How Managed Cloud Services helps Small and Medium Business
The Head of IT in any business large or small, is under continuous pressure. There is continual downward pressure on budgets, coupled with pressure from senior executives to embrace new technologies and increase the range of services offered to current and prospective customers. In short, do more with less.
One of the main pressures has been that of increasing customer interaction and expanding the organisation’s footprint in the digital world. The IT answer is to use Social Media and Internet web technologies. This provides an opportunity to do more, but at a relatively modest cost.
Two of the major tools in that transformation have been the emergence of Cloud Storage and Cloud Services.
Cloud Storage is usually provided and managed by a Cloud Services provider. It can exist over several physical servers, and often over several physical locations, but appears to the client as a single unified data storage location. The client rents or leases storage to hold archival data or live user, company or applications data. It can be a fixed amount of storage, or the costs can be based on the amount of storage used in a set period, for example, the average used over a month.
A Cloud Services provider is a third party, either co-located on a client’s premises or at a different physical location who provide the storage space and the associated management services. In some implementations, they become in effect the outsourced IT Services department, providing the day to day operational services and support to the company’s IT systems.
The benefit to the client is that it replaces capital and operational costs with a fixed and known rental or leasing cost. If hosted internally, the client would need to buy storage equipment and hire staff to manage it, taking backup copies for example. If outsourced to a Cloud Services organisation, these costs are known and fixed, and importantly, the responsibility for data management and protection is carried by the Cloud Services supplier.
If we consider Managed Cloud Services in more detail, there are considerable potential benefits associated with Cloud Storage. Here are some:
- Costs are transferred from capital to operational expenditure. The company will only pay a contracted amount or in some instances only for the storage it uses in a set period, for example over a month.
- Storage maintenance is offloaded to the Cloud Services provider.
- Malware detection and prevention is offloaded to the Cloud Services provider.
- The Cloud Services provider is responsible for Business Continuity planning.
- The Cloud Storage provider often provides access to other resources and applications using web services as part of the deal.
- If the company is green-aware, they will use less power because they have less onsite equipment.
On the other side of the balance sheet, using Cloud Storage and outsourcing services to a third party does have risks.
The biggest risk is that of unauthorised physical access to the data. The number of people with access increases dramatically, and the company has no control over the disposal of equipment. Magnetic tapes with UK Government confidential data have been found on landfills.
Other considerations are the technical ones of backup and recovery and backup communications links if the primary link between the company and the Cloud Storage fails. The final consideration is that of the Cloud Services supplier itself. It needs to be a stable business, looking like it will be around for some time and able to continue to provide the services the company needs.
All risks can be removed or reduced by careful selection of the Cloud Service provider and negotiation of the terms and conditions of the mutual contract.
On balance, most small and medium businesses agree that Cloud Storage and Cloud Service providers do help them to grow and prosper.