The “Cloud” is a very open-ended term used by marketing to encourage IT Decision makers that all servers and infrastructure should be hosted by them. But what does it really mean to be “in the cloud”?
Server hosting with a provider such as Microsoft, Amazon, or Rackspace does provide a higher level of availability and redundancy to a system. If there is a hardware failure, all client’s servers will fail over to other available hardware, providing more resources than you would otherwise be able to afford. In order to accommodate the spare resources, you may be paying more over time in a monthly lease agreement than purchasing equipment outright.
Keep in mind access to the server will then be limited based on the Internet connection. While the paid Internet connection at the server may be sufficient, the Internet connection at your office may limit large file uploads. This sometimes hampers using the Cloud for things such as File Shares or even printing.
There are also some services which may never be able to move to the cloud. Your base server, the Domain Controller, which controls all of the user and computer accounts and logons and also allows you to automatically communicate with the network and Internet, is typically an in-house server and there could be multiples of these servers depending on how many offices your company has or different sites, such as the Cloud or a Datacenter.
Compliance may also be an issue; some companies will used “Shared Storage”, meaning that all data for clients is pooled and shared. This setup is not compliant with HIPPA, GBLA or SOX. When determining a vendor, you should check to make sure that the solution is compliant with any regulations for your business.
In the end, the current accepted solution is a Hybrid of on premise, Datacenter, and Cloud. Your on premise server will contain files and services which need to be quickly accessed at each site. The Datacenter servers may be services that require constant Internet connection and power but are controlled by you. These could be anything from Exchange to your accounting software. Cloud solutions will be integrated in the form of services that your business relies upon such as your website or highly-available Line of Business applications.
Author: Jason Lumbert