud environment.

Can your organisation benefit from cloud?

If you’re interested in finding out more, please get in touch today and we can discuss with you what your best options are for moving to the cloud.

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2. Meeting governance and security needs

With on-premise servers, it can take a lot of hard work and continued effort to be, and remain, compliant. There’s a long list of even seemingly harmless things that can invalidate compliance.

To store some types of data you need compliance with at least ISO 27001 (international standard of best practice for an information security management system), PCI (Protected Critical Infrastructure Information), and even some of the more security-driven ones such as SOC (System and Organization Controls.) For instance, if you have financial data, you need to be PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliant. There’s a huge list of required compliances, but public cloud enables you to meet these requirements as their data centres are already accredited.

I used to work with secure government contracts, so I’m well versed with data security. Public cloud alleviates that risk and ensures you maintain your compliance. Microsoft and Amazon allow up to a “UK Official” level of security, a standard which the Ministry of Defence or the police might require. Amazon has “Government” regions in the US that are regulated and able to store top secret information, that is going to be potentially extended over to the UK.

A lot of huge companies are already taking advantage of the big cloud providers, Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS), including Netflix and EasyJet. It’s great because you can be a small business and pay a fraction of the price to get the same level of security that they have on these huge enterprises.

3. Increasing business growth with flexible infrastructure

With on-premise infrastructure, what happens when your business grows? If your hardware is maxed out, then to scale up you would have to buy another server, which means more set up and expense, another five year deadline and it just spirals out of control.

Short-term flexibility can also be an issue for many industries with fluctuating demand. Say you’re an e-commerce retailer and Black Friday is next week. It can be difficult to boost your server load just to cope with one day of heavy traffic because you won’t have that kind of hardware readily available. Your website won’t cope with demand and you’ll lose out on the year’s most profitable day. You still see it with some online ticket sellers; when new tickets come out, sites crash and time out because they haven’t been architected to deal with spikes in demand.

With the cloud, you quickly spin up as many servers as you need, when you need them. So, when Black Friday happens, your site runs well and server load fluctuates to demand as spikes in demand hit, then the next day you simply delete the extra servers. Billing is per second, so you only pay for exactly what you’ve used during those twenty-four hours, which can lessen costs by more than half. If you suddenly get a business boom, the cloud will scale to your new requirements. Regardless of how big or small your company is, or will be in the future, public cloud is so versatile it will meet your needs, short and long-term. A good way to think of cloud is “pay as you grow” – you only pay for what you need.

4. Reduce operational costs and increase profitability

After seven years physical hardware will most certainly start to fail and replacing it can cost tens of thousands of pounds. When your warranty is up, it’s best to consider alternatives to on-premise servers, and it’s an advantage that migrating to the public cloud can be a third of the cost of renewing the physical hardware you currently have.

As an example, we have a customer who is currently going through an infrastructure refresh. To replace their servers would have been a massive expense upfront – and that’s without set up by an engineer, installation, operational costs, and ongoing power, space, maintenance and support costs. And, obviously, opting for a physical server replacement project would mean that they still have the five-year deadline hanging above them. We were able to help them with a health check of their on-site infrastructure to architect a cloud solution that would fit their needs and move them from CapEx to OpEx. The cloud was going to be much more manageable low-cost monthly payments for what they needed, and after a quick build and migration, that expense includes everything – upgrades, support, maintenance, patching, etc. However the real value of the cloud isn’t just cost savings; it’s the competitive and strategic advantages you get from having a flexible, innovative and future-proof infrastructure.

5. Improving workforce productivity

It can be hard to access company files outside of the office if that’s where your servers are, but in today’s fast-moving business landscape, employees need access to files and documents at all times. To do this with on-premise servers you would have to connect to your server remotely, but this fully relies on having an internet connection and it can be difficult to do securely and quickly.

Whether employees are part of a mobile workforce or simply out of the office for business, on-the-go working is secure with the public cloud. If a laptop is lost, then it can be remotely wiped. Cloud computing exists to make every workplace more flexible so that their staff, clients and suppliers can take advantage of connected devices.

There are other additional services that can boost productivity that has made possible by the cloud, such as scalable AI, rapid and secure DevOps of applications, integration of applications and services, and databases (to store and retrieve data from the cloud). They were previously only accessible to enterprise-sized organisations but with public cloud, they are now highly available to businesses and can be really valuable when integrated into your cloud solution.

Final Thoughts

Public cloud is so much more than just renting storage or server space externally. There is a whole raft of services, tools and offerings that can boost your company’s productivity. Enable your company to grow with a scalable cloud environment that has the powerful functionality you need to accomplish your business goals. For public cloud providers, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure are recognised industry leaders. Both offer a dynamic, compelling offering and there is no “better” cloud offering, just one that is a more suitable fit for your company’s specific requirements. Whatever you need, the cloud can offer. It’s just that flexible.

How can Perfect Image help you?

Perfect Image is a Microsoft Gold Partner and AWS Advanced Consulting Partner with over 25 years of experience in delivering end-to-end intelligent IT solutions. We’re an unbiased cloud expert and we can work with you to decide the best solution for you. No matter what stage of your cloud journey you’re currently at, we can assist, whether that is with a smooth cloud migration or a value-add cloud optimisation. We’re also a managed cloud service provider so we work with you to continually improve and evolve your infrastructure to give you the best possible outcomes. With our team of experienced cloud professionals, we have the unique ability to support public, private and hybrid cloud offerings as well as traditional on-premise infrastructures.

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