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Cloud

[kloud]

Noun
  1. a dim or obscure area in something otherwise clear or transparent.
  2. anything that obscures or darkens something, or causes gloom, trouble, suspicion, disgrace, etc.
  3. to make gloomy

Hmmm… Is the dictionary tying to tell us something here?

Cloud Computing is all the rage.  Read anything remotely pertaining to the world of IT at the moment and, for the unwary, you will be convinced that if you are not “Embracing the Cloud” or otherwise Moving your Business and all its valuable data, onto “the Cloud” then you’re just not cool.  But is this “Cloud Computing” all it’s cracked up to be?  Well of course, that depends on what you mean by “Cloud Computing”.  There are elements of “the Cloud” that make perfect sense and are a tremendous benefit to even small, small businesses (eg. Hosted Exchange).  There are other elements  that are must haves for reducing the costs (and functionality) of large enterprises (gmail Business and Google apps etc).  But essentially, “the cloud” is a generic term meaning services that are available over the internet as opposed to from within your local network (LAN).

Whether you want to cut costs, increase security, leverage Data Centres, Roll out Virtual Desktops to your mobile staff and telecommuters, or simply dip you toe in the Cloud(ed) waters, I would strongly urge you to, Stop.  Take time to fully understand what you are doing.  Make sure you are well aware of, and fully understand the implications of what your IT department, IT Consultants, or simply what you have read if you are flying solo, are saying.  Don’t just listen to the current media mantra of “if it’s Cloud, it’s good”.  I have seen too many organisations rush head long in with out considering the real costs to their business.  In several cases, this has cost them dearly, in others, it is just a disaster.

Now having started this post sounding like the prophet of doom, please don’t get me wrong.  There are a lot of success stories and excellent products out there on the cloud that are brilliant.  Many perfectly suited to running small businesses more effectively.  If you want a good example, check out Xero accounting software.  If you want to supercharge your business fiscal management check out the boys at FathomHQ.  There are some spectacularly good pieces of software out there in the cloud.  But these products aren’t good because they are cloud based.  They’re good!  They also happen to be Cloud based.

We have similarly, moved many clients on to Private Cloud based environments.  Some as CoLo, some in hosted environments, Some just hosted Exchange/SharePoint, others in Virtual Desktops that can be created on the fly.  But, All carefully planned and considered as to what the business impact would be for that client.  A frequent issue we have to contend with being out here in the “regional areas” and not in the middle of a capital city, is one of connectivity.  If “the internet” goes down, what happens for the client if they have “Moved to the Cloud”?  How do we build sufficient redundancy into their network infrastructure to withstand outages and limited bandwidth issues.  Sometimes it takes some creative thinking with products like RiverBed, other times it can be as simple as, added redundancy like with 3G/4G/LTE connectivity.  Always it is by planning.

Disaster Recovery is a very important issue to consider when contemplating Cloud services, What happens with your data.  Can it be recovered in a usable manner quickly for you.  Are you just moving your “Single Point of Failure” system further away from you, and hence, more difficult to recover in the event of disaster.  All these things, and many many others need to be carefully considered when contemplating Cloud Computing.

Management and support is probably the biggest thing to consider.  Many of the Apps, like the ones mentioned above, come complete with a great support model included.  But what about more integral services like mail and cloud hosting?  I don’t believe Cloud hosted services, however large or small, are any place for the “Break / Fix” model of IT Support.  A good Managed Service Provider (MSP) is essential to guide a business through the murkiness that can be the Cloud.  Think of us as your Navigation system.  Relying on a Break/Fix Paradigm in the Cloud would be akin to setting off in an unfamiliar aircraft, on a long journey, in inclement weather, with no navigation system, no maps or planned route, and no idea where you are going.  Not a good idea.

My Dad (a Tradie) used to always say, “measure twice, cut once”.  This same paradigm holds true for “the Cloud”.  Look into what you are doing thoroughly.  Is this right for your business?  What are the hidden costs?  What are the security implications? Then, when your satisfied, execute it precisely.

The point of this cautionary tale is, none of this happens by chance, and despite the plethora of bleatings in the media, you need to plan first, and proceed with caution more than ever before.  The Brave new world can be a treacherous place for the unwary.

Feel Free to contact us here at Ramtech if you would like to speak further about how we may be able to help guide you through the cloudy skies of modern business.