Cloudward, Ho - Summing up the Sky

Moving cloudward is no easy task, even for businesses ready to make the jump. The growing range of providers and services available, combined with the escalating hype surrounding cloud benefits means IT administrators and business leaders often take first, hesitant steps and are then unsure of how best to proceed. Here are a few of the most common pitfalls.

Virtual Versus the Cloud

Companies often get sold the line that virtualization and cloud computing are the same. They’re not. Virtualizing a server stack does provide increased agility but on-premise solutions especially require underlying infrastructure that isn’t easily changed or removed. The result? A move to the cloud from virtualization can be more costly than starting fresh with the cloud.

For enterprise-level industry, an on-premise, private virtual server stack often makes the most sense, especially if compliance or security concerns are paramount. Public clouds, meanwhile, offer steady, recurring OpEx costs instead of fluctuating CapEx, along with significant data agility and redundancy. But make no mistake: despite similarities in appearance, the cloud and virtualization are not interchangeable.

Select a Service

Once a business decides to jump up from local, a new set of choices appear. They’re broadly categorized as sets of services – infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (SaaS). Companies aren’t forced to choose only one solution but are often most comfortable with a single type, since it cuts down on IT working at cross purposes.

Broadly defined, IaaS is the “blank slate” option for cloud computing. It allows companies to control almost every aspect of a deployment, but without the need to physically manage servers. PaaS covers the middle ground, helping to speed application development but leaving basic server details in the hands of a provider. SaaS lets companies pick and choose which applications they want to run and eliminates the need for other maintenance tasks. Companies are well advised to define what they want from the cloud before wading into the as-a-service area; this helps prevent overload from the sheer number of choices available.

Provider Pitfalls

The cloud choice is clear; a service type gets selected. What’s left? Finding a provider to deliver reliable and flexible access. In an ideal technology market, this is an easy task but the cloud is at the tail end of what many experts call the “hype cycle” – a new technology that gets talked about, talked up and over-exaggerated to a point where its true value is almost lost.

This confusion leads to the rise of “fake” cloud providers who don’t actually offer elastic, reliable, pay-as-you-go services and instead deliver the same services they always have; tacking on “cloud” is just a way to attract customers.

Companies can do several things to protect themselves. First, a request for proposal (RFP) helps define a set of questions for providers, and gives an even playing field to compare offers. Second, businesses shouldn’t ignore telltale signs of provider problems. That the cloud is still an adolescent technology isn’t a reason for confusion about service terms or guarantees - this is a contract like any other.

While getting to the cloud isn’t always smooth, upward slope, the agility, elasticity and redundancy offered make it a worthwhile investment of effort.

Image courtesy of Kittisak at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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