Today’s business environment is full of compelling arguments to utilize “The Cloud.”
This article will attempt to make sense of all of the noise and fluff, and focus on the needed information for the small-to-midsize (SMB) enterprise with less than 200 employees. For the last few years, business owners have been bombarded with the marketing surrounding cloud computing. If you are a business owner, you know exactly what I mean. Potential customers have been wooed with claims of ‘a panacea’, ‘a game-changer’ or ‘the holy-grail’. The evolution of the cloud model has certain aspects that fit these claims, while other aspects call to light the fact that some SMB businesses are not capable of taking full advantage…yet.
As defined by The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), cloud computing is “a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”(1)
In the past several years, CATS Technology has been utilizing the cloud for various services for our customers. These services consist of Software as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service (SaaS and IaaS). We work with several leading Saas and IaaS providers for Security, Backup, Disaster Recovery, Voice and Messaging. These providers have been part of an overall toolkit for our customers for 10 years and these services are best in class.
This article will address specific concerns of those customers that have a need to support a “line of business” (LOB) application. Often times, these are custom software or non-standard software specific to your industry. They are usually supported directly by the vendor, or developed and supported internally. The LOB application is one of the set of critical computer applications perceived as vital to running an enterprise. (2)
TWO PATHS TO CLOUD COMPUTING
In the last year or so, market conditions have made a “paradigm shift” possible for those customers with LOB application needs. It is now entirely possible to move all computing facilities into the cloud. There are two “paths” to take to the cloud for the SMB and their associated LOB applications; vendor supported or non-vendor supported.
In the first path, vendor-supported cloud, the decision is clear. In this model, the vendor will support your installation in their datacenter. They maintain the software, infrastructure and network. They support 100% of the offering. Your connection to the datacenter is facilitated with a virtual private network (VPN) and the LOB application is delivered to your employee’s desktops, tablets, and/or mobile devices that you have subscribed. The decision of when to move your LOB application will usually be made when your server computing infrastructure is nearing the end of its useful lifecycle. With this path, you have two primary constituents, the LOB vendor and your IT professional.
In the second path, non-vendor supported cloud, the decision is more nebulous. With this model, your LOB application is custom and proprietary. In this case, you will be responsible for providing the computing capability (datacenter and servers) to run the LOB application. In this case you have multiple constituents, the software vendor, the datacenter, and the IT professional. There are many common reasons that the cloud won’t fit in this case, i.e. data storage requirements, performance requirements, and others. In the non-vendor supported cloud, you will have plenty of due diligence to perform with your trusted IT professional.
The cloud is not a panacea, game-changer, or holy-grail. The cloud is an evolution in computing. The current stage of cloud evolution mandates that business owners look towards their trusted IT service provider for advice and counsel.