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Advancing Businesses: How Cloud Can Help Firms Tackle Data Explosion

Data Explosion

By George Chacko, Principal Systems Engineering and Lead Technical Consultant, Brocade India

Businesses run differently today with the emergence of Technology; from employees expecting to be able to access personal or business data from any location or device, to the arrival of new business models like managed services or sharing economies.

Cloud computing has played an integral part in this change, offering a huge potential for small firms to enter new markets and survive in the new digital economy. It allows organizations to rapidly scale their computer resources, manage and process a myriad of data, and help control their IT spending. According to a Microsoft study, cloud adoption in Asia Pacific is expected to rise by 46.9 percent over the next three years.

That said, with data growing at 40 percent a year into the next decade and IT spending only rising by 6 percent in Asia Pacific in 2015, there is an increasing imperative to invest. While increasing numbers of small organizations are considering making the transition towards virtualization and cloud, but many are grappling with the challenge of understanding what type of cloud solution makes the most sense for their organization, as one size does not fit all.

Understanding the options
If an organization has decided to move company processes, applications and data into the cloud, it first has to decide which infrastructure to use and how the apps and data will be hosted and distributed. Businesses that want to use cloud computing have a choice of using a private or public cloud, or a mixture of the two in the form of a “hybrid” cloud.

The difference between private and public cloud lies in who maintains control and responsibility for the datacenter and is ultimately responsible for ensuring application service levels are met. In public cloud computing, some or all aspects of operations and management are handled by a third party service provider. Public clouds offer a number of advantages; such as low costs and scalability. They can be extremely useful for companies needing to deal with large amounts of data or for those that do not have the resources to manage their own infrastructure. However, concerns have been raised about how secure these public clouds are, and where the data they hold is physically stored; something that can be a major issue from a regulatory perspective. As a result, public clouds are often thought of as being suitable primarily for non-sensitive data or applications.

On the other hand, private cloud offers a very different set of benefits. The private cloud model is based on the data centers being owned and maintained by the organization using them. What that means is businesses have the ability to create a virtualized IT infrastructure that prepares them for the future, is built on an organization’s own terms, and still maintains the flexibility and scalability of cloud-based applications. Unlike the public cloud, private cloud computing does require an organization’s own IT team and sufficient resource, which can sometimes prove impractical for small companies.

Private and public clouds bring their own unique advantages and disadvantages, and many companies may require elements of both. As a result, a third option has become increasingly popular as it combines the best of both models; hybrid clouds.

Hybrid clouds fuse the qualities of both public and private clouds, allowing companies to take advantage of both cloud models in a way that works best for their businesses, now and in the future.

What to consider: business goals vs. resource
As small firms mature, the right cloud solution can help ensure that number only decreases. Finding the right balance between the business’s long- and short-term goals and resources available can be a challenge. Here are some of the key considerations businesses need to think about before investing for the first time or boosting their current offering:

Resources and skills: One of the most crucial questions is: does the business have the resources to effectively implement a hybrid cloud approach? Hybrid clouds require not only time and financial resources, but also an in-house technical expert with knowledge of the cloud infrastructure – both public and private elements – if it is to be effectively managed.

Reliability: Data is the lifeblood of any business, so ensuring that IP is safe is imperative. Companies therefore need to consider how to deploy a reliable cloud structure so that mission-critical applications and data are always available.

Shift in IT mindset: If an organization has a designated IT team, it is important that it believes in a service-oriented approach, rather than the traditional infrastructure-oriented thinking. This will ensure any technology implemented now will ultimately prepare the business for the future.

Security: At a basic level, security measures need to balance the probability of a threat occurring, the impact of a security breach, and the cost of implementing counter-measures. To avoid putting a company’s data at risk while keeping costs low, it should find a middle ground and establish what data needs to be placed in private clouds versus public clouds.

With all of that in mind, small businesses should not clamour to completely overhaul their existing infrastructures and jump into the cloud with both feet. Cloud is the ultimate way ahead, and it is not so much about how fast or how slow one gets on to it, it’s more about starting right. The cloud journey can be tricky, as it will have a lot to explore, discover and learn on the way. Yet the path will be smooth if organizations prepare for the way ahead, be realistic about expectations, consider their unique business needs, and make the move accordingly. A well thought through strategy takes time and understanding of where the business is now and where it would like to be in five to 10 years. This should play a significant role in guiding cloud investment levels. The data explosion is not going away, but cloud offers firms a unique opportunity to level the playing field against businesses of all sizes and deliver a real competitive advantage.

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