It is all good and well to exhort the benefits of the cloud. Yet how can real-life businesses actually leverage the cloud in a practical way that benefit their business? While actual deployments will depend on the specific needs of businesses, we offer some ideas below.
Much of the misconception on this stems from the days where people said “cloud computing” when they really meant IaaS. The widespread use of open source software also gave the cloud an overarching perception of openness and interoperability that does not necessarily reflect the proprietary nature of many cloud platforms today.
While open source software is widely used, their implementation at the various layers do not automatically lend themselves to interoperability. Indeed, cloud services from different cloud providers will not typically work together, and migrating apps built for one cloud to another may entail significant re-architecture and recoding.
Of course, many of the cloud services do expose an extensive array of APIs (Application Programming Interface) to facilitate integration. In practice, a not insubstantial amount of effort and time is required for any integration efforts.
The SOHO (Small Office, Home Office) start-up is probably in the best position to take advantage of the brave new world of the cloud here. Practically everything can be handled in the cloud. For example, basic services such as domain names, email and web are easily addressed at the SaaS (Software-as-a-service) layer.
Cloud storage services should work well too, though those with more demanding storage needs can probably get a locally deployed storage appliance for storage. This offers speedy access to large files, and can in turn be synchronized with a cloud storage service to protect against local disasters.
An existing SMB that is growing also represents an excellent opportunity to tap into the cloud. Instead of having to purchase new equipment, a SMB can seek to deploy new services or expanded requirements in the cloud. For instance, new CRM or ERP servers could potentially be hosted entirely on an IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-service) cloud platform, allowing them to be deployed far faster and cheaper than an on-premises server.
Another approach is to continue leveraging existing on-premises hardware as usual, but to set it up in such a way that spikes in usage could be seamlessly extended into the cloud. An online retailer for example, could have its capacity expanded in this way during seasonal peak periods, but without the associated capital expenses of buying new hardware.
Even established businesses can benefit from the use of the cloud. Indeed, it could be argued that they stand to gain the most by streamlining their IT infrastructure, though slightly more upfront work is expected due to the need to properly plan and integrate the new cloud resources with existing IT workloads.
Fortunately, the maturity of cloud services means that many SaaS services offer directory integration with the likes of Active Directory. This gives enterprises a way to integrate their on-premises authentication servers with the cloud for single-sign-on (SSO) access. This is something that should not be overlooked, considering that a typical enterprise could have thousands of users, with scores of users likely to be joining or leaving in any one month.
The above are some hypothetical examples of possible cloud deployments. Obviously, the first step in making a move to the cloud really begins with choosing the right cloud partner. You can learn more about this in “Making the move to the cloud” here.
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