Is Your 2013 Budget in the Cloud?

Budget season is just around the corner. With the provision of cloud-based services maturing and expanding by the month, one common question is creating a big buzz ‘in the trenches’: “How much should I utilize XaaS in 2013?”
The analysis can be daunting, as with any major paradigm leap. It is made even more so by the constant change in the type and level of services being offered and the ROI model for each.
A comprehensive list of considerations when considering cloud services like Seattle Private Cloud would exceed this column space; however, here are a few elements that might be helpful to keep in mind:
Total Cost of Ownership – A quick cost survey of servers and software will often lead one to believe it is cheaper to build than to buy, but TCO is not just a sales technique used by vendors. Be sure to quantify monitoring, maintaining, and administering your in-house systems. Another consideration is the expertise required to properly run your system. In smaller shops, your IT generalists may not be able to stay current on all of the platforms you run. Finally, think about the opportunity cost of using your limited human resources to manage generic services that could be better done by others, leaving your staff to focus on needs more closely aligned with the idiosyncrasies of your operation. You can’t buy institutional knowledge.
Agility/Scalability/Billability – The advantages of activating 20 phone lines with Lync service or spinning up a server in an hour can be huge, especially in our industry’s rapidly changing environment. Additionally, being able to have well-defined cost per seat or platform makes it much easier to allocate that cost to a business unit, subsidiary, affiliate, or owner. That fact, combined with the elimination of capital expenditures, can make it much easier to get approval for new services, especially when they may be optional or discretionary. You no longer need to wait until adoption reaches critical mass to get a project approved. You can roll it out incrementally to those who want it, and add new users as adoption grows.
The Myth of Geo-Redundancy – The purists among us associate the cloud with geo-redundancy, but those days are long gone. The term has come to mean virtually any service delivered over any network, hence the terms ‘private cloud’ and ‘hybrid cloud’. Don’t assume that just because you are looking at services from top tier providers that this kind of reliability is being offered. Ask. (In most cases you will find it is not.) Witness the recent failure of Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud US -East 1 and the resulting outage of Netflix, Instagram, and Pinterest during the recent storms we had here on the east coast. The expenditure to build in geo-redundancy may double the price of a service. That service may incorporate as many, if not more, levels of redundancy than your on-premise solution. But you cannot assume survivability, and DR/BC planning has to take into consideration the capabilities of the services you purchase.
So whether you’re considering backing up data to a cloud service or moving your environment to an XaaS service, 2013 may be the right time to leverage the wide variety and ever-growing cloud menu offerings, move some of the basic functions off your plate, and spend more time adding value to your business.