06 December 2023
Cloud has been a staple in the IT world for quite some time, but as with any established technology – has it seen better days?
Cloud computing has become an essential part of modern business operations and offers businesses a host of excellent benefits.
“First and foremost, it leads to cost savings by eliminating the need for expensive hardware and software infrastructure, enabling businesses to pay for services on a subscription basis, which proves cost-effective in the long run,” says Nick Poyner, managing director, Rubix VT.
Cloud computing also provides scalability, allowing businesses to easily adjust their operations to meet changing demands without the hassle of investing in new infrastructure.
The best aspect of cloud computing is its ability to be agile, says Stephen Pettitt, sales director, M247: “cloud computing allows enterprise organisations to scale when their requirements change. Traditional IT infrastructure involves significant maintenance costs. Cloud services instead provide the ability to deploy new applications and services in a cost-efficient way for enterprises, allowing them to focus their efforts on other important operational expenses.”
“Flexibility is crucial in today’s remote work environment and cloud computing enables employees to work from anywhere, at any time,” agrees Poyner. “It fosters improved collaboration among teams, regardless of their location, resulting in increased productivity and better outcomes. And it enhances security by leveraging the investments cloud providers make in security measures, ensuring businesses benefit from enterprise-level security without having to invest in expensive security infrastructure themselves.”
Working in the cloud opens endless possibilities for enterprises, the most notable being an increase in scalability, efficiency, agility and innovation, and a reduction in cost and risk, asserts James Moore, VP EMEA, DoiT. “Many businesses are tied to the capabilities of their on-premise data centres, but migrating to the public cloud can enable business growth at a rate that wasn’t previously possible. This, in turn, helps companies meet their goals by creating new value propositions and revenue models, opening up new market segments, and more easily developing and launching additional products or services,” he adds.
Indeed, many challenges which the cloud resolves for enterprises relate to the cost, deployment, and maintenance of new technologies. Cutting overheads, maintenance, deployment time, and reliance on internal IT teams, all help enterprise meet their goals earlier and more effectively.
“Because of the relative ease at which technologies can be implemented, it can be deployed at great scale across the business far quicker than by any other means,” adds Adam Lawrence, VP cloud solutions, SS&C Blue Prism.
Moreover, the cloud can even be utilised to reinforce enterprise businesses’ cybersecurity.
“According to the UK government’s Cyber Security Breaches survey, the last 12 months saw 69% of large businesses impacted by cyber breaches and attacks but with cloud-powered technology, their security and encryption is much stronger than any onsite IT infrastructure,” asserts Pettitt.
“Data stored in data centres and travelling across cloud networks is heavily encrypted, making it much harder for opportunists to target. For enterprises looking to bolster their cyber-defence capabilities, cloud computing plays a vital role.”
More than a ‘lift and shift’
Despite the overarching benefits, public cloud is not suitable for every application and every workload. Businesses should host whichever applications they can in the cloud to reap the benefits, while keeping low-latency workloads on-premise.
“These caveats are why it’s so important that businesses set out the strategic objectives of their cloud journey before they begin,” says Moore. “Instead of a simple lift and shift, it’s an opportunity to move and improve; but to achieve this many careful considerations must be made and it’s advisable to call on the support of expert cloud specialists during this process.”
“Working in the cloud opens endless possibilities for enterprises, the most notable being an increase in scalability, efficiency, agility and innovation, and a reduction in cost and risk”
Moreover, cloud is not without its vulnerabilities: “one of the primary concerns is the vulnerability to server downtime, which can result in significant losses in productivity and revenue,” says Poyner.
“Technical issues can have knock-on impacts for businesses that rely on the cloud to access important information and applications,” adds Lawrence. “The cloud also depends on good connectivity which can present another issue when needing to access documents, systems, files, or anything else hosted on the cloud. If a business doesn’t have a resilient network, it can put a halt to any work relating to the cloud infrastructure.”
Gaca agrees that as well as slow data transfers because of bandwidth limitations impacting negatively on the performance of cloud-based applications, moving large volumes of data in and out of the cloud can incur significant data transfer costs, which can be a concern for data-intensive applications.
“Unforeseen costs, such as data transfer fees and additional storage expenses, can catch businesses off guard, despite the long-term cost effectiveness of cloud computing,” agrees Poyner.
Vendor lock-in, too, is another pressing concern as enterprises may find themselves bound to a particular vendor’s platform, making a transition to a different provider a complex process.
“Switching from one cloud provider to another can be complex and costly, as different providers may use proprietary technologies and formats, making it challenging to migrate applications and data,” says Gaca. Additionally, “ensuring that data and applications can be easily moved between cloud providers or brought back on-premises can be a significant challenge.”
Kirkwood, meanwhile, believes that the main shortcoming is the question of security. With on-premises apps there are clear-cut boundaries between admins and users, making it easy to ensure that regular users can’t access sensitive systems and data. For instance, an employee using Outlook could send and receive emails but never perform tasks like changing POP or SMTP settings or adding or deleting users.
“Cloud changes this game in this respect: anyone with cloud access may be provisioned with entitlements to tap into - across the three major CSPs - 1,400 native services. These include ML engines and a range of SaaS services. Anyone that has the right to purchase and use these native services should be considered an admin,” warns Kirkwood. “Our own 2023 identity security research shows that 77% of security professionals say developers have too many privileges, making them high-value targets for attackers. The traditional notion of a small number of admin roles with static privileges does not apply in a dynamic cloud environment, so identity security needs to change with it.”
Cloud – the be all and end all?
As cloud becomes the default option across the developed world, some are beginning to ask – is there a viable alternative that meets business needs and budgets?
“As well as looking at both the workforce and business capabilities of cloud alternatives, it’s essential to consider which can fulfil your availability, disaster recovery and business continuity requirements,” says Lawrence.
Other options for businesses include on-premises/data centres, hybrid cloud, private cloud, mesh computing, edge computing, containerisation, and serverless computing.
Moreover, fog computing should be on the radar looking for a viable alternative to cloud, reports Poyner. “This decentralised infrastructure performs a portion of computing somewhere between the data source and the origin server (or the cloud). It reduces bandwidth needs by sending less data to the cloud and performing short-term analytics at specific network access points.”
However, the near-unlimited scale, massive agility, and ease of doing business with the big cloud service providers is ‘addictive to enterprises.’
“Software development teams will revolt at the idea of having to ‘request’ a database or a server from another internal team,” says Kirkwood. “Add in delays, vendor limitations and capacity planning, and you suddenly are having to staff much larger teams to help build and run the platforms. There isn’t a viable alternative to everything cloud represents these days. It is possible, of course, to build entirely on-premises services at a lower price point. But can you spin up a data centre in a region you have no presence in, in a matter of minutes? No. Data centres take years to build, staff months to train and hardware weeks to arrive.”
Is cloud old news?
“The cloud is now ‘home’ for many businesses, especially given the remote working boom, and it is here to stay,” asserts Moore.
As digital transformation continues to be a priority for businesses, forecasts suggest that European spending on public cloud services will total $142 billion this year and $291 billion by 2027, while globally, public cloud end-user spending looks set to reach nearly $600 billion this year, as per Gartner.
“In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2026, 75% of organisations will utilise a cloud-driven digital transformation model! And as economies around the world fluctuate and business’ budgets remain under enhanced scrutiny, the affordability of the cloud and its flexible nature to scale with demand makes it a vital tool for enterprise businesses to maintain their place in the marketplace,” says Pettitt.
“That’s not a drop in the ocean, but a force to be reckoned with that promises staying power,” adds Poyner.
Indeed, the scalability of cloud and the accessibility it brings to new technologies means it should be expected to be around for a long time according to our experts - and it won’t always remain in its current form.
“As technology continues to advance, the cloud will evolve to meet the changing needs of businesses, making it a fundamental component of modern IT strategies. However, the specific use cases, providers, and technologies within the cloud ecosystem may evolve over time,” adds Gaca.
“Far from the cloud becoming ‘old news,’ we’re going to see the technology expand in new directions over years to come, and in turn, unlock new capabilities for businesses,” agrees Moore.