On Premise / Hybrid / Cloud
It’s a confusing time at the moment for small and medium sized organizations, deciding which route to take for their IT and communications services.
The traditional solution of an ‘On Premise’ server is no longer the only option with the advent of more and more ‘cloud’ based applications, the increasing availability of internet bandwidth and the drive by major software providers to migrate onto their ‘cloud’ based products.
This white paper seeks to highlight some of the options available and will address the options of ‘On Premise’, ‘Hybrid’ or pure ‘Cloud’ based solutions, identifying what they are and some of the scenarios where each could be the best choice.
Jobs to be Done
It all starts with the key business functions you want your IT to achieve, namely:
- Shared files and documents
- Accounts / Stock management system (e.g: Sage)
- Line of business application
All these functions than need to be on a reliable and secure platform that is fast and fits in with an organisations business processes.
What we aim to address within this White Paper is the method of delivery of these key business systems, be it On Premise Servers, Cloud or a combination of the two (Hybrid). Which is the right approach really depends on the specific circumstances, however, there are scenarios where one or another would seem to be the best approach.
This is the more traditional approach and in times gone by, the only option. It involves a server or servers on a customer’s premises carrying out the key business functions (Email,file storage, permissions etc) .
Advances in technology such as ‘virtualisation’ have meant that this can be delivered a lot more effectively than in the past, with fewer physical servers, designed with a great deal more redundancy to insure against a failure of any sort. It does need specialist resource to manage, has less redundancy than a hosted or cloud options and can open you up to environmental threats such as power loss, theft, weather etc.. that tier 1 service providers in the ‘Cloud’ tend have plans to counter.
An on premise option can still be the right approach especially if you find yourself in some of the scenarios below:
- Majority of people using systems are at one main site
- Internet connections are slow, unreliable or expensive (depending on the location)
- Price – hardware and software on site can still be the most cost effective approach, especially if payments can be spread on an IT finance agreement
- Large documents, files and applications require sharing such as photo’s or video
- Reasonably static requirements. If there is no requirement to significantly increase or decrease the scale of the solution
- Greater than 5 users. Realistically the economies of scale required to justify an on premise server start at around 5 users.
- Legal or regulatory restrictions. Some industries have strict codes of practice determining how and where data can be stored and managed
- Where systems are very bespoke, needing to be very feature rich and specific to the organisation in question
A ‘Hybrid’ solution is what it suggests, namely, a mixture of both ‘on premise’ servers or devices and ‘cloud’ based services. This can potentially give you the best of both worlds by for example backing up core systems to the ‘Cloud’ or supplementing some services such as e-mail into the cloud while retaining other services such as file storage on premise.
By mixing and matching the best elements of both ‘On Premise’ and ‘Cloud’ we can cover many more scenarios, however, some of the hybrid solutions which have proved effective for our customers:
- Use of an on premise server for file storage and user permissions combined with e-mail in the ‘cloud’ on a ‘hosted’ e-mail system such as ‘Hosted Exchange’ or ‘Google Apps’. This brings the speed benefits of been able to access files and documents from the box in the corner, while having e-mails managed for you on a more resilient and secure platform.
- By moving your servers into a datacentre location and accessing through the internet or dedicated links you are effectively creating your own ‘private cloud’. This effectively means you can discount the environmental issues highlighted above and the over reliance on one site.
- By backing up the server data and configurations to a cloud based location, you can take advantage of the benefits of an on premise server while bringing in more business continuity options should there be a major problem or failure. Because the information is 2effectively safe in the cloud, it does mean that it can be restored to new hardware or to an alternative site if there
So ‘Cloud’, whats it all about! In laymans terms it is a throwback to the IBM mainframe days, when all the processing was carried out centrally and the end user had a dumb terminal. Now all the servers are located in datacentre’s and subscribe to and consume a service, very much like you do with gas, water and electric! The delivery network just happens to be the internet.
It makes sense, as business users are no really bothered how everything fits together, they just want to get a job done like e-mail or file storage and consume it as a service.
Tariff & Service
Whichever future path you choose be it ‘cloud’ or by more traditional means or a combination of both, the age old premise of ‘tariff & service’ applies.
The price you are paying and what level of service you are getting are all that really matter.
As Warren Buffet commented – “Price is what you pay, value is what you get”
Which direction is right depends on your individual business requirements and there will always be different way to achieve the end result. However, it all ultimately boils down to tariff and service.
What direction is right for you?
There are many many factors which can affect the solution we finally recommend. The only real way for us to come up with a valid plan is to get a better understanding of your organisation, your approach to IT and the reliance on the IT platform in general.