I came across a recent article on InformationWeek that highlighted how many SMBs are opting not to purchase and maintain their physical servers. In "Do You Really Need A Server?" Lamont Wood spoke with Cbeyond, a solution provider that caters to SMBs. Among other services, the company also operates a cloud service where customers can purchase a fixed amount of RAM and storage space-relevant operating system license included. According to Wood, the company's cloud services division will then handle all the nitty-gritty work that includes tasks like "installing, upgrading, patching, anti-virus software, and daily backups."
And before you dismiss the concept in its entirety, you might be interested to know that the public-listed Cbeyond has some 55,000 users today and generates annual revenue of about $400 million; the company clearly has experience anticipating and meeting the technical needs of SMBs.
Obviously, cloud deployment will probably benefit certain scenarios better than others, though the number of cloud-based services today can be confusing to a newcomer. Regardless of whether you are a smaller SMB looking to host all your servers in the cloud, or a mid-sized corporation seeking to off-load specific services, I've identified a number of points that you should consider before signing on the dotted line.
Beware of Lock-in
Businesses should ask themselves about the ease with which they can migrate to another provider, or even switch to an on-premise deployment. Of course, a degree of lock-in is probably unavoidable given the use of proprietary APIs as well as fundamentally differing service offerings today. Pegging a dollar value to a move, though, would allow SMBs to properly compute the true cost of a particular service.
Time to Recover
Unpalatable as it is, the fact is that all systems can fail. Rather than focus on marketing promises by the sales team, businesses should instead consider the recovery time that the cloud vendor is committing to, and examine their plans they have to that effect. SMBs can then proceed to draw up realistic RTO (Recover Time Objective) plans based on the maximum downtime of their cloud vendor. And yes, businesses might even need to consider emergency processes that entail temporarily bypassing the cloud should their RTO objective be shorter than what the vendor is capable of delivering.
Data Integrity and Security
Another important aspect that businesses need to consider closely is the security and integrity of their data that's stored in the clouds. Unlike a cloud-based storage service where uploaded data can first be encrypted, running servers in the clouds means that data has to be manipulated in unencrypted form. As such, businesses need to check that compliance regulations that pertain to their geography or industry vertical are adhered to. In the same token, SMBs should also seek to perform their own checks that data backups are in fact done and that files are not corrupted.