WHAT IS THE CLOUD?

Learn about the Cloud in this easy to read guide.

Crimson Line specializes in migrating your company to the Cloud. We understand that new technology can be overwhelming to get your head around. Let us, the experts, explain the Cloud, with all its options, to you in plain English. Here we go:

What is the Cloud?

“The Cloud” is a network of servers.

Some servers provide an online service, like Adobe Creative Cloud. In the past you’d buy a box set with the Adobe Creative software saved on it; now you pay a monthly subscription.

Other servers in the network are responsible for storing data. If you’re using Instagram or Dropbox you’re already using a type of Cloud.

Now you can see that when people talk about the Cloud, they can either be talking about a type of Cloud or a Cloud service type.

What is a type of Cloud?

Stay with us. Yes, it can get complicated. Once we understand your business and take all factors into consideration, we’ll make a recommendation to you. (We didn’t reinvent the wheel, and must give credit to appcore.com for this thorough explanation of the types of Cloud options available to you.) There are 3 types of Clouds: Public, Private and Hybrid. Let’s get into it:

The Public Cloud

Public Clouds are made available to the general public by a service provider who hosts the cloud infrastructure. Generally, Public Cloud providers like Amazon AWS, Microsoft and Google own and operate the infrastructure and offer access over the Internet. With this model, customers have no visibility or control over where the infrastructure is located. It is important to note that all customers on public clouds share the same infrastructure pool with limited configuration, security protections and availability variances.

Public Cloud customers benefit from economies of scale, because infrastructure costs are spread across all users, allowing each individual client to operate on a low-cost, “pay-as-you-go” model. Another advantage of Public Cloud infrastructures is that they are typically larger in scale than an in-house enterprise Cloud, which provides clients with seamless, on-demand scalability. These Clouds offer the greatest level of efficiency in shared resources; however, they are also more vulnerable than Private Clouds.

A Public Cloud is the obvious choice when:

  • Your standardized workload for applications is used by lots of people, such as e-mail.
  • You need to test and develop application code.
  • You need incremental capacity (the ability to add compute resources for peak times).
  • You’re doing collaboration projects.

The Private Cloud

Private Cloud is Cloud infrastructure dedicated to a particular organization. Private Couds allow businesses to host applications in the Cloud, while addressing concerns regarding data security and control, which is often lacking in a Public Cloud environment.  It is not shared with other organizations, whether managed internally or by a third-party, and it can be hosted internally or externally.

There are two variations of Private Clouds:

  1. On-Premise Private Cloud: This type of Cloud is hosted within an organization’s own facility. A business’ IT department would incur the capital and operational costs for the physical resources with this model. On-Premise Private Clouds are best used for applications that require complete control and configurability of the infrastructure and security.
  2. Externally Hosted Private Cloud:  Externally Hosted Private Clouds are also exclusively used by one organization, but are hosted by a third party specializing in Cloud infrastructure. The service provider facilitates an exclusive Cloud environment with full guarantee of privacy. This format is recommended for organizations that prefer not to use a Public Cloud infrastructure due to the risks associated with the sharing of physical resources.

Undertaking a Private Cloud project requires a significant level and degree of engagement to virtualize the business environment, and it will require the organization to re-evaluate decisions about existing resources. Private Clouds are more expensive but also more secure when compared to Public Clouds. Most IT decision-makers focus exclusively on the Private Cloud, as these Clouds offer the greatest level of security and control.

When is a Private Cloud for you?

  • You need data sovereignty but want cloud efficiencies
  • You want consistency across services
  • You have more server capacity than your organization can use
  • Your data center must become more efficient
  • You want to provide private cloud services

The Hybrid Cloud

Hybrid Clouds are a composition of two Clouds (Private or Public) that remain unique entities but are bound together offering the advantages of multiple deployment models. In a Hybrid Cloud, you can leverage third party Cloud providers in either a full or partial manner; increasing the flexibility of computing. Augmenting a traditional Private Cloud with the resources of a Public Cloud can be used to manage any unexpected surges in workload.

Hybrid Cloud architecture requires both on-premise resources and off-site server based Cloud infrastructure. By spreading things out over a Hybrid Cloud, you keep each aspect of your business in the most efficient environment possible. The downside is that you have to keep track of multiple Cloud security platforms and ensure that all aspects of your business can communicate with each other.

Here are a couple of situations where a Hybrid environment is best:

  • Your company wants to use a SaaS [Software as a Service] application but is concerned about security.
  • Your company offers services that are tailored for different vertical markets. You can use a Public Cloud to interact with the clients but keep their data secured within a Private Cloud.
  • You can provide Public Cloud to your customers while using a Private Cloud for internal IT.

What is a Cloud service type?

Whenever you hear “as a service” tagged onto words such as:

Software … as a Service

Storage … as a Service

Infrastracture … as a service

it refers to Cloud services types.

Cloud services give you the benefit of shared resources, i.e. lower costs to you, and large scalability. It offers a low barrier to entry as it is easily accessible and affordable to small businesses. The user can also access the service from any device without needing additional licenses, i.e. it gives device independence.

Let’s look at SaaS (Software as a Service)

In this model, software is hosted by the provider as a service and therefore customers access the software via the internet and their web browser. Because it is a service, the customer does not need to purchase the software, rather they pay a subscription to access the software.

Examples of SaaS is Google Apps, Office 365 and Quickbooks Online.

Using the same acronym is Storage as a Service (SaaS)

Like with software, the service provider will store data for you. Some providers only store certain types of documents such as Flickr who allows you to store your photos. There are other providers though that will allow you to store any type of data such as Dropbox or YouSendIt.

Then there’s IaaS or Infrastructure as a Service

Here providers offer hardware instead of applications as a service. The customer doesn’t have to buy hardware such servers, hard drives, racks, or data center space. The customer may use it as they which as if they had purchased it themselves.

Lastly there’s PaaS or Platform as a Service

With this service, providers supply resources to build applications and services. There’s no need to install software and is best suited to developers, deployment and hosting.

Examples of PaaS is Google App Engine, Windows Azure and OpenShift.

Cut your IT budget - move to the Cloud!

If your company is a small to medium sized enterprise, using the Cloud instead of on-premises hardware, makes financial sense. You can do more with less, while you don’t have any upfront capital expenses. Sure, the accountants will do their amortization magic and on the books it will look as though the cost is spread over the server’s lifetime. But let’s get real, unless you’re leasing your server (which Crimson Line can also assist you with), you’re spending real money – money that could be spent on paying off debt or used as performance bonuses. Cut your IT budget – move to the Cloud by contacting Crimson Line.

Which other benefits does the Cloud hold?

Shared cost: since you are sharing the cost of server infrastructure with other companies’ computing needs, economies of scale work in your favour. You’ll be charged a monthly rental fee depending on what you need.

No man hours for upgrades: since your software is rented from a supplier, the supplier will upgrade you to newer software with very little or no input needed from your IT professional.

Redundancy: when you buy your on-premises server you must buy more hardware than needed in case of hardware failure. Making use of the Cloud, will make redundancy hardware, redundant. You’ll no longer have to have additional hardware “just in case” something goes wrong.

Scalability: If you land a big client and need to employ many more people, you can now just quickly rent more space in the Cloud. In the past, you’d have a major capex that could lead to cash flow issues. By using the Cloud, you have an increase in your monthly rental which doesn’t have catastrophic implications on your cash flow.

Use less electricity: ok, we know, Eskom isn’t a service provider that can be relied upon, but what we do know, is that they’ve increased their prices substantially. By moving to the Cloud, your company can lower your electricity bill and give the country the additional capacity it needs while more power stations are being built.

Microsoft user? Stagger your move to the Cloud.

You can, but don’t have to move all your documents and email to the Cloud in one go. This is how it can work if you choose a staggered approach:

Email including calendars and tasks: your employees are using their PC’s, laptops, smart phones and tablets to correspond with clients and colleagues, scheduling meetings and noting tasks. The email is pulled to your device from your ISP who will only keep the email for the amount of time you specified, or stored – until you don’t have space – on your on-premises exchange server.

With Exchange Online you are guaranteed that your email will always be available and that a change on one device will be visible on all other devices.

Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc): in the past Microsoft sold or licensed it to you in one way or another. Yes, you can still continue doing it the way you did previously, but Microsoft has made their intentions known – but they prefer that you rent it from them.

Instead of selling, or licensing Office to you, you will rent Office 365 from Microsoft for a monthly fee ensuring that you always have the latest version. It also means that you will never lose your authentication key.

Choosing the right Cloud vendor is crucial.

Although the Cloud has many benefits, there are security risks that must be considered. Cloud vendors will handle these risks differently and therefore Crimson Line should raise security risks that are associated with your company with the Cloud vendors we are considering:

  1. When your information is highly sensitive, you want to know how the Cloud vendor grants user access to data. IT staff typically have access to all sorts of information and, should they wish, they can misuse this. You want the Cloud vendor to be specific about who has access to your information.
  2. Your information will be stored, with that of other companies, on shared hardware. Encryption will typically be used to protect your data, but it’s not a failsafe. You should check with the Cloud vendor what is done to segregate data at rest. And they must be able to provide you with proof that their encryption schemes were designed and tested by experienced specialists because an encryption accident can make your data totally unusable.
  3. The Cloud vendor must tell you what will happen to your data and service in the event of a catastrophe. Their offering must have redundancy built in and must replicate the data and applications over multiple infrastructure over multiple sites. If not, it’s vulnerable to a total failure. You need to confirm with the Cloud vendor in what time frame they are able to do a complete restoration should an event occur that leads to a total failure.
  4. The Cloud vendor must inform you in which format your data will be should you wish to move to another vendor. You must be sure that you can use your own information should you wish to switch to another service provider.

Train the workforce - work smarter.

Change brings about uncertainty. The introduction of new procedures to get work done, will frustrate employees endlessly. With the old system, they didn’t have to think about how they did something. So, YES there will be resistance. But, the benefits of moving to the Cloud is numerous, and is the next logical next step.

We include basic training with your workforce in all our migration strategies. We understand that the move to the Cloud will only be successful, if it is fully utilized by all employees.

Often the tools that people will use will remain the same or similar – Office365 vs Office Suite – but the way they are used will change and it’s these changes that must clearly be explained to ensure success.

WHAT IS THE NEXT STEP?

We’ve explained the Cloud to you in plain English. Now you understand why you need experts to ensure that you’re making the right decisions when you’re Migrating to the Cloud. Let us help you move !

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