Everyone uses cloud services nowadays, right? Our digital lives – email, files, photos, music – are more likely than ever to be stored elsewhere in the cloud. But many organisations we speak to here at Ethical IT are still unsure of how, if and when to make the move to cloud services.
What are the risks? What about the costs? What type of cloud service would bring about maximum benefits? For complex professional organisations, it’s not as simple as switching on iCloud from your phone.
This month we discuss the various flavours of cloud computing and how they may apply to your workplace.
What services are there?
Cloud services broadly into three service categories, and people typically use a combination of some or all:
- Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS)
Bin that old server that’s been whirring away in a dark corner somewhere for years, and rent IT infrastructure – servers, storage, networks, operating systems – from a cloud provider on a pay-as-you-go basis
- Platform as a service (PaaS)
Set up a “sand box” to allow your team to play around developing new apps, content, flashy websites or multimedia – instead of paying huge sums for expensive Apple Mac workstations or video editing suites. Rent an on-demand environment, accessible anywhere, without worrying about setting up or maintaining the underlying infrastructure
- Software as a service (SaaS)
Run specific programs such as your accounts or HR system, directly over the internet, from any computer anywhere, typically on a subscription basis. With SaaS, cloud providers host and manage the software application and underlying infrastructure, and handle any maintenance like software upgrades. Customers usually access through a web browser on their phone, tablet, or PC with no installation
How do I implement it?
These services do, of course, need somewhere to run from. This somewhere will no longer be your headache to manage, fix or maintain, but you need to choose where that may be, regardless. There are three choices:
- Public cloud
Hotmail, Gmail, iCloud – public clouds are operated by third-party cloud service providers like Microsoft, Google, Apple. They deliver their computing resources like servers and storage over the public Internet. Typically, these are very cost effective, but you use them “off the shelf”, i.e. you cannot customise them to fit your own unique organisational processes and needs
- Private cloud
Your cloud service is provisioned purely for you. Typically, a third party will still own the hardware and manage the infrastructure, but you rent out that capacity and the platform is much more customisable to your business needs and processes, meaning the organisation can really benefit from a robust and flexible IT system still without having the hassle of maintenance, hardware replacement, upgrades and so on
- Hybrid cloud
Hybrid clouds combine public and private clouds, bound together by technology that allows data and applications to be shared between them.
How you might use a Hybrid Cloud:
For example, public cloud storage is very cheap; Google or Microsoft offer users hundreds of gigabytes of data for almost nothing. Whereas in a private cloud, those hard disks are assigned only to you, so cost more.
In a hybrid cloud setup, users connect to their own private systems, but the “dumb” storage behind the scenes could come from a cheap public cloud provider, encrypted so that it is meaningless without the private front end.
We deploy private cloud systems for most of our customers, as they typically offer the best of both worlds; please do speak to us about what model and mix of cloud services might be most relevant to you.
How much does it cost?
Good question! Comparing apples with apples can be almost impossible with cloud services, due to the way different providers price things. For example, Amazon (AWS) charge per hour that you use the system. Others like Microsoft Office 365 charge per user per month.
Often, charity discounts are available too – very hefty ones in Microsofts’ case, which is why we help our customers benefit from low cost licenses using the Microsoft Azure hybrid cloud platform and/or the Microsoft Office 365 public cloud for email and files.
Have a read of this article and speak to us for more information on how to budget for current and future costs.
Putting together the right blend of services at the right price takes some experience and time. We can help most organisations move over to the cloud in stages; for example, implementing a cloud backup service is a great first step. Next, a move to Office 365 for your email and shared files can be done relatively easily. Then, looking at your business applications and seeing what vendors offer by way of hosting these off site can often lead you to an end-point where you run very little else on site beyond laptops and a few printers. Bliss!
Last but by no means least, don’t forget your internet connection. Often this is an afterthought, but making sure you upgrade to fibre optic internet with a very robust support agreement / up time guarantee in place must be factored into your budget, and undertaken before any cloud move: you will rely on that connection more than ever with cloud services so don’t scrimp on it (see our internet connections guide for more)!
Article comparing the big public cloud players: Google, Amazon (AWS), Microsoft: http://searchcloudcomputing.techtarget.com/feature/Compare-the-market-leading-public-cloud-providers
Another article looking at pricing options (although charities will be cheaper):
As always, please do have a look and share our Ethical IT Knowledgebase for totally free guides and practical tips and support on everything from IT Security, Encryption, looking after your computers, moving offices, changing IT providers, telephony and internet connections and many other topics, all available 24/7
30 November 2017