Have you considered moving your business’s data center to the cloud? The proportion of businesses operating an in-house data center declined over the last decade. Many—from small companies to multinational corporations—migrated their workloads to the cloud. Estimates suggest that about a third of businesses run more than 50% of their workloads in the cloud, and the majority run at least some workloads on cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), or their competitors.
Within this article, we will explore why businesses migrate their data center to the cloud and how it may be the right decision for your business’s long-term technology strategy.
Data Centers vs. The Cloud
Before cloud computing, there were several options for hosting technology infrastructure. A large company might invest in building, equipping, and staffing a data center. Smaller companies may instead use an on-site server room or server cupboard. Alternatively, businesses could buy server hardware and colocate it in a data center managed by a third party.
Over the years, many different data center hosting models developed. Still, they were similar in one way: the user paid for and managed physical infrastructure housed in a data center facility.
In contrast, “cloud” is a broad term for compute, storage, and software services that do not require users to manage or interact with physical hardware, which is managed by the vendor and resides in their data centers.
Cloud services are typically divided into three main categories:
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provides virtual servers, networks, and other infrastructure on which users can host their software.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS) provides higher-level services for hosting websites and applications. PaaS platforms simplify IT management by combining compute, storage, networking, and related software services into a single platform.
- Software as a Service (SaaS) provides software hosted on the operator’s infrastructure and accessed by the user over the internet.
Today, there are many additional “X as a Service” cloud modalities that reflect the diversity of products offered via the cloud model. For example, Database as a Service, Disaster Recovery as a Service, Desktop as a Service, and others.
Cloud Migration Benefits
We’ve discussed the differences between cloud and non-cloud infrastructure hosting, but why have so many businesses chosen to migrate their data center to a cloud platform? Let’s explore five benefits that make the cloud an attractive proposition.
Scalability and Elasticity
Scaling is among the most challenging aspects of managing a data center. Infrastructure requirements change over time, but they rarely grow smoothly and predictably, often fluctuating by season or time of day. Traffic spikes may demand resources many times the average, and your data center must cope. That means investing in servers and network infrastructure that will be idle for most of its life.
In contrast, cloud infrastructure scales with demand. A cloud platform’s virtual infrastructure is built on a large pool of computational resources—the physical infrastructure the platform vendor is responsible for. Cloud users can take advantage of as much or as little of that pool as they need. Instead of researching, buying, configuring, and maintaining physical servers in their data center, a cloud user simply deploys more virtual resources—a process that can be automated.
Elasticity is a consequence of the cloud’s ability to scale quickly. An elastic infrastructure deployment can grow or shrink in line with user demand. There’s no need to deploy idle infrastructure in anticipation of traffic spikes. Businesses can instead adjust cloud deployments to match current requirements.
Reduced IT Costs
We have already hinted at one way migrating to the cloud reduces IT costs. The cloud’s scalability allows businesses to adjust deployed resources to match demand. Unlike a physical data center, cloud platforms operate with on-demand pricing: users pay for the resources they consume after they are used. In contrast, data centers require significant upfront investments based on uncertain predictions about future resource requirements.
Other ways migrating to the cloud can reduce IT spending include:
- Lower staffing requirements for equipment maintenance.
- Reduced real estate spending compared to owned data centers.
- Reduction of capital expenses and the transfer of IT capital expenditure to operational budgets.
- Economies of scale through sharing physical hardware with multiple users.
Although cost savings are a benefit of cloud platforms, it should be pointed out that businesses may fail to save money in the cloud. If cloud environments are improperly managed and monitored, companies may pay far more than anticipated. This is particularly true for businesses that lack experience in managing cloud infrastructure.
Enhanced Business Agility
Extended lead teams are expected when deploying hardware in a self-managed or colocated data center. It’s not unusual for lead times to stretch to months when research, acquisition, shipping, deployment, and configuration are accounted for.
Cloud platforms, in contrast, allow businesses to deploy new infrastructure in minutes, as we’ve already mentioned. But building on that advantage is the ability to automate cloud deployment and configuration. The programmability of cloud platforms empowers businesses to build continuous integration and deployment pipelines that allow developers to iterate on code and push new features into production with minimal delay.
Reduced Infrastructure Management Burden
While every company needs IT infrastructure, it rarely makes sense for businesses to own and manage a data center. Managing data centers, servers, and networks is complex, expensive, and time-consuming. But it is not in itself a revenue-generating activity. Migrating to a cloud platform allows companies to focus on the applications and services that support their operations while leveraging a cloud vendors’ greater data center resources, expertise, and experience.
Improved Security and Compliance
Migrating to the cloud outsources some security issues to the cloud vendor. For example, when you deploy a virtual server on EC2—AWS’s IaaS service—you don’t have to worry about securing the underlying physical servers and networks. Amazon takes care of it. Additionally, all the major cloud platforms offer world-class security tools and services, such as firewalls, network monitoring and alerting, encryption, secret management, and more.
Cloud platforms can also help businesses comply with information security and privacy regulations. AWS, Microsoft Azure, GCP, and other cloud vendors implement compliance programs that support compliant infrastructure environments.
However, cloud vendors operate a shared responsibility model. The vendor has some security and compliance responsibilities, but so does the user. As we’ve previously written, many of the most common cloud security vulnerabilities result from user error and misconfiguration.
Continuing the EC2 example above, AWS protects the hardware a virtual server runs on, but it does nothing to stop a user from installing insecure software or running SSH with the root user’s password set to “pa55word.” Consequently, although EC2 can be HIPAA-compliant, that doesn’t prevent users from making mistakes that result in HIPAA breaches.
KirkpatrickPrice Helps Companies Stay Secure and Compliant in the Cloud
KirkpatrickPrice is a licensed CPA firm specializing in information and cloud security. Our cloud security audits and compliance audits help businesses verify and demonstrate their security and compliance. To learn more, contact a cloud security and compliance specialist or visit our cloud security resources.