Is your business migrating to the cloud? Here’s what you need to know.

Cloud computing has exploded in recent years. More and more businesses are moving some or all of their data, hardware, and software off-site.

There are many good reasons to do this, including cost and convenience.

In fact, cloud computing “has now become a crucial part of every business organization, enterprise, and company,” according to Business to Community. “Considering the rapid surge and increased adoption of cloud computing, many companies and organizations are now hastening to take the cloud expedition.”

“Cloud computing is the growth catalyst that is enabling many businesses and startups to succeed in their ventures and initiatives.”

If you’re among those thinking about migrating to the cloud, you probably have a lot of questions. Indeed, many myths about cloud computing remain alive and well.

In this post, we’ll answer eight of the most frequently asked questions businesses have when considering a cloud migration. And we’ll go over the cloud’s main benefits too.

1. Where is the cloud anyway?

Despite its name, the cloud is not some physical object with edges, even fuzzy ones. The cloud is in fact diverse and distributed, with no clear boundaries.

The cloud is physically built of warehouse-sized data centers, thousands of them scattered around the world. Each center may house thousands, or likely tens of thousands, of server racks the size of refrigerators, each containing scores of individual servers.

Through cabling, hardware, and software, these servers and data centers are able to act as a single interconnected computing system. This system can be divided and subdivided into “virtual machines” — basically, independent software “computers” with an operating system, apps, data, etc.

In short, cloud computing uses a distributed server network to process and move data over the Internet. The data (and the software to use it) may in fact be stored all over the world. To the user, the cloud makes it all look and work like a single computer.

This “public” cloud is available to anyone with an Internet connection. A “private cloud” is accessible only to people within a single organization.

2. What is a cloud services provider?

Simply put, a cloud services provider owns and operates its own network of data centers, and makes it available over the Internet to others.

The major providers of cloud services are Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and Amazon Web Services.

Cloud computers may optionally be linked to an organization’s in-house servers and computers, creating what’s called a “hybrid cloud” — infrastructure both on-site and off-site.

3. What are the benefits of cloud computing?

Cost is one of the main benefits. Your company saves the costs of buying, housing, and maintaining its own IT infrastructure of servers, networks, and other hardware.

Instead, you leave all that to the cloud service provider and pay only for the services you use. This makes the cloud easily scalable as your business grows. You simply upgrade your subscription instead of buying more hardware and software.

The wide physical distribution of data centers ensures that the cloud remains both adaptable and available. That is, if one part is damaged by cyberattack or natural disaster, other parts are still available to carry on until the problem is resolved.

On the other hand, keeping your data nearby makes it faster and more convenient to restore after a data loss or other disaster.

Basically, cloud computing lets you have your cake and eat it too. Its wide distribution makes powerful central processing available everywhere, equally to all devices. At the same time, you keep the convenience of local accessibility and control.

4. Isn’t the cloud less secure?

This may be the most common question.

The New York Times has a good answer: “The same way that your money is probably safer mixed up with other people’s money in a bank vault than it is sitting alone in your dresser drawer, your data may actually be safer in the cloud: It’s got more protection from bad guys.”

Nothing is 100% infallible. But in practice, the cloud is no less secure, and probably more secure than your home or workplace systems. Your laptop may not suffer a data breach, but if it’s lost or stolen, your data is just as gone.

More gone, in fact. The cloud at least will have your data backed up in multiple locations.

As important as redundant backups, the cloud provides unparalleled security, both digital and physical.

Hackers and cybercriminals are kept out by firewalls, encryption, user authentication, biometrics, and other cybersecurity measures.

To prevent actual intruders from damaging, destroying, or stealing hardware, data centers are usually in secluded locations, in heavily reinforced buildings with guards.

Smoke detection, fire suppression, and backup power are standard measures. Smart cards, alarms, and motion sensors are also common. Cooling systems keep the servers and other hardware from overheating. The buildings themselves are sturdy against natural disasters.

5. How much does it cost?

Personal cloud solutions (like Dropbox) usually have some free basic level of service.

But above that, you typically pay for both personal and enterprise cloud services in one of two basic ways:

  • a variable fee based on actual usage, or
  • a flat monthly or annual subscription price based on capacity (e.g. $10/month for 2GB or storage).

In short, you pay for what you use, and you can change or upgrade at any time.

This scalability gives the cloud a great financial advantage over buying and maintaining your IT infrastructure in-house.

With the cloud, you’re not wasting money either on unused capacity or equipment that may soon be obsolete. At the same time, you’re moving many of your capital expenses (capex) to operations (opex).

In addition, apps are updated in the cloud by the software developer. That ensures that all users are accessing the same version. And it means you never need to deal with the expense or hassle of upgrades yourself.

Small businesses and organizations, who likely have limited resources, may benefit the most from cloud computing. For the price of a subscription, you pretty much eliminate the costs of housing your own technological infrastructure and hiring staff to maintain it.

6. What data can I migrate to the cloud?

Pretty much anything and everything that’s on your in-house computers now. Data, apps, networks, services — you name it.

And you can move either all or some of it, using a “hybrid cloud” solution. A hybrid cloud links data centers to the servers you maintain in-house. In many situations, that provides a best-of-both-worlds solution.

7. If the cloud is everywhere, can it comply with data privacy laws?

Industries from health care to government to financial services today must comply with an array of complex and sometimes overlapping data privacy regulations.

Some, like HIPAA, apply to specific industries or sectors. Others, like the GDPR, apply within certain geographies. The Azure cloud is third-party certified as compliant with all the major regulatory frameworks.

One of the big advantages of cloud computing is that it’s possible to comply with them all. Because cloud data centers are distributed around the world, personal data (for instance) can be physically stored on servers located in the state or country where the people live. A hybrid cloud provides additional options for keeping data local or separate in some way.

8. How should my organization prepare for migrating to the cloud?

Moving your company’s IT operations to the cloud is a big task that requires expert guidance. If you have an in-house IT staff, you’ll still benefit from the specialized knowledge and experience of a managed IT services provider.

Cloud computing is one of our core specialties at PC Professional. In fact, we’re certified Microsoft Azure partners.

For starters, our Cloud Consulting services help you figure out what you need to do. We start with a thorough evaluation to analyze both where you are now and where you want to go.

Then we can help you develop a cloud migration strategy, prepare to move, and carry out the migration successfully. We work with your in-house IT staff all the way through.

Contact us to start talking about migrating to the cloud.

 

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