Monthly IT Tech Update 3/14/17

You’re likely tired of hearing about all things cloud. But one of the biggest buzzwords in IT also happens to be a relevant strategy for many IT departments. The idea of hosting computing resources off-premises (e.g., in a provider’s data centers) has gained a lot of traction lately. That said, many IT departments still wrestle with the question of whether they want to adopt cloud computing technologies or stick with more traditional on-premises servers.

There’s certainly a lot of momentum behind cloud: Some startups already run everything in Amazon Web Services, and close to 93 percent of organizations are using some form of cloud servicesbetween (SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, and other hosted IT services), according to numbers from Spiceworks. At the same time, there are advantages to playing things closer to the vest, with your own in-house servers and equipment. So what are the main pros and cons of cloud and on-premises to keep in mind?

Cloud: More flexibility, less control

What are the benefits of cloud vs server? The calling card of cloud-based software and infrastructure is convenience:

  • Someone else maintains public cloud infrastructure. With a public cloud like AWS or Microsoft Azure, there is no hardware for you to maintain. The cloud service provider, not you, is the one spinning up new servers, replacing old machines, swapping out buggy components, and ensuring that security mechanisms are up-to-date.
  • Ongoing support is easy. Again, you don’t have to worry about patching firmware or replacing failing hard drives. And OS patches are rolled out automatically in the case of PaaS and SaaS (in fact you don’t worry about the OS at all), which is a huge load off your IT department’s back. No more wrangling with tedious system maintenance tasks!
  • Cloud is flexible. A cloud service can stretch as much or as little as you need it to, reacting to fluctuating computing requirements. Even if you just need a website for a few months, you can quickly and easily set one up and shut it down when you’re done without having to buy any hardware. In fact, such “operational agility” was cited as a top reason for cloud uptake in a 2014 Gartner survey.
  • Cloud is scalable. If you run all or most of your operations on-premises, scaling typically requires buying and deploying new servers, which is costly and time-consuming. With cloud you pay-as-you-go and scaling up takes place behind the scenes, instantly (some have compared this to a utility service). If your organization sees a seasonal peak in activity, you can simply add cloud resources or user licenses when the load is heavy, and scale back down when things slow down.
  • Cloud set up is simple. Getting started with a SaaS solution like cloud help desk or a file sharing application can be as simple as filling out an online form and clicking submit, depending on the service. Compare that to procuring hardware, project managing and installing, and maintaining a traditional on-prem alternative.

One IT pro’s take on Cloud Computing:”Whether the task is monotonous, or something highly specialized, cloud service providers can allow IT to focus on value-add to the organization and offload other tasks to specialized infrastructure, teams, and processes,” explained SpiceHead Jason Konzak of Virsage. “The utility billing and scalability are to me just icing on the cake.”

Cloud has many perks, but it might not be the right solution for every organization. One major factor holding companies back from adopting cloud is the fact that your data resides on someone else’s servers, potentially in a different state or country, which can be an issue in regulated industries like health care, finance, and military contracting. Be sure to pore over legal details in contracts and be aware of your particular liabilities before diving in.

On-premises: More control, less scalability

What are the benefits of server vs cloud? For a lot of companies, on-premises IT is the default setting. There are still many good reasons to run applications on your own servers:

  • On-premises performance is often better. At its core, cloud computing is IT resources delivered over an IP network (like the internet). What exactly does that mean? In short: If your internet connection is slow, you can expect latency, which can lead to complaints of the server being slow and reduced productivity. An in-house approach to computing means that your data resides locally (no long distances to travel across the Internet), so you can access it quickly and it doesn’t have to leaves your private network.
  • You can access your on-premises data offline. The internet-centric character of the public cloud means that anything from a hiccup at your ISP or a hiccup on the wider internet can leave you stranded. This is less of an issue with on-premises IT, as you can still access files even without internet connectivity and physically walk over to a server if something is amiss.
  • On-premises hardware choices are up to you. With public cloud, you might get saddled with commodity servers that save the provider a chunk of change but aren’t ideal for you. Going DIY gives you the freedom to buy and upgrade at your discretion. So you could splurge on a new top-of-the-line machine with advanced features if you wanted/needed to.
  • On-premises security is directly in your purview. With your own infrastructure, you know where your data is going and where it resides at rest. You don’t have to send potentially sensitive information through the internet, and it won’t end up on the hard drives of some server in a random data center, so you have more control.
  • On-premises costs could be more manageable. Because you decide when and what to buy, you’re less bound by what a provider wants to charge for a key service. And as a company grows, economies of scale could also work in your favor, potentially making local servers cheaper than cloud servers. To find for sure, you can track your cloud computing costs using tools such as the Spiceworks Cloud Monitor and price to compare historical costs against buying your own hardware.

Ultimately, the choice between cloud or on-premises work depends on the specific needs of your organization. Many companies decide to do a little bit of both. When you mix and match on-premises and public cloud services for different applications, you can often get the best of both worlds… finding the right blend of control, cost savings, and scalability that works for you. In the end, it’s all about choice and understanding your needs.

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