Consider Migrating to the Cloud

Consider Migrating to the Cloud

Is cloud computing right for your business?

Working on the consulting services team at DMC, I encounter clients with a desire for an office intranet without the hassle of reinventing the wheel. SharePoint does a lot for its users, but the fact remains that an on-premise installation requires dedicated hardware and configuration. Microsoft's cloud version of SharePoint, previously called SharePoint Online and now called Office 365, solves that problem by hosting your instance of SharePoint in Microsoft's cloud.

What is the cloud?

The "cloud" is a group of servers accessible via the web which can be shared by users and organizations. A good analogy is a "time share" for computing resources which can be rented for different lengths of time and different levels of computing resources. An on-premise server is a product that one buys, while server resources in the cloud are a service that one rents.

Buy vs. rent is a tough decision for any business, whether the resource in question is office space, equipment, or servers. As with any buy vs. rent calculus, the basic tradeoff is that renting permits greater flexibility and lesser up-front investment, while buying permits greater control and lesser long-term cost. I think it's impossible to say that buying is always better, or renting is always better. The individual needs of a business will determine which option is best.

So should you consider migrating your SharePoint - and CRM and Office applications - to the cloud? Of course, you should! Up until the past few years, information technology hardware was mostly a "buy only" market. Shared computing resources have now reached a level of maturity so that the market is now "buy or rent". The renting option may be a perfect fit for your business, and you might never realize this until you consider the advantages of cloud computing.

Advantages of cloud computing

Cloud computing has two main advantages: more flexibility and less hassle. If you anticipate your business growing quickly in size, you should definitely consider the cloud. The difficulty in growing your own computing infrastructure to keep up with your business means your information technology staff might always be playing catch up. With the cloud, the infrastructure is already there and scaling your IT resources is as easy as expanding your cloud subscription. Additionally, the specialized staff maintaining the cloud will probably do a better job than you could on your own maintaining uptime and keeping current with new hardware and software. This is more efficient than having each business host their own servers and can reduce costs overall because the computing infrastructure is the right size for the organization at all times, and less staff are needed to keep your online resources up-and-running.

The cloud can also be cheaper than on-premise solutions if the lifetime of the software does not justify the outlay for the hardware to run it. Software changes fast, and if you do not expect to use something for more than a few years, that new server may not be worth it.

Advantages of on-premise computing

The main advantages of on-premise computing are more control and lower running costs. Once a server is purchased, the only costs are electricity and staff, both of which are factored into the running costs of cloud servers. However, if you want full control over your computing resources then on-premise is the way to go. Using the example of SharePoint, customization is a big draw for our clients, and some of that control is lost when migrating to the cloud. Cloud solutions are less mature than on-premise solutions, and for now, the on-premise solutions usually have a richer feature set.

One issue which clients have inquired about is security, which could seem to favor on-premise solutions at first. Since someone else is hosting your data and usually at an unknown location when using the cloud, it is a concern that proprietary data may be compromised. However, the biggest players in cloud computing, such as Microsoft, Amazon, and Google, have their reputations on the line when securing your data. There is an argument that a local server farm is more secure because it has a lower profile than something like Azure or Amazon EC2, while the security in place may be the same between the local farm and the cloud. I can buy this, but I also think it's more likely that an on-premise server will not be secured as well as a server in the cloud, so I think security is a wash between the two options.

Learn more about DMC's Office 365 Services.


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