Is Cloud Computing Right for Your Business?

Last year, an IDC report involving 100 Australian enterprises revealed that 86% of those surveyed were already into some form of cloud computing. With adoption rates among the highest in the world, Australia is one of those countries where businesses’ attitudes are bullish towards cloud computing. But just because companies around you are rushing to the cloud doesn’t mean you have to rush there too.

Indeed, not all businesses (or at least not all business processes) are meant for the cloud. In this post, you’ll learn when you’re supposed to hold your horses, lean back and analyse things more closely before deciding into a cloud migration. For starters, here are some instances where cloud computing may not be viable.

1. When data security/privacy is a big issue

Ever since the new Australian Privacy Principles (APP) took effect, it’s been almost impossible for privacy to be considered a non-issue. The APP contains onerous provisions impacting trans-border data flows. Because of that, you’ll have to exercise extreme caution if you store personal data in the cloud and your cloud provider stores data offshore. Any data breach that happens there will be treated as yours.

You’ll have to conduct due diligence to determine whether your provider enforces strict governance/control policies and has the needed security measures (e.g. strong encryption, intrusion detection, access control, DLP, detailed logs, etc.) to implement them effectively. If your due diligence findings indicate a high level of risk, you should start looking for a better provider or probably even keep your data in-house.

2. When data availability is mission critical

Although cloud providers, especially the biggest players, are sure to have enterprise-class business continuity/disaster recovery capabilities, there are just some factors that are beyond their control. What if they do experience an unexpected outage? Or what if your own Internet connection becomes unreliable? Being totally at the mercy of third parties who may have other priorities during unexpected downtimes can prevent you from averting huge opportunity losses.

3. When application response has to be instantaneous

Remember that cloud-based applications are subject to latency and packet loss, which can cause the user interface to be sluggish. If certain business processes require highly responsive interfaces, then you’ll need large bandwidths for fast Internet speeds. And so if you operate in a location where that’s not possible, then cloud computing will not work for you.

4. When crucial applications are highly dependent on non-migratable machines

There are software applications that need to work closely with certain machines. For example, machines that gather large amounts of sensor data. Moving the relevant software to the cloud will leave the system susceptible to latency. This may adversely impact performance and hence offer a valid argument for keeping those applications out of the cloud.

5. When crucial applications don’t function properly

Some, mostly legacy, applications are just impossibly difficult to virtualise. Hence, it might be hard to migrate them to an IaaS cloud. Sometimes too, SaaS analogues of locally installed applications lack several important functions. For example, just compare Google Apps with a locally installed MS Office suite. You’ll immediately notice several missing features in the former.

Missing features can also result in incompatibility issues when you try to import local files to cloud-based apps. If the absence of certain features adversely affect productivity, you’ll have to rethink that migration idea.

6. When migration turns out to be unreasonably costly

Most of the concerns we raised earlier actually have workarounds. For instance, #2 and #3 respectively can be resolved by investing in redundant, fault tolerant Internet connections and upgrading to gigabit bandwidths. Similarly, #4 and #5 may be addressed by customisation and system integration. However if the costs entailed by those workarounds make ROI virtually unreachable, you should seriously consider leaving those applications where they are.

7. When your IT infrastructure is already built for the future

The highly scalable nature of cloud solutions and their utility-based pricing make them ideal for sudden and seasonal surges in (computing) demand or for businesses that are still starting out. But if your infrastructure is already fully capable of meeting demand spikes for many years to come, it would be impractical to move to the cloud at this point.

8. When you need data to be portable or interoperable

While moving data to the cloud is usually inexpensive and easy, moving it around once it’s already stored there isn’t. Because of vendor lock-in, you may find it atrociously expensive (and almost impossible) to move your data to other cloud service providers. That can be a serious problem in certain instances like: if you’re not satisfied with your current CSP’s services, if a merger/acquisition calls for it, if you just found a better deal, and so on.

9. When data ownership is an issue

When you see how sites like Facebook exploit user data to drive advertising campaigns, it makes you wonder who owns the data stored in its servers. Common sense will tell you, it should be the users. But is it clearly stipulated in the provider’s Terms of Service? If you’re not comfortable with what the ToS says with regards to data ownership, you probably need to keep your data where you have full control over it.

Deciding whether the cloud is best for your business

We won’t be surprised if, after having read those items above, you’ve started wondering when cloud computing may now be suitable for business – as it seems to be unsuitable at every turn.

First of all, that list isn’t meant to totally discourage you from subscribing to cloud-based solutions. Rather, it’s simply meant to make you realise that migrating to the cloud isn’t as simple as you think. There are issues that you need to be aware of.

If, after considering all possible issues and thinking things through, you decide cloud computing is really a better fit for your business, then by all means proceed. On the other hand, if you believe one or some of those issues can potentially impact your business significantly enough (and in an adverse manner), then you probably should stick with in-house solutions.

In most cases though, you’ll find that the decision to move to the cloud need not be an all-or-nothing case. Some business processes will be suitable for the cloud, while some won’t. Therefore, another approach would be to employ hybrid solutions, wherein some business processes are migrated to the cloud and some are kept in-house.

Hybrid solutions entail complex system integration, which need to be planned and executed professionally in order for your cloud-based apps and in-house apps to work harmoniously. A poorly architected hybrid solution can result in data inconsistencies and system downtimes that can be catastrophic to your business. So yes, all of these solutions have their own upsides and downsides.

Not sure which of your business processes are suitable for cloud, in-house, or hybrid solutions? Contact us today on 07 3251 9333. We’ll be happy to assist you.

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