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Should We Move to the Cloud?

posted May 30, 2011, 8:28 AM by John Ungerer   [ updated Aug 20, 2011, 6:19 AM ]
John T. Ungerer
What’s the benefit of moving our servers to the cloud? What do we gain by making such a big change?
It’s a question we get asked a lot, and the answers vary greatly, depending on the client. I have found though, that our clients end up focusing on three key areas to make their decisions. Availability, Resources and Budget.

 

Availability. Do you have servers, systems or applications that require high availability? Do you have members of your staff that travel and require access to your systems wherever they may be? Has your business ever suffered due to internet outages, or loss of power? Moving toward the cloud increases your system availability. It’s your network, anywhere you are, anytime you need it.

The datacenter’s we use have redundant power circuits to their location and are backed up by generators. The likelihood that there is a loss of power is slim. They also provide over 5 different internet backbone providers so ensure that they are always available on the internet. In fact, just about everything is redundant in our setup. Servers use multi-disk SAN systems for redundant hard drives, systems are imaged for backup to secondary SANs, server resources are pooled to counter hardware failures. And if that’s not enough, the datacenter itself has a redundant counterpart in a physically different location in the country.

With all this redundancy, you are promised a 99.99% uptime, which is much higher than most on-premise servers can match. Having your core services or critical applications in the cloud, you benefit from a much higher availability. Whether you are connecting from the office, or from the road, or at home, your network experience will be the same, across the board. 

Resources. Most of us have worked for an organization that has had their own server rooms and have handled everything internally. New servers are put in place, and upgrade/replacement schedules are setup for when that server will be retired and the data moved to newer hardware. In my experience, the day comes when a server or two are scheduled to be replaced but you hit a roadblock. The powers that be inform you that the budget won’t support replacement at this time, and now you are scrambling to find ways to squeeze more out of an older server, or beef it up with lower cost upgrades to keep it going.  All of us have had to deal with this at some point, and even recently I’ve been asked to help take a look at a server that’s pushing eight years but there is just no money for a replacement.

The cloud can help. With your servers in the cloud, you are no longer dealing with physical boxes. Your servers are most likely virtual machines working from a pool of resources. The cloud provider will deal with the physical hardware, all you need to deal with is how well your servers are running. Need more RAM, another CPU to pick up the slack? With just a few clicks your server resources can be expanded. RAM, CPU and even disk space can be increased while your business is running, and on demand as the resources are needed. Need a whole new server, no problem. You can have a new server provisioned in minutes.

Costs/Budget/ROI. In the end, the decision to make changes to your IT infrastructure usually boils down to money. Will these changes lower your budgets? Will support costs be lower? What’s the return on investment? You need to be able to show a cost savings, an increased value to making a change like moving to the cloud. Availability may be the most attractive benefit of moving to the cloud, but if it doubles your budget, it may be quickly discarded.

When I talk to our clients about moving their servers to a private cloud within our service, I try to show them all the costs savings involved. At first glance, a lot of people think it’s just the cost of the hardware they are saving and when they see a monthly fee for cloud services, they are quick to jump to the conclusion that it’s more expensive. But it’s much more than just the hardware cost that’s removed from their budgets.

On top of the hardware costs, there are cost savings in power and infrastructure by moving your servers offsite. If you have a dedicated server room, chances are there is an AC unit running full time to keep the room at optimal temperature. Reductions in power and infrastructure can significantly add up over the course of a year.

Your servers are virtual machines, and you can consolidate physical servers to fewer virtual servers. Maintenance and support costs of ten physical servers will be drastically cut by consolidating down to four or five virtual servers.

With our service, nightly back up and windows licensing are included in your monthly cost. Removing expensive tape systems out of the equation, and the support needed to check and test tapes and backups is a considerable savings. Time spent on those duties can be spent on more important tasks.

And lastly, another cost factor is your staff’s time. How much money is spent when systems are upgraded, either with on staff personnel or by outsourcing?  How much time and money is spent on regular maintenance or hardware issues? These types of issues add up quickly. How many times has an upgrade been budgeted to an hour or two, and six hours later its almost finished. Costs like these really increase the total cost of an IT budget. By eliminating them, the savings add up quickly.

It’s easy and quick to see, that over a three year span, a set monthly cost to run your servers in the cloud is significantly lower than keeping those systems in-house. Each company is different, and some may not make sense to move to the cloud. But the ones that can be moved will quickly lower their overall IT budgets. We’ve had clients cut their budget by fifty percent right off the bat. And they are quick to roll those savings into other projects they may have held off on before.

 

There are many reasons for moving to the cloud, and I’m sure there are more cost saving reasons than what I have listed here. From my own experience, the three main reasons listed are usually the focus of what our clients want to hear about. It’s the main driving force behind their decisions. Especially when it comes down to budgets, everyone is looking for ways to lower them. Each client is different and accurately evaluating their costs and network will help make the decision to move them to the cloud. 

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