Cloud isn’t always the answer

This is not a King Canute style attempt to defy the transition to Cloud being undertaken by so many organisations, but a consideration of the recent trend that has seen some big players repatriating their data from the Cloud.

In fairness, the argument is perhaps more nuanced, with much of the information being moved from public Cloud services like AWS and restored to private data centres, not necessarily a server in the office.

Typically, the move has resulted in savings, some of them huge; Dropbox recently reporting a saving of almost £32M in annual infrastructure costs. It’s not just data returning either, with organisations returning critical workloads including business intelligence, ERP and CRM applications, along with SQL and SharePoint databases – some cite cutting operational costs in half as a reason to move.

Transparency is one of the problems

Whether migrating workloads into the cloud or bringing them back, calculating the actual cost is tricky and most cloud service providers are criticized for pricing that is far from transparent. For the average business, it is hard to understand the total cost of ownership.

The costs associated with the type of server, the number of virtual machines and CPU cores, the amount of RAM, the operating system and database engine choices, to say nothing of the chosen storage type, migration expenses, testing and consultancy fees, all have to be considered – see I said it was tricky.

Our clients exhibit the full spectrum of solutions; Public Cloud, Private Cloud, a hybrid mix of the two and on-premise data centre’s all feature on our managed service list.
And to be fair, to compare costs accurately requires a full understanding of owning and maintaining on-premises infrastructure, which includes hardware and app costs, but also the cost of keeping the lights blinking; electricity, connectivity, IT technicians, etc.

It’s also easy for IT teams to get a bit carried away by all the clamour for Cloud, which means they spend more than they budgeted for when storing data in public clouds. And the costs can be exacerbated by the expense and complexity of moving on-premise legacy applications into public clouds with no re-engineering.
It’s not just about the money

Cost is not the only reason organisations are looking to repatriate Public Cloud data, with many citing performance and availability issues, regulatory compliance or data sovereignty requirements. In each case, the numbers highlighting these reasons for the change were about the same as those claiming cost was the major consideration.

Interestingly, global technology experts IDC reports security concerns another major factor in the trend of repatriation, with many organisations they surveyed turning back to on-premise private cloud, hosted private cloud, or on-premise non-cloud infrastructures – presumably to regain a higher degree of control.

Given our work with clients in heavily regulated sectors, like finance, legal and pharmaceutical, we understand the apprehension expressed by some about storing and hosting huge amounts of sensitive information off-premises, with an apparent loss of control.

Public Cloud hosting is very secure. These are global giants able to afford the best physical and digital security, supported by the best and brightest brains in the industry, who typically think like the criminals they are trying to stop.

Ignoring the weak link for most organisations is their people, the network responsible for the transmission of data between a device and Public Cloud traverses multiple switch and router hops when it can be vulnerable to hacking, diversion or interception.

What’s right not what’s easiest

This current (and likely to grow if the anecdotal evidence is to be believed) trend, highlight what we as a business have always argued; the solution must be right for the client and not what is easiest to implement for the managed service provider.

Most organisations will benefit from a solution that combines Public and Private Clouds and even on-premise infrastructure to reflect the needs of specific workloads and applications, with consideration given to performance, cost and security – flexibility is key.

Whilst it is likely increased efficiency within Public Cloud will help to reduce cost and help it continue to grow, it’s important to get the outcome right for the client. And then work with them to constantly monitor performance and understand what’s right today, may need to change to be right tomorrow.

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