When To Say No To The Cloud

Cloud adoption rates are increasing as more organizations turn to a truly distributed infrastructure model and use more WAN-based tools. As underlying hardware components become better and more bandwidth becomes available, cloud computing has become a legitimate consideration for a wide array of industry verticals. Everyone should be either adopting it or at least considering it, right? Not so fast.

In numerous conversations with different customers using various technologies, I hear a lot of discussion about cloud computing. However, these conversations are changing. Managers are no longer ask what the cloud is; now, they want to know whether they really need it.

The reality is simple: Some businesses just don’t.

The term "cloud" really just means data distribution over the WAN. This can be a private, public, or hybrid model. Because of the massive presence of the Internet, most organizations are already using the cloud without even knowing it. They’re utilizing cloud computing components within their means and needs.

On the other hand, some organizations keep a completely localized environment and only use WAN-based technologies to share files, store backups, or host sites on the Internet. Really, all of these technologies were available before the cloud became popular. Because of this, administrators are asking, “Why do I need more when I already have so much?” Depending on their business needs, they may be quite right.

Too many organizations get caught up in the hype of the cloud conversation without really doing a true cost/benefit analysis. This can involve several business stakeholders, interviews with internal and external resources, and a clear vision for where the organization is going. Instead of jumping on the cloud bandwagon, organizations should take the time and understand cloud pros and cons and how those fit with their business strategies.

There are distinct advantages to moving to a cloud model, including improved disaster recovery, backup and storage, testing and development, easier management, and enabling data center consolidation.

At the same time, it's important to remember that cloud computing also has these drawbacks

  • Certain knowledge levels are required. Remember, the cloud isn’t just one platform -- it’s a lot of different technologies all working together to bring you data. Your organization will need to have virtualization, application, security, and cloud experts on hand to guide the whole process along.
  • Management and monitoring can be a challenge. Improper resource allocation can make cloud computing a serious cost center for any organization.
  • Security and data control, in some cases, may still be an issue for you. If you’re bound by some type of compliance requirements, putting data into the cloud can violate some rules. Also, the cloud can sometimes be a dangerous place. A recent Amazon Web Services console breach is evidence of just one instance where a DDOS attack impacted a major cloud provider.
  • Reliability isn't a given. There have been major outages, which have forced some businesses to rethink the cloud model. For example, outages at AWS have caused companies like Netflix to go down for extended periods of time.

In some cases, a cloud model is just not the right fit. Whether it’s cost prohibitive or it just doesn’t provide any additional benefits,  cloud computing may not be the right choice for the time being.

However, I’m not saying to be complacent. Complacency in IT can ruin an organization or a career. Take the time to fully understand the cloud model and how it may -- or may not -- fit your business.

As with any technology, there will be benefits and challenges. In some cases, moving to the cloud may just not be conducive to the goals of the organization. It’s quite possible that a company has no intention of expanding or moving its infrastructure to the Internet. Or there may not be a need to offload workloads into the cloud. Also, there may be other good technologies to help deliver data and content to the end-user.

The bottom line is: The cloud model is powerful, and many organizations are adopting some part of it. But with any tool, piece of software, or technological advancement, there needs to be a fit.