Everyone in the field of business technology is talking about cloud computing these days, but decision makers are more concerned with where the hype stops, and the real benefits begin. Despite what some vendors might say, the cloud is not a fix-all solution. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine any organization that can’t benefit from including cloud services in their technology strategies. In fact, if you’ve ever used leading applications like web-based email or Google Docs, then you’re already in the cloud.
Although they’re becoming more reliable, computers need occasional maintenance from operating system updates to upgrades and physical replacements for ailing hardware. There’s always going to be downtime during these processes, which is why relying solely on in-house IT can substantially reduce system availability. If, for example, your email server needs to be taken offline or is taken down by a hardware failure or cyberattack, you’ll lose access to one of your most mission-critical systems.
The cloud doesn’t have such issues. Providers proactively look after cloud hardware and back up mission-critical systems in multiple offsite servers to maximize availability and so that you never have to worry about scheduled or unscheduled downtime.
When it comes to flexibility, cloud-hosted applications and other computing resources are with you no matter where you go and which device you use. This affords an unprecedented degree of flexibility, thereby enabling workforce mobility and the productivity and cost-saving benefits that come with it.
While you do, in theory at least, lose a degree of control when you’re having your computing workloads handled in a third-party data center, almost all everyday business applications work optimally in a remotely hosted environment. With platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings, you can even develop your own bespoke cloud applications and services.
Scalability is one area where the cloud trumps in-house IT every time. Since the cloud gives you access to a wealth of computing resources on demand, there’s practically no limit to the scalability of your infrastructure.
By contrast, relying entirely on your own IT department and on-premises services means you’re limited by things like budgetary constraints and physical space and infrastructure. Furthermore, the cloud is heavily intertwined with virtualization, which offers the ability to create an entirely software-defined computing architecture that completely does away with your dependence on physical hardware.
As mentioned, enabling workforce mobility can boost productivity and morale. After all, most people prefer to work with their own devices with which they’re familiar, and an increasing number like to work at home or on the move. Both are impossible if you’re fully reliant on an in-office network. The cloud, however, lets people access the applications they need for work wherever they are on any internet-connected device. Since the data stays in the cloud, administrators can still maintain full audit trails and enjoy complete control over access and security policies.
When it comes to weighing the benefits and drawbacks of cloud computing versus in-house IT, this one’s a tie. Whether performance will be better or worse depends a lot on the workload. While the cloud gives you access to the most cutting-edge hardware in the world, the fact that there’s a large distance between the end user and the remote data center means bandwidth and latency will never be as good as they are with local computing. For most applications, this doesn’t present any discernible difference. However, for very high-performance, specialized, or latency-sensitive tasks, it’s still better to use local computing resources.
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