The benefits of employing cloud computing include increased ease of access to resources for all employees, cost savings by avoiding the purchase of expensive data storage hardware and the on-demand availability of resources when and where they're needed.
But your business can face considerable challenges when transitioning to cloud-based computing, particularly if you already have a local infrastructure you’ve been using for years. You must consider cost management, retention of the relevant IT expertise, cloud performance, choosing a reliable service provider, as well as factors such as control and compliance.
What Can Cloud Computing Do for Your Business?
Cloud capabilities tend to be organized into three general categories:
- Software services: the delivery and remote management of software owned or handled by the provider, providing a convenient way to access and pay for software.
- Infrastructure: the provision of computing resources, storage and networking capabilities.
- Platform Services: the application of platform, integration, business process management and database services.
Moving some or all of your infrastructure to the cloud can improve reliability and scalability while reducing costs.
Popular Cloud Computing Providers in 2020
You should take particular care in choosing a provider that offers services that meet the needs of your business. Today’s cloud computing choices are led by well-known technology companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, Google and Alibaba. There are also many other lesser-known players in the business -- and more are entering the market almost daily. We expect worldwide revenues for public cloud services from all sources to increase from about $206 billion currently to almost $300 billion by 2022.
By far, Amazon -- with more than 30 percent of the market -- is the largest, followed by Microsoft with around 15 percent, IBM with nearly 9 percent, Google with around 7 percent, Alibaba with roughly 5 percent and other providers splitting the remaining 34 percent.
With the use of cloud computing continuing to grow, expect these market shares to shift significantly and change dramatically in the future. As they do, consider other factors such as fresh innovations and enhancements in the delivery of services. We can guess, but probably not with tremendous accuracy, as to which provider is likely to develop these first and respond appropriately and correctly to changing market demand.
Top Challenges When Migrating to a Cloud Provider
Security is one of the biggest challenges when migrating to a cloud provider. The relevant data point: 83 percent of respondents to the 2020 Flexera State of the Cloud Report said that security is the top issue to be addressed in cloud computing. Recent news stories reporting data breaches, authentication violations, interface hacks and account hijacking have raised fresh concerns over reliance on the cloud.
That's why choosing a service provider with an excellent track record should be top-of-mind -- and any provider should be willing and able to provide you with audited procedures indicating compliance with the highest security standards.
Next on your list of risks: management of costs. In fact, more than 80 percent survey respondents identified cost as an issue.
Over the long-term, cloud computing is expected to save you money by allowing you to expand processing capabilities without having to spend enormous amounts on expensive new hardware. However, migration to cloud computing technology can be expensive depending on the amount of data you have to move, as elements such as bandwidth costs to make the move must be in your consideration set.
Then there are the various additional costs to be factored into any analysis of migration to cloud computing, such as training employees on the new cloud technology and revising data to ensure compatibility with the cloud platform.
Many companies find that adding cloud specialists to their IT department is an economic and efficient way to achieve the migration of data to cloud technology.
Depending upon your industry, obviously you must ensure compliance with regulations and laws. For example, healthcare businesses must adhere to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), public retail companies’ to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) and payment card companies with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).
In short, every business should make sure that the cloud provider under consideration can provide services compatible with compliance regulations pertinent to their industry. This is a critical question, so be sure you ask it.
Maintaining Acceptable Performance
When your business moves to the cloud, you are immediately dependent on the performance of the service provider you have chosen. This presents a prominent challenge when moving data to cloud computing and represents a significant expansion of the partnership between a business and the service provider.
This close partnership between your business and your cloud service provider is a must-have for you to get the best from your cloud service. But it can make your business vulnerable to performance issues. For instance, it is not uncommon for cloud providers to suffer from outages.
The ability to access data in real-time is imperative to many business operations and you should take it into account when you are selecting a cloud computing provider. You must make sure that the provider has real-time monitoring and processes in place to alert you if there is ever a service outage so that you can move quickly to minimize the damage.
Managing a More Complex Environment
Multi-cloud use has grown in recent times, as companies combine and shift between public and private clouds. The giant tech providers are leading the way in facilitating this growth. The 2020 Flexera State of the Cloud Report shows that 93 percent of organizations employ a multi-cloud strategy. Before committing to a provider, be sure to do your research regarding how well you will be able to use the service alongside other cloud systems -- and whether it provides the administrative features you need in a cloud provider.
Issues in Cloud Migration
Cloud computing is revolutionary and doubtlessly will continue to transform the IT business and the way almost all organizations handle data. The benefits are significant for all businesses, but especially for small- and medium-sized businesses that need to increase IT capabilities quickly but lack the available capital to invest in costly server equipment and maintenance.
Every company is different. That said, the biggest and most common issues when transferring a business to the cloud are ensuring the data is secure, keeping costs down, ensuring compliance with industry regulations, and avoiding downtime.
Despite the issues and challenges involved in the migration to cloud computing, properly addressing them can free your business from the on-premise handling of data and storage.
To make the best decisions related to cloud computing, start with a strategic plan that includes and actively involves your business and IT personnel. Implementing cloud computing is not a move to be made quickly or carelessly: The implications will have far-reaching effects on your organization's performance for many years.