Should you move your company's IT operations to the public cloud? If you're considering making the move, you need to understand the basic issues, the costs, and the benefits of migrating to the cloud. A good place to start is by looking at the cost savings and associated benefits of moving a typical in-house IT operation to the cloud:

Minimal upfront costs

What kind of upfront investment does it take to move to the cloud? Very little, as it turns out. The main expenses involved in moving your current IT operations to the cloud are one-time costs for essential elements of the move, such as data migration, application rehosting, and any necessary changes to data formats and application code. Optional costs can range from basic user training to extensive redesign/refactoring of existing software in order to take advantage of native-cloud features.

These costs, however, are generally much closer in scale to those associated with software upgrades (which is what they are, for the most part) than they are to the cost of purchasing new server hardware (or even upgrading existing servers). The move itself can be incremental, and it can follow a schedule based on your priorities. You are in effect eliminating a major set of hardware expenses and replacing them with a much easier and affordable software upgrade path.

Lower hardware-associated costs

Computer hardware has an unfortunate tendency to lose value rather rapidly; servers are in reality an investment only in the sense that they are necessary for business if your IT operations are on-premise. In all other respects, they are better regarded as large and costly disposable office supplies.

The expense involved in maintaining physical servers goes beyond their original cost, of course. Individual components and peripherals can break down. When they do, the cost includes the time spent tracing down the problem and fixing it, as well as the business lost as a result of the outage and the cost of the replacement parts.

Even fully functional components need to be replaced sooner or later (and generally sooner), as higher performance and capacity standards make existing equipment obsolete. If you find that you can continue to use much of your current hardware without falling too far behind in terms of performance, you will probably need to add new components to handle increased capacity requirements (i.e., storage).

And on-premise servers increase your electricity bill -- not just for the servers, storage, and peripherals, but also for the server room itself, including air-conditioning and dust and humidity control. Even a small server room can draw several kilowatts per hour around the clock for environmental control alone.

Moving to the cloud eliminates or radically reduces most of these hardware-related costs, along with the hardware itself. Your remaining on-premise hardware is likely to consist largely of desktop/laptop PCs and mobile devices, plus a handful of peripherals and routers, with only minor repair/replacement costs, minimal risk of system downtime, and much lower power consumption. And you get to repurpose your server room.

Downsized / more efficient IT staff

In-house servers require attention. They need to be monitored, they need to be maintained, and they need trained technical staff on-premise to keep things running smoothly. Even something as relatively simple as an automatic software update, a server reboot, or a transient power drop requires babysitting -- and the babysitter's time can be quite expensive.

And most of the IT staff's time is likely to be spent simply maintaining the status quo, rather than expanding the scope or capabilities of the system. It's like hiring professional marathon runners, and then paying them to help you stay in the same place -- it may have worked for the Red Queen, but these days, you need to be able to do much more than that.

When you move to the cloud, the cloud service provider's IT staff maintains the server hardware and the infrastructure software. Your in-house IT staff can concentrate on such things as security, performance, and optimizing application and system configuration -- and they will still have time to focus on moving your IT operations forward by adding features and capabilities as well as expanding capacity and reach.

And you will typically be able to do this with a smaller, leaner, and more agile IT staff; you will be paying less not just to stay in place, but to get ahead, which should, after all, be your company's top priority.

Multicloud means reliability

Downtime is money lost, but it's more than the price of reduced productivity, or the immediate loss of sales, or the cost of getting the system up and running again -- it's also the difficult-to-calculate but very real cost of lost opportunities, lost visibility, and reduced confidence in the availability and reliability of your company's products and services. And the honest (if unflattering) truth is that if potential customers can't access your website or contact you, they're all too likely to look for a competitor who is available, and to establish ongoing business relationships with them instead of you.

With on-premise servers, maintaining uptime requires a significant investment in additional hardware for failover and backup, as well as for power protection. It also requires extra time and effort on the part of your IT staff to maintain the reliability of these emergency support systems. And even then, you could still be faced with significant downtime due to such things as prolonged power failures, telecommunications and data service outages, and even DDoS attacks and malicious intrusions that disable your servers.

"How does the cloud protect us against downtime?" you may be thinking at this point. "After all, cloud service providers can still have outages."

And that is entirely true, although the scale, advanced backup and failover features, and highly distributed nature of most cloud services provide major protection against downtime under all but the most extreme circumstances (such as regional power outages, very large-scale DDoS attacks, or other infrastructure-wide failures).

But by its nature, the cloud doesn't confine you to a single, geographically-constrained piece of infrastructure. You can mount your operations in multiple clouds, managed by either a single provider or multiple providers. With multicloud deployment, if a regional cloud or even an entire cloud service provider goes down, you can (often seamlessly) re-route traffic to a working version of your operations located in another cloud.

The use of multiple clouds can be strictly for backup purposes, but far more often, it also serves to provide rapid, localized regional access, often on a global scale. As is the case with so many other features of the cloud, multicloud deployment by its nature provides significant benefits on multiple levels.

Making the move

The answer, we think, is clear: the advantages of moving to the cloud far outweigh the generally minimal cost and effort required to make the move, and once you're up and running in the cloud, you'll have a hard time imagining how you ever got by with on-premise servers.

What do you need to do to make the move? In upcoming posts, we'll talk about the best (and most down-to-earth sensible) practices for moving your IT operations to the cloud. Stay tuned!

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