Flight plans: What really drives businesses to the cloud

Businesses keep flocking to the cloud in droves. What’s the main consideration that’s driving this shift in how IT is done by businesses?

There are many reasons offered when such questions are asked. One that topped the list early on and continues to be trumpeted in the move to cloud computing was that hosting your systems and applications in the cloud instead of running them in-house will make costs more predictable for your business. Instead of having to periodically plan for major capital expenditures (CapEx) followed by the necessary refactoring of operational expenditures (OpEx) a business could instead use the subscription-based pricing model their cloud provider offered and purchase the cloud-based IT resources they needed a la carte. Predictable cash flow is welcomed by businesses as it helps them better focus on delivering profits by watching their bottom line.

Predictable pricing

The illusion, of course, is that predictable pricing doesn’t necessarily mean smaller costs or money saved. I wrote about this recently here on TechGenix and shared examples how several of the companies I talked with have found Office 365 to be more (not less) expensive than amortizing the total cost of ownership (TCO) of on-client deployed Microsoft Office software. One reader named Juli said the cloud is a better solution for them as a small business and it will save them money, but based on their experience migrating to Office 365 they felt that the jury is still out on whether they will still be sane at the end of the migration process. “I really feel like Microsoft doesn’t ever tell me the whole story,” said Juli, “and our IT company, which is paid through the end of the year, is holding back key info, waiting for a crash of some sort so we call them back in at $1,600.” Sometimes I wonder if they didn’t decide to call it “cloud computing” so they could hide the fact that the costs are often as nebulous and amorphous as a cloud.

Another reason that predictable or stable pricing for cloud services is more myth than reality is because of how the cloud provider market itself has been evolving these days. As larger cloud vendors absorb or crowd out smaller ones from the marketplace, the pricing scale is sure to shift in the direction that benefits the provider and not you the customer. As another commenter named Matthew put it succinctly, “You, the consumer, are simply a source of revenue, and the larger your provider, the less they need care about making you happy.”

Security

Security is touted as another advantage of moving to the cloud. Smaller businesses that can’t afford either enterprise-class security systems or IT staff with the know-how and experience to manage such systems are told that they can simply buy into having enterprise-level security by letting the cloud provider handle this need. The recent stories of how hackers are targeting cloud providers, however, gives one pause to accepting the validity of this kind of argument. Security watchman and investigative journalist Brian Krebs recently highlighted this when he described how companies that outsource their marketing efforts to cloud-based CRM providers can end up having their company’s brand name damaged — and those of their customers — should the accounts of their provider become compromised. This together with recent compromises of MSPs suggests that some businesses may want to consider whether moving their IT operations to the cloud has left them more secure or less. I talked about this recently in one of the issues of our popular weekly newsletter WServerNews, and I’m sure I’ll have reason to talk about it again when more cloud service providers end up having their security compromised. And by the way, if you aren’t subscribed to WServerNews or to our other newsletters, you can subscribe to them right now by going here.

Simplicity

Setting aside these issues then, the question remains: What really drives businesses to take the plunge and move all (or most) of their IT assets and information into the cloud instead of keeping it on-premises? I’ve given this some thought of late as I’ve discussed it with some colleagues, and I think I have the answer. Businesses value simplicity and the cloud model for IT allows them to standardize everything. Standardization is what is really driving cloud migration for companies; individuality is anathema as far as a well-run business is concerned.

Think for example why so many people eat at McDonald’s, an assembly-line meal provider if ever there was one. Think also why McDonald’s works so well as a company and why you can always expect your Big Mac (or Garden Fresh Salad, if you’re a reader of our FitITproNews newsletter) to be exactly the way you like it — and also ready and waiting for you at the window. And that’s exactly the kind of simple, reproducible, repetitive kind of result you can experience as a business when you properly utilize cloud-computing.

And it’s the newer “serverless” approach to cloud computing — the container approach — that’s really making this possible. Containerization is a technology we’ve covered frequently here on TechGenix and will continue to cover because it’s revolutionizing how businesses can use the cloud. By providing a standardized approach to delivering business applications and services, container technologies are leading the way in driving companies to move away from complex IT operations so they can focus more on realizing the goals of their business. While on-premises computing isn’t completely dead yet and self-hosting corporate workloads in public or hybrid IaaS environments is still viewed in some quarters as trendy, it’s the new serverless computing approach that’s really leading the way in driving the final push toward the cloud.

Whether we’ll ever get there in entirety is still up for grabs, of course. And if history is any guide when it comes to the world of technology, what goes around still tends to eventually come around.

Featured image: Shutterstock

Mitch Tulloch

Mitch Tulloch is Senior Editor of both WServerNews and FitITproNews and is a widely recognized expert on Windows Server and cloud technologies. He has written more than a thousand articles and has authored or been series editor for over 50 books for Microsoft Press and other publishers. Mitch has also been a twelve-time recipient of the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award in the technical category of Cloud and Datacenter Management. He currently runs an IT content development business in Winnipeg, Canada.

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