- Date: February 2, 2017
- By: Mike Rosack
Magical. Mysterious. Nebulous. So pervasive in the IT world that Google parodied it for an April Fools day in 2015:
This is the world's first cloud offering running on servers located in the troposphere, inside actual clouds.Google Actual Cloud on Youtube
Parodies aside, we talk a lot about the cloud because there can be significant reasons to use it. A good use of cloud based technology can help your company be more:
Scale up or down to meet IT demands. Run leaner. Fluctuate your service level to meet seasonal or other predictable market fluctuations.
Let the cloud provider worry about keeping equipment up to date. Take advantage of their 24/7 monitoring service. Let them do the backups that always seem to get forgotten in-house.
Reduce your in-house energy consumption. Minimize over-provisioning hardware to guard against future growth. Optimize in-house desk and server space.
Good stuff, right? But like any technology, a cloud-based service isn't a silver bullet for every challenge you face as a business.
Here are three recommendations for working up a compelling business case for a cloud solution.
Find the True Problem
Running your applications in the cloud can help you solve problems that would be hard or impossible to do locally. Just a few, for example:
- We need 10 servers to handle traffic in January, but they sit there for the other 11 months of the year! All cloud providers can help with this by scaling out to add more servers only when you need them, and bringing them down when you don't. You can also look into new technologies like serverless computing (AWS Lambda/Azure Cloud Functions) to totally remove your dependencies on servers altogether!
- It's a pain to scale our databases: When you've reached the limit of what a traditional database can do, how can you grow larger? Make a cluster? Figure out how to shard your data? You can solve the problem, but it requires a lot of brainpower and maintenance. By designing your data appropriately and using cloud data stores like Amazon's DynamoDB or Azure's DocumentDB/Table Storage, your data can grow as big as you need it to. And if you still want to use a traditional SQL solution, Amazon RDS and Azure SQL can help you scale your hardware up and down with much less maintenance.
- Fault Tolerance: In the worst case scenario, what happens when your server room is unavailable? Do you have a disaster recovery plan? In the cloud, a disaster recovery plan is as easy as making sure your data is replicating to multiple regions, and you've got servers running in multiple regions. Unless you're worried that the whole world is going to be destroyed, in which case I'm not sure there's anything anyone can do to help.
Maybe you don't have any of those problems! However, AWS and Azure have a gigantic feature list nowadays that keeps getting bigger and bigger. Make sure you take a stroll through all of their offerings to see if there's something they offer that could make your life a lot easier.
Find the True Cost
Hard costs of servers and staffing are easy to document. Look deeper. What costs do the inefficiencies have?
Every hour of labor has direct costs to the company in terms of salary, healthcare, etc. But every hour of labor spent also has an opportunity cost. The opportunity cost is what you aren't doing because of what you are doing. If you spend time doing task A, you aren't doing task B. Task B is the opportunity cost.
Every hour spent applying patches and updates to an existing server is an hour not spent planning for future upgrades or migrations.
Other non-obvious costs include:
- Keeping certifications up to date
- Non-recoverable downtime
- Opportunity cost of capital expenses that could be channeled to profit-making endeavors instead
Find the True Solution
Have you ever heard the saying:
When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
Have more than a hammer.
Do the research, define the challenge you are seeing, and determine the best way to solve it.
We're Here to Help
Choosing technology to solve business challenges is tough. It's also something we're pretty good at. If you want our help give us a shout.