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The Explosive Growth of the Cloud

Cloud GrowthThe IT landscape is shifting, and cloud services aren’t just center stage – they’re overwhelming the stage.

The Worldwide Semiannual Public Cloud Services Spending Guide, a publication of market intelligence firm IDC, analyzed Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS) spending numbers across various global markets and a range of industries. The findings are clear: with a 2017 spending increase of 24.4% over 2016, cresting $120 million worldwide, cloud growth outstrips all other IT growth by a factor of seven. And the rate of growth is forecasted to remain high — above 20% per year through 2020.

SaaS Domination

Cloud computing is still dominated by SaaS applications, though there’s no guarantee that SaaS will remain the flagship offering of the cloud. SaaS represents about two-thirds of current cloud spending, but its growth is slower than IaaS and PaaS trajectories: through 2020, PaaS is expected to grow at a rate of 30.1% each year, while IaaS outstrips it at 32.2% annually.

Adoption by Industry

Not all industries are seeing equal cloud adoption. Manufacturing, professional services, and finance are forecasted to spend the most on cloud services, accounting for around a third of all cloud spending. The professional services industry also leads the pack in cloud growth, with a spending rate growing by almost 24% per year.

Cloud Spending

Despite the potential expense of moving large organizations (and entrenched infrastructure) to the cloud, companies with over 1,000 employees aren’t shy about migration: they account for over half of all cloud spending, and their spending rate is increasing faster than companies with fewer employees.

Global Cloud

Generating almost two-thirds of all global cloud revenue, the United States is the largest current public cloud market – though the Asia/Pacific region (Japan not included) and Latin America are each growing at faster rates: Asia/Pacific at 28%, and Latin America at 26.6% annually. In fact, globally, the US has one of the slowest cloud growth markets, increasing at a rate just shy of 20% per year.

As the market matures, it’s likely that previously untapped markets will come to regard the cloud as an essential piece of infrastructure. In particular, European markets have been more resistant to cloud adoption than those in the US, but they show healthy growth which is forecasted to continue through the end of the decade.

Domestically and worldwide, for large companies and small, the cloud is growing – and it’s not predicted to stop any time soon.

Making the Right Choices in the Cloud

shutterstock_328634297While it may be true that cloud services are not the perfect solution for all business computing needs, almost every business has at least some applications for which cloud is, indeed, the best solution. Premises-based solutions will continue to become less prevalent as time goes on. The focus of cloud services on scalability, efficiency, and flexibility is the primary driver of the move away from premises-based computing.

The biggest problem with traditional solutions is that in order to maintain capacity for peak loads, it’s necessary to maintain a great deal more computing resources than are needed the rest of the time. Overspending becomes a necessity. There is also the onerous process required to upgrade server capacity or other infrastructure.

Cloud solves these problems admirably by placing the onus for hardware purchasing and maintenance on someone else’s shoulders. There are three ways in which cloud services can be deployed, each serving a slightly different set of needs.

SaaS

Software as a Service (SaaS) involves the hosting of individual business applications in the cloud, to be accessed remotely by end users. The business has no control over the environment in which the application ‘lives’ under this model.

PaaS

Platform as a Service (PaaS) provides all the infrastructure, management, development, and deployment tools a business needs to create and maintain their own software applications.

IaaS

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) consists of hardware and other components (networking, storage, servers, and software) and gives businesses more control over the system than SaaS.

One of the most difficult aspects of moving to the cloud is not deciding what type of service a business needs, but rather what parts of the business can best utilize the cloud in the first place.

What Not to Move

Business critical applications should certainly not be among the first to transition to a new environment. Nor should any applications where performance is touchy, or that require intensive number crunching. Any system with a high level of complexity and tight integration with multiple apps should also probably wait until the organization has more cloud experience.

What Should be Moved

Non-critical systems are a good first step, including departmental applications where a smaller number of people will be affected by growing pains. Email servers and other well-established and easy to maintain apps are also likely candidates.

Other Considerations

Before making the jump into the cloud, it’s important to consider a few other details:

  • What are the company’s requirements for a service level agreement (SLA)?
  • Is a service provider able to provide the required level of security with the type of cloud model that fits the business’s other needs?
  • Do any of the apps that will be hosted in the cloud have special requirements?

The cloud isn’t more difficult to understand than on-site resources; it’s the same, only different. The differences can, however, complicate individual situations and turn wrong decisions into costly mistakes. Contact us for help simplifying the complicated.

 

Cut Through the Confusion to Understand the Benefits of the Cloud

shutterstock_127598501One of the most powerful benefits of cloud computing is that it creates a virtual work environment that can accommodate an increasingly distributed workforce.

More and more employees work in the field or from remote locations, which creates challenges when team members must work together. The cloud facilitates collaboration among employees in different locations by allowing them to access common data and applications wherever they are.

Businesses of all sizes are embracing the cloud to capitalize on this and other benefits, including the ability to access files on different devices. But many companies, especially small businesses, remain confused about what cloud computing is and if it’s the right choice for their company.

Cloud Benefits

Any major shift in IT operations deserves careful consideration and evaluation of its pros and cons. Following are three major benefits to consider when contemplating a move to the cloud.

Scalability. A business considering an investment in IT assets should assess which assets are currently needed, as well as how much capacity is necessary to meet existing demands. Further, planning for long-term needs is equally important.

Determining current needs is not too difficult, but understanding future requirements is a different story. The downside to guessing incorrectly is overspending for capacity that is never needed, or underspending and having to buy additional equipment later when the budget might be unavailable.

The cloud offers a tidy solution for companies that prefer not to roll the dice on predicting future requirements. When buying into a cloud service, companies can purchase the capacity and services they know they need now and then scale up or down later to meet future needs. The cloud also allows companies to adjust to operational peaks and valleys by allowing them to purchase capacity on an as-needed basis.

Simplified Project Management. In today’s electronic world, documents and files move easily among people and devices. Yet files and applications are still largely decentralized. Cloud services allow companies to centralize their data and applications, which allows for increased collaboration among employees and easier project management.

Document and correspondence history are stored and automatically updated, tasks can be created and tracked, and calendars can be generated to keep project members up to date. These tools can eliminate less efficient manual project management tools that require multiple platforms, such as spreadsheets and even handwritten notes.

The Bottom Line. Saving money usually tops the list of goals for any company looking to make an IT system change, and cloud computing offers several opportunities to realize cost efficiencies.

  • Eliminating capital expenditures on expensive physical equipment and software is a huge cost savings from day one.
  • Cloud services can eliminate some costs associated with employing in-house staff to maintain equipment.
  • Cloud computing services often provide a predictable and manageable pay-as-you-go billing model that is easier to fit into a budget than a large purchase of in-house equipment.

While many companies have already made the jump to cloud computing, some companies are waiting on the sidelines, trying to sort out fact from fiction. In reality, the cloud provides several potential benefits worth considering.

There are a number of cloud models to evaluate when making a cloud decision. Understanding the company’s current requirements and future goals will help determine the best path toward unlocking the potential of the cloud for any business.

Finding the Silver Lining in the Cloud

shutterstock_92683114With cloud services continuing to blanket the market, analysis paralysis has truly set in for countless clients and agencies. Cloud computing and storage is the next big thing, and the overabundance of services has resulted in a quagmire of uncertainty and endless options. No truer is this than when it comes to finding the right vendors to meet a company’s needs. The only way for a business to tackle this challenge is to focus on one clear and simple cloud goal.

 

The Cloud Dilemma

Cloud-based services are now visible in several industries and applications. From digital cable to telecommunications, it is next to impossible to keep up with all of the changes and developments. From Cisco and Microsoft to NEC and Shoretel, there are now over 40 different ways to utilize and implement cloud services on-site or from remote locations. As such, it can be overwhelming for a business to effectively analyze and assess which services meet its goals. Additional complications include:

  • new cloud products, services, and changes happening at a moment’s notice,
  • cloud services evolving based on existing industry trends and changes,
  • shifts within the landscape that are affecting how cloud experts offer services to clients, and
  • clients possessing little to no knowledge of cloud benefits.

With seismic shifts happening in the cloud industry at rapid rates, only organizations that know precisely what they need are benefiting.

Cloud Cover

Sifting through the many cloud options available today can be an obstacle that limits productivity and performance. While it’s great for clients to carefully weigh their options and choices, selecting the right vendor has become a time-consuming and tedious process. In order to secure the best possible outcome, there are many factors to consider:

  • Company executives and staff must be on the same page to meet cloud initiatives and directives.
  • Effective and strategic planning is needed to find the right and most affordable cloud solutions for enterprises.
  • Businesses must take into account all potential opportunities, risks, expenses, and management challenges.

Only with these options and facets in mind can a sound and lasting decision be made about which cloud provider or service to attain.

Gray Clouds

Unfortunately, this level of strategic planning rarely takes place anymore. Many businesses simply do not have the time, and even having a solid management plan does not guarantee finding the right cloud solution. It can take several attempts along with trial and error to finally secure a cloud provider and achieve desired results.

By firmly establishing a single clear goal, clients can amend or modify solutions based on their particular needs and aspirations. Company objectives must be precise throughout the chain of command. Setting the simplest goal is the only way to truly find the silver lining in the cloud.

A Cloud Cost Assessment

shutterstock_156845033Many companies are turning to the cloud to gain access to scalable and flexible applications and services at a price they can afford. Cloud services offer companies several advantages they might not be able to purchase or implement on their own, including disaster recovery capabilities and the ability to increase or decrease usage or add and drop services based on their operational needs.

But while the advantages of transitioning to cloud-based services is enticing for a variety of reasons, it is wise to take a careful look beneath the surface to ensure the company’s needs and requirements will be met and that the true price point makes sense for the company’s budget.

Compliance Requirements

The first step in determining where a business wants to go is to figure out where it is starting from. When it comes to making a cloud transition, knowing a company’s current and future needs and requirements is crucial.

Early in the process, the company must understand what its compliance requirements are. In some vertical markets, data security regulations may require that certain data can’t be stored in the cloud. Understand from the outset if certain processes and data sets must be retained on private networks.

Personnel Requirements

A business should determine its IT personnel requirements and ensure the entire team is well versed, trained, and prepared for the transition process. Not being prepared with the right participation and knowledge could translate into higher costs.

Application Requirements

Finally, understand where current applications are in their life cycle. Certain legacy assets may not be supported by cloud-based solutions, and moving to the cloud while those applications are still needed could create a headache as well as additional costs. Transitioning to a cloud-based service is likely to be more cost efficient when it occurs at the natural end-of-life stage of applications, when upgraded products or services would have been necessary anyway.

Cost and Elastic Load Balancing

Once a company knows where it is and has figured out where it wants to go, it must then study the costs associated with getting from point A to point B. It can be difficult to compare costs among cloud providers as pricing models can vary widely.

Costs can be controlled to some extent by employing elastic load balancing, which involves shifting capacity between internal assets and cloud solutions. This can increase network efficiency and can lead to cost savings.

Cost and Usage

Monitoring usage is another key to getting the most out of a cloud solution. A predictable monthly fee does not necessarily mean resources are being used in a predictable and constant way. Train personnel to carefully monitor usage and remove unused space as soon as possible to ensure capacity isn’t wasted.

Making the Cloud Decision

The upfront and recurring costs associated with cloud-based services must be weighed against the competitive costs of not deploying cloud services. While one company may shy away from the cloud, its competitors may be turning cloud advantages into competitive advantages. Cost savings reaped from employing a cloud-based service can be passed on to consumers and help companies gain customers and market share.

But that doesn’t mean it’s wise to jump right into a cloud deployment. Understanding the company’s needs and requirements before heading down the cloud path will help ensure that the right cloud applications and services are being purchased at the right price.

Weighing Your Cloud Computing Choices

shutterstock_107141402Cloud computing continues to gain attention and momentum as companies learn about and experience the benefits of Internet-based solutions. The use of cloud solutions is increasing exponentially while traditional data center computing models are declining for the first time.

Virtualization via cloud computing creates business efficiencies, adds flexibility, increases server capacity, and provides companies with the benefits of distributed data. The positives of the cloud are universal and the cloud computing market has evolved to support four primary models for cloud deployments. Each model has its own benefits and drawbacks that must be weighed when making a cloud choice.

Keep It In-House

The idea of “the cloud” gives rise to images of equipment housed and data stored in some vague place. In reality, the cloud can reside within the physical confines of a company’s premises or at a private data center.

Private cloud solutions allow companies to provide the benefits of the cloud to employees while maintaining tight control over the network equipment and applications available to them. Companies with the resources to deploy the necessary equipment and maintain it over the life of the network may gravitate toward this option, especially if in-house control of assets is a primary concern.

Third-Party Options

Some companies, particularly smaller organizations or companies that only need the cloud for a limited time, may not have the resources or time to deploy and maintain an in-house private cloud network. For these companies, the ability to flip a switch and activate cloud services without the startup cost and work is attractive.

Public cloud offerings hosted and maintained by a third-party provider might be an ideal choice for this segment. The provider services many end users with the same resources, thereby aggregating the costs among those users and allowing each to pay only for what they need, when they need it.

The Best of Both Worlds

Many companies want the simplicity, flexibility, and scalability offered by public cloud solutions, but they are hesitant to cede such a high level of control to a third party. Enter the hybrid solution, which gives companies the benefits of both models.

Using a hybrid approach, a company can still tap the resources and benefits built into the public cloud model while retaining some control within the company. This model allows a company to adjust the network to meet its changing needs. Companies can also use a hybrid approach to offload traffic during peak usage on the private network temporarily to the public cloud.

Community Cloud

A relatively new concept, the community cloud model allows equipment to be hosted either privately or publicly. Companies may use this model to test public-cloud products and features. Within this model, servers do not have to be dedicated to specific users, but can be logically segmented among several end users while maintaining the security of a dedicated environment.

Making the Choice

Choosing the right model will depend on each company’s business environment and needs as well as the type of data that will be hosted on the network. A careful evaluation of the company’s needs and how each cloud model might fulfill those needs is crucial when deciding how to deploy cloud services.

Delivering Business Solutions through Hybrid Cloud and Workload Automation

shutterstock_280634069Businesses today demand IT functionality that ensures continuity and offers adaptable data capacities in a cost-effective format. For many companies, cloud technologies that employ as-a-service solutions meet that need.

However, security concerns and data sovereignty regulations have held many organizations back from embracing public cloud solutions. Instead, they have preferred to retain data applications in on-premise servers, which they view as more secure.

Ultimately, though, on-premise solutions are not a cost-effective choice for most organizations. There’s just too much data. These businesses should look to hybrid cloud solutions for the answer to their needs.

The Hybrid Answer

As data amounts expand, businesses need actionable methods for collecting, storing, processing, and analyzing that data. They need retrieval methods that conform to the industry and to the operational standards they’ve developed.

Hybrid cloud solutions, which combine public and private cloud, that operate from a centralized system offer the agility and cost-savings that businesses need in today’s competitive global marketplace. When companies begin the process of hybrid cloud adoption, however, creating numerous workloads in separate silos makes it nearly impossible–without advanced automation–to control the thousands of applications and services that are running. Advanced automation can ease these pain points.

Processing Evolution

Technology trends such as mobile, cloud, big data, and social collaboration tools drive the expansion of transactions. Businesses need high-performing integration between systems of engagement and record. Shifting from batch processing, which was largely time-based, to automated processing, which is largely event-based, allows businesses to perform these tasks more efficiently.

Data center automation that encompasses server, database, network, and workload automation essentially provides the solution. This single, centralized system replaces multiple schedulers and is deployed within a hybrid cloud solution. Companies can utilize it to control all of their applications from a policy-driven perspective.

The Hybrid Cloud Solution

With a hybrid cloud solution, companies can achieve workload automation. The centralized system streamlines activities like big data analysis and the automation of ad-hoc processes, whether they originate from calendars, events, or self-service triggers. The controlled system allows for companies to deliver accurate information to the business’s many stakeholders: clients, suppliers, customers, employees, etc.

Hybrid cloud solutions enable automation processes like these:

  1. The ability to forecast job processing time.
  2. The ability to control the actual processing.
  3. The ability to implement provisions that allow alternate processing platforms to meet capacity needs.

Benefits of Workload Automation

Hybrid cloud solutions facilitate these requirements by allowing companies to run specialized modules of software solutions that control processing requirements according to application types under the control of workload management. Traditional job-scheduling cannot accomplish these tasks.

Workload automation increases business flexibility in the following ways:

  • It breaks down silos so that companies can access and analyze the right data– when and where it’s needed.
  • It integrates systems of record and engagement.
  • It enables new features to be quickly added, such as location-based mobile applications.

In addition, workload automation ensures that companies conform to data protection and other government and industry compliance regulations within the hybrid cloud environment.

With a stable internal workload automation process and hybrid cloud solutions, businesses can develop scalable, end-to-end systems automation approaches that provide true cost reductions.

How to Improve Cloud Network Performance

shutterstock_234708769Many companies tend to focus too exclusively on constructing their cloud platform, to the point where other crucial aspects of IT go overlooked. One of these important elements includes network management, making sure that performance is optimal.

Maintaining the Network

When companies are too concerned about cloud services, they might lose control over the network, resulting in poorer performance. With cloud technology, the network relies on smooth operation to handle the increased traffic that employees access over the cloud. Essentially, the network and the cloud merge together.

In order to prevent network crashes or generally poor performance, companies’ IT departments need to take steps to improve the network’s efficiency and work within budget constraints. Smaller businesses that are continually expanding will particularly want to avoid going over budget, as they will often require additional physical office space and network capacity to handle the addition of new employees. Even larger businesses will still search for ways to avoid spending more than they need to on their network, but optimizing network performance is required for cloud services to run smoothly.

There are several ways keep your network performing the way it should.

Managing Traffic with WAN

WAN optimization involves several aspects that companies should pay attention to in order to make WAN more efficient and more capable of handling heavy traffic. Some of the processes that WAN optimization involves include:

  • De-duplication, a process that helps remove backup-related traffic by backing up files only once, and gradually sending pieces of those files over a period of time as opposed to all at once.
  • Compression, which reduces the sizes of files by using algorithms to remove unneeded parts of files, subsequently helping further reduce network traffic.
  • Caching, which takes unsaved images and other items that Internet browsers request, and sends them to a remote locations. A local device then caches the item, and the device can then save it locally in order to avoid taking up bandwidth space.

In order to further manage traffic using WAN, companies should perform tasks such as traffic monitoring and traffic shaping to properly control network traffic and further maximize WAN efficiency. With a well-managed WAN connection, your network should benefit from more bandwidth as well as controlled traffic.

Using Broadband Bonding to Improve Efficiency

Broadband connections can provide plenty of bandwidth for larger businesses while remaining relatively inexpensive. Unfortunately, broadband connections aren’t often that reliable or expansive, rendering them somewhat ineffective in networks. As a result, they aren’t typically very scalable and are prone to faults. This is a problem that companies can avoid by taking advantage of broadband bonding, which entails combining several different connections into a unified one. Broadband bonding will help ensure that each of your connections works as a single cohesive network.

Companies need to consider that as the cloud becomes increasingly popular and more advanced, both the network and the cloud are gradually combining together. As businesses come to rely even more on quality network connectivity, they will want to find ways to handle traffic and keep the network efficient at all times. Once companies have solid control over their networks, they will be able to use the cloud without running into issues that are likely to become a thing of the past.

Staying Away from Concealed Cloud Costs

shutterstock_105420134When businesses don’t have an internal IT department, they can rely on the cloud for IT management. Cloud technology is less expensive than other types of connections. The cloud eliminates some costs that come with an IT department, such as hardware and employee salaries. There are however, hidden costs that can come with the cloud, costs which organizations can avoid.

Paying Decision Makers

Using the cloud can result in unintentional costs being incurred. For instance, certain employees charge for their time when simply deciding on cloud costs. According to a study performed by the research group Accounting and Information Systems, the hourly rate that decision makers charged a company was $112, which amounted to 36 hours in the end. Subsequently, at the end of those 36 hours, the total cost came to $4,032, when nothing had actually been bought. In order to avoid this cost, it’s important for businesses to eliminate time expenses by looking at reviews that sufficiently compare cloud providers.

Increasing Costs of Services

Many Internet, cable and cell phone companies tend to offer a set price for services and then raise the costs several months after the customer has started paying. Certain cloud service providers will use this same strategy. In order to prevent this from happening, customers need to make sure they are not receiving introductory costs in their service provider’s cost estimate.

Cloud Failure Expenses

Having information either corrupted or compromised is frustrating enough for companies, without also having to pay for those expenses when it isn’t the enterprise’s fault. Many companies don’t realize that data corruption can come with a price tag of its own. Before signing a contract, companies should make sure there is compensation from the cloud provider in the event of any data compromises.

Costs of Not Owning a Server

One of the financial benefits to having an in-house IT department is the advantage of owning a server. A purchased server is an asset; an organization can sell this server if necessary. Physical server assets can also be beneficial in luring investors who look at the company’s financial statement.

There are many ways that businesses can wind up spending more than what they intended on cloud services, but these costs are avoidable if every aspect of spending is considered. With hidden costs taken out of the equation, enterprises will be able to know exactly what they’re spending for the services they want.

Cloud-Based Unified Communications: A New Direction for IT Leaders

shutterstock_75581158It’s no surprise that IT leaders are exploring better ways to communicate effectively and efficiently. Communication lies at the heart of today’s collaboration-driven enterprise environment and organizations of all stripes have an ever-growing need for smooth and seamless information delivery across the corporate spectrum.

When it comes to the next generation of unified communications (UC), the cloud promises to play an expanded role in creating a more efficient and customer-centric medium for delivering agile and streamlined services.

The Cloud as a Gateway to Converged Solutions

More IT departments are paying closer attention to how end users utilize apps and features. As a result, there’s been a growing trend toward centralized UC deployments that harness the cloud’s numerous capabilities. For example, UC within the cloud can supplement or even supplant a number of non-cloud counterparts, including telephony, instant messaging, and mobile device management (MDM).

Meanwhile, the move toward service and support-oriented roles in IT has made the cloud all the more compelling within the enterprise environment. For instance, the simplified implementation features from cloud-based UC suites make it possible for tech leaders to embrace an operational expense footprint. It’s a move that could help enterprises realize improved gains in their bottom line while redefining their infrastructure.

The advent of the cloud-based UC suite is a trend that’s showing no signs of letting up anytime soon. In fact, a recent Research and Markets: Global Unified Communications Market Report predicts an increase in hosted UC deployments over a five-year period, with gains reaching as much as 14 percent CAGR by 2019.

Streamlined Delivery Methods

Cloud-based UC deployments also offer a way to utilize streamlined delivery methods, most notably the popular “as a service” method. UC as a Service (UCaaS) promises a streamlined, more agile way of offering high availability among end users. This is true whether enterprises adopt single-tenancy, multi-tenancy or hybrid approaches to app availability.

The focus on cloud-based UC deployments makes economic sense to many enterprise leaders. In addition to built-in training and support apparatuses, IT departments can afford to devote fewer resources toward purchasing and maintenance tasks. This helps tech departments free up additional resources for other major projects.

As UC and cloud developments converge, enterprises should take the opportunity to maximize their communications investments with the latest in network tools. Cloud-based UC deployments offer the perfect focal point for tech leaders to build a highly productive and collaborative environment for their workforce.