Cloud vs On-Premise
There continues to be a lot of chatter about cloud vs. on-premise solutions. Typically, these debates (like all others) happen between parties whose companies are heavily leveraged in one arena or the other. Such debates and their results can (and usually do) influence a marketplace … not unlike the keen positioning of VHS over Betamax (which by all accounts was a far superior product) – leading to Betamax’s early extinction.
In the information age that defines our time, we simply have too much to go on for positioning to win out over smart technology and logic. In the end, we can expect the cloud vs. on-premise debate to be settled in the court of public opinion – one ultimately will be dictated by consumers, and more specifically performance and cost.
What the debate really comes down to is this: What makes the most sense? And in order to make such a determination, it is best to begin by carefully examining both options.
What IS the Cloud?
Admittedly, the notion of cloud computing can be confusing – even to those who occupy roles within the disparate realms of the technology industry. There are literally a dozen terms used interchangeably in the media – grid, peer-to-peer, distributed, on-demand, cluster, utility, virtualization, and software-as-a-service – just to name a few.
Simply put, the cloud refers to end-users connecting to applications that run on a set of shared servers rather than a dedicated server. In contrast to client-server computing from the last thirty years where each application was assigned to a specific piece of hardware residing in a data center, cloud computing enables end-users to connect to applications of their choice at any day, any time, and on any Internet-connected device.
The simple fact is the cloud is all around us. We use the cloud on a daily basis whether accessing bank accounts, checking Gmail, networking on LinkedIn, connecting on Facebook, or purchasing goods on Amazon. We are neither responsible for it as it is managed and maintained on our behalf, nor do most of us understand the power and freedom cloud computing brings to our personal and professional lives. So, when we say “cloud” you can think, “Shared resources” and you’ll be in the right ball park.
The Power of Cloud Computing
Gartner estimates the cloud computing market will be worth in the neighborhood of $200 billion by 2015. In fact, the cloud security market alone is already worth more than $3 billion (and should knock on the door of $9 billion by 2019). The reason for cloud computing’s increased growth and high adoption rates is due in large part to its architecture. These innovative models remove the need for an end-user to setup hardware and install software. This method of software delivery has and continues to transform how applications are conceived, created, and managed for companies of all sizes across countless industries.
Cloud computing emerged during the 1960s and evolved from on-premise and legacy software in order to meet better service levels. Rather than have IT staff focused on the minutiae of maintenance and issues, the cloud enables IT staff to work on strategic projects and leave keeping the lights on to someone else
In turn, the cloud offers lower costs, no hardware to manage, no software to manage, and keeps websites universally available anywhere in the world.
Looking back at the history of software delivery, it is the client-server computing of the last thirty years that is often referred to as on-premise because it is installed and run on computers ‘on the premises’, i.e. – in the building of the organization using the software. All networking, power, database, and application servers reside on location rather than at a remote facility.
This approach to software management was very popular in the early 2000s for the following reasons:
Control – Since data is physically located on a business’ premises, owning the hardware and supporting the software provides information technology teams with maximum control and data accessibility.
Reliability – Reliance on internal teams to ensure up time, data security / protection / restoration, customer service quality, new technology, and data center management practice.
Integration – Enabling IT teams to retain complete control over the hardware and software environment, including the ability to choose third-party applications that work best with its internal technology setup.
In previous years there were not many managed service providers or application vendors that could support reliability concerns and assist with integrations of external hardware and software systems critical to a company’s operations.
As we begin 2015, we can already see that a lot has changed. This is not to say on-premise software did not serve a purpose and, in some cases, still does in today’s business environment. However, since the emergence of cloud computing, on-premise software has often been referred to as legacy or “old-style” software. Don’t expect that to change or revert back – ever.
Impact on Content Management
Today’s digital marketer requires speed and ease when updating website content and IT requires reliability and scalability. With a cloud web content management system, marketers can enhance their websites and optimize campaigns without having IT spend time writing new software or installing a dedicated infrastructure to support their efforts.
A cloud web content management solution integrates with existing services and applications easily. By keeping the web host separate from the application, cloud content management systems create agility and innovation during challenging business environments when time to market and cost savings are top of mind for CIO’s and other executives.
A few of the compelling benefits of cloud web content management are:
- Fast Deployment – The release process for a new template involves QA only. A multi-week release cycle with integration testing across staging and production environments is no longer necessary.
- Simultaneous Development – Developers are able to make website changes and push them live without having to coordinate a centrally managed release process.
- Improved Economics – Instead of developing new code, configurations changes are made to existing technology thereby decreasing the cost involved in training and staffing a development team.
- Global Scalability – The distribution of content across multiple servers around the globe occurs instantaneously once published. No added step is necessary for synching content across zones in order to render content from any geographic location.
- Interoperability – Applications are able to communicate with one another seamlessly due to advanced web services protocols designed for standardization and compatible message
Any business owner will tell you that having extra available cash is certainly advantageous. While cloud hosting certainly isn’t free, it is growing ever-more cost effective when compared to the hard costs associated with an on-premise option – particularly with the unavoidable high-dollar out of pocket expense that comes with the initial purchase or lease of your system.
There is no denying that there will be a definitive cash layout for servers, racks, etc., whether you are leasing or buying in an on-premise solution. Moreover, there will be the additional expenditure to pay an onsite IT person or a consulting service to help should you run into problems.
Good cloud solutions are hosted in secure datacenters, many of which possess security beyond which you could ever hope to emulate on your own, including such precautions such as physical security, man traps, 24/7 server monitoring.
Really, how safe is your on-premise closet or mini-datacenter?
The full cloud infrastructure convert will benefit from quick response times from highly trained datacenter engineers, an extra hard drive backup in case something fails. One goes down, another goes up. Virtually no small to midsize on-premise business set-ups are so fully equipped.
When it’s all said and done, a business can expect to save up to 60 percent in IT costs (and in some cases, more) by moving the bulk of their data and infrastructure to the cloud. Ah, yes, the much dreaded “transition.” It is precisely what this decision really comes down to for so many.
The misnomer about the transition is that it there will be downtime; pose great security risks, and is incredibly expensive. And perhaps that was the case as cloud computing began to catch on. It is certainly true that first impressions are hard to shake.
In today’s market however, there are top data centers that are geared to transition and serve small businesses. They have the resources and manpower to make the transition quick, seamless, cost effective, and really quite painless for the small business owner who needs to be focused on their daily operations.
Depending upon the type of one’s business, the average transition from an on-premise solution to a cloud environment can take 24-48 hours with absolutely no downtime. What’s more, when the transition is complete, businesses will need far less from an onsite or on-call IT specialist, have all their critical data backed-up, nearly failsafe security, scalability during times when more storage is needed, and quite possibly a new closet to hang up their jackets and put in a candy machine.
Much of this on-premise vs. cloud environment debate, particularly once the fear associated with migration has been mitigated (which was hopefully accomplished above), is really about what is best for business in both the short and long term.
Invariably, every business decision is an effort to improve ROI through best practices. Of course, we realize that change can be scary and with it bring a whole host of new challenges. That being said, it can also diminish others or even completely remove from the table, all while enhancing the overall success of the business.
Purchasing on-premise equipment is akin to buying a car or any other depreciating asset. It loses some of its value immediately while a newer and better version is coming out in the next few months. Operating in the cloud is more like renting a luxury car with all the service included, for a minimal monthly fee – one that’s totally up/down-gradable to a van, bus, or a compact on days/seasons that you need more or less.
There is no question that the industry is moving in a direction that makes migrating to a cloud environment a likely eventuality for most every company, large and small. That being said, if you have just purchased on-premise equipment you may wish to stay put for now, opting instead for a slower, step-by-step migration.
If, however, you are considering new on-premise equipment now or in the near future, this might be the best time to make a move. Whatever the case may be, be sure your decision is based in reality. And to do so, keeping your head in the cloud isn’t such bad idea.