The term “cloud” has carried a negative connotation within particular circles in the business community for the last several years. As cloud applications have grown in popularity, so has the criticism. Are concerns with cloud applications legitimate? or is this just another case of old dogs unwilling to learn new tricks? The cloud and related technologies have been evolving for years. The cloud computing industry is also seeing significant financial investments, so if you’re waiting for the “fad” to die down, it probably won’t happen.
In light of recent performance issues like Salesforce.com’s Outages, Microsoft’s Windows Azure cloud outage, and Recent Amazon outages, it’s fair to deduce that concerns regarding the cloud are indeed warranted. But are all of the concerns warranted?
Companies often say, “I don’t want my data in the cloud, it’s not secure!”. Cloud applications are generally multi-tenant (multiple instances on the same server) to justify the scale and economics of the cloud. With multi-tenancy deployments requires more strict security measures. Who would you trust more, a company like Rackspace.com that specializes in hosting/security and has thousands of companies data to manage? Or your 3 person IT department? Conversely, if your company has strict security requirements, it is definitely worth asking potential cloud vendors for thorough security documentation.
Another major concern is performance in the cloud, which may or may not be a legitimate concern depending on your use case. There are many different use cases and many different cloud applications. In some cases, for example, Gmail, the cloud performance is consistently phenomenal, while other cases (running a database server) may have lower performance than a standard server. It is incredibly important to test your potential cloud environment while considering the move to the cloud. If performance is a major issue or concern, ask to see your vendors hosting options. Are they flexible like SugarCRM with Multiple deployment options? Or are they closed like Salesforce with one multi-tenant deployment option? With an application like SugarCRM, you have the option to deploy on a private cloud, a public cloud, or even a hybrid solution, whereas with an application like Salesforce.com, you’re held hostage to their cloud on their terms. If you’re worried about having full access to your data and the ability to export at any given time, a CRM cloud application like Salesforce might not be the best option for your company.
It is also important to note that no system has 100% up-time, so cloud shortages must be compared to any on-premise performance issues that your company may have faced in the past or continues to face. Does the convenience of a quick deployment in the cloud outweigh the inconvenience of installing, configuring, licensing, and maintaining your own server? How often is you internal server down? How much faster or slower are the page loads between the two deployments? How much time does your company spend on upgrading applications and servers on premise? You will need to examine this closely in order to accurately compare your options between on-premise vs. a cloud deployment.
Not all business applications are meant for the cloud, so be skeptical of any vendor who promotes a pure cloud stance for all of their applications. If you’re seriously looking into a vendor with nothing but cloud-based solutions, make sure to ask about data access, back-ups, and the ownership of data if your subscription expires. While the cloud vs. on premise debate will undoubtedly continue, a crucial aspect to consider is your potential vendors hosting options. The more hosting options they have, the easier it will be to find the right solution to fit your specific application needs.