A Brief Case Study in Moving to the Cloud
Lately cloud computing has been garnering notoriety as more and more businesses take advantage of its various benefits. According to Webopedia, cloud computing is a type of computing that relies on sharing computing resources rather than using local servers or personal devices to handle applications. Cloud computing allows a business to outsource many applications historically maintained on the company’s own hardware.
There are three cloud computing models: public, hybrid and private. A public cloud is made available to the general public or a large industry group and is owned by an organization selling cloud services. A private cloud operates solely for an organization, managed by the organization or a third party and may exist on premises or off premises. A hybrid cloud is made up of two or more clouds (at least one public and one private) that remain unique entities but are bound together by technology that enables data and application portability (adapted from National Institute of Standards).
Within the past year DBL has moved arguably its most important software application – our time keeping system – to the cloud. This serves as a perfect case study on some of the benefits, and drawbacks, of cloud computing.
Benefit – Flexibility
The cloud allows you to access applications from any computer, not just the computer in your office. If an attorney is at the courthouse, on vacation or at home, and needs to update his or her time, all he or she needs is a computer and an Internet connection. This flexibility helps increase productivity and efficiency.
Drawback – Security
With the flexibility to access the software from any computer, security becomes paramount. In any line of work where confidentiality is required, it is necessary to ensure that your cloud provider can ensure the level of security that you require. Investigating each provider’s security policy was a large part of our due diligence process.
Benefit – Costs
The costs of accessing software through a cloud are generally lower than the costs associated with purchasing and hosting software internally. You can avoid many hardware costs, too.
Drawback – Uptime Issues
For our business, it is crucial that we have, for the most part, uninterrupted access to our time and billing system. Therefore, it was imperative that we negotiate a service availability level and an issue resolution level that would allow us to be continuously up and running. 99.9% availability and promised response times within a few hours for mission critical services are standard.
Benefit – Storage Capacity
The cloud boasts significantly larger capacity for data storage than most in-house services. Essentially the cloud provides for the online storage of information.
Drawback – Return of Information
When you leave one cloud provider and move to another, you will need to transfer all of your information. If you are in a business where the retention of information is critical, be sure to negotiate obligations on the part of the cloud provider so there can be a seamless transition without the loss of data.
From our perspective, the benefits of moving to the cloud have far outweighed the drawbacks. But before you make the move, it is important to consider each benefit and drawback inherent in this computing model and negotiate an agreement that protects your business and information.