Which is best? A checklist for cloud, on-premise and hybrid solutions
- By Arindam Ray Chaudhuri
- Oct 30, 2015
No two agencies are exactly the same, and when it comes to cloud, no one solution fits all models. While one agency may benefit from pushing all of its communications into the cloud, another may need a more private, secure in-house solution. Yet another might benefit most from a hybrid of both -- with connectivity between the private and public worlds. Cloud migration strategies can involve complicated and nuanced decisions that each agency needs to make for itself, and it’s important to gather all the necessary information about each solution before determining what’s best.
Cloud computing is an umbrella term for a wide range of online services that reside on a third-party server and require an Internet connection to access them. Most cloud-hosted software services include updates, backups, monitoring and upgrades at no additional charge.
With lower upfront costs, a reduced infrastructure requirement and less overall maintenance, it’s no surprise that cloud-based solutions have become very attractive-- particularly to small and medium-sized organizations that want to reduce licensing costs and avoid recruiting IT staff. Cloud is right for your agency if:
- You don’t want to worry about purchasing and maintaining additional hardware for new software or data systems.
- You have a small (or non-existent) IT department to handle the installation, monitoring, upgrades and updates for new software. Cloud-hosted products typically include these services while also providing server maintenance.
- You want users to be able to access your data from anywhere. Cloud-hosted products provide remote access to anyone with an Internet connection.
- You need an on-demand and scalable model.
While cloud-based solutions are popular and clearly have their advantages, there are some applications that would produce little or no cost benefit from migrating to the cloud. If your agency has invested in on-premise infrastructure -- such as high-performance databases that are specifically supposed to support an application -- then an on-premise storage solution would be the better option.
On-premise software installations reside on a dedicated server that is maintained by an organization's IT department. This provides additional control and validation, but it requires expensive hardware to set up and a dedicated IT department to manage.
On-premise solutions are right for your agency if:
- You have strict security compliance guidelines that require hosting data behind a firewall. On-premise software puts the control in your hands, which makes sense for agencies with sensitive data.
- You have software or services that must integrate with systems that are not exposed to the Internet. If one part of the system is exposed to the Internet, you run the risk of data leaks and security threats.
- You have a large IT department to handle all backups, updates, monitoring and upgrades.
With enterprise architecture as complex as it is these days, many agencies choose to employ a hybrid storage solution. With a hybrid delivery model, agencies can have the best of both worlds without long-term commitments, unnecessary expenses and the inefficiencies of hosted and on-premise models. The hybrid approach also creates additional options for organizations that want to maintain their existing infrastructure, but want to use services in the cloud to help them boost security and maximize their existing set-up.
Hybrid solutions are right for your agency if:
- You want to explore the flexibility and scalability of the public cloud. Because an audit doesn’t always tell you how an application will perform in the public cloud, some enterprises choose to test a single tier in the public cloud while maintaining key infrastructure on their private cloud or dedicated infrastructure.
- Agency management is hesitant about the security of the public cloud for sensitive data. It’s often easier to convince internal executive or IT teams to experiment with cloud solutions rather than adopt them wholesale. Maintaining veteran IT staff and legacy applications on legacy infrastructure while opening new lines of business in the cloud is a cost-effective solution that also manages institutional risk.
- Your agency has multiple sites and wants to ensure that it can manage its systems remotely--maintaining access to data even if head office servers are down and providing each office with protection against viruses and spam. Using remote monitoring and managed services, the agency can check that these systems are up and running and updated as necessary.
Understanding the risks
Whether you choose to employ a cloud, on-premise or hybrid solution, each will come with its own risks.
With cloud computing, you get a service with costs tied to consumption, and the vendor enables the multi-tenant economies of scale to make the service cheaper to provide. There are often very tight margins for cloud software vendors, who are constantly investing in new functionality or modules -- even the largest vendors aren’t always profitable. Cloud computing means you’re outsourcing your operational systems to a third party. It’s imperative that you have confidence that the vendor will stay in business. If your cloud vendor goes bust or is acquired and the service is terminated, your operations may be at risk.
With on-premise solutions, specialized and skilled IT staff is required to support, manage and maintain the systems. This can be expensive and even inefficient. Additionally, maintaining storage on-premise congests the network and firewall and can impact speed and bandwidth.
Move forward with knowledge
One of the biggest decisions you will make when selecting new software for your agency is whether it will be cloud-based, installed on-premise or a hybrid of both. While the functionality of the software will, for the most part, remain the same, the deployment method will change depending upon which solution you choose. Each option presents its own set of pros and cons, and understanding how each will affect performance and compliance should be the key to driving your final decision.