When to avoid cloud computing

Cloud computing has become a mainstay in today’s business and personal life because it is one of the most potent technologies we have seen in a long time. Wherever you turn, you’re sure to see at least a handful of cloud-based applications that reflect the ubiquity of this technology.

But is cloud computing always the best or the most cost-effective option for a business? Remember, no technology is a good fit for every situation, and this is true of the cloud.

Here are some scenarios where cloud computing may not be the best choice.

Critical data

Though cloud security has come a long way, many experts believe you’re still better off keeping critical data close to your place of operations. Why?

First, you don’t always know the physical location of your cloud storage, and the local laws and jurisdiction pertaining to it. Second, it can affect your performance, especially if the data is stored in locations far from your customer base.

More importantly, there is always a chance for your data to be hacked by miscreants. While hacking can take place in your network too, you have greater control over who accesses it compared to cloud storage.

A case in point is the Dropbox issues that happened twice — once in 2011 and the other in 2012. In 2011, a security bug allowed anyone with a customer’s email address to log into the system and view the associated files. No password was requested for accessing the files. This huge misstep lasted for more than four hours before it was discovered and fixed. It’s not known how much information was stolen during this time.

Avoid using cloud computing for critical data

In the other Dropbox incident, in 2012, hackers stole passwords and email addresses of 68.7 million Dropbox users using an employee’s weak login credentials. Unbelievable!

While these incidents are thankfully not a frequent occurrence, why take a chance when it comes to critical data?

On top of these data leaks and hacks, U.S. government agencies like the NSA and other law enforcement officials can, under certain circumstances, access your data, regardless of the cloud provider you choose.

All this means the cloud is not the right choice for ultra-sensitive and critical data, as there are too many unknown variables lurking around it. This doesn’t mean service providers offer poor security. Rather, what it means you’re better off playing it safe.

Outages

Yes, major cloud providers provide a steady and reliable service. But bad things happen even to good cloud providers. Cloud outages are rare, but they do happen. If your business relies on data being available 24/7, complete reliance on a single cloud provider could prove costly and disastrous.

Cloud sprawl

Cloud sprawl, similar to urban sprawl, can cause much chaos, especially if you move too many applications too quickly. For starters, you’ll completely lose control of your data and systems because they’re stored someplace else and not in your own datacenter. While the advantages of migrating to a cloud are enormous, it should be done in a phased manner.

Take Zynga, for example. The game developer moved all its operations to AWS within a short time, and then moved back a lot of it to its own private server. It all started with the “Farmville” app, which grew from zero to 10 million users within six weeks. To keep pace with this demand, it moved its operations to the cloud, and in fact, launched many new games in the cloud.

Though this model was successful for some time, it soon became too expensive, and also the company felt it didn’t have enough control over its systems. By the end of 2011, more than 80 percent of users were moved back to its own infrastructure. According to company sources, Zynga expanded its infrastructure, and today, it operates on a hybrid model, with some applications still stored and operated in AWS.

This example clearly brings out the need to have a long-term plan where you know what part of your operations should be in the cloud and what in your own datacenters. Even if you plan to move everything to the cloud, test the waters first, and move your data slowly. This will not only avoid an immediate cloud sprawl, but will also give you time to make the transition.

Complex architecture

Many companies look at cloud-based success stories like Facebook and Instagram, and want to emulate the same in their businesses. In other words, they want to reinvent themselves as a digital enterprise, regardless of whether their business fits that description or not! Such a move is the perfect recipe for disaster.

Most organizations that were founded before the advent of the cloud tend to have a complex architecture comprising of mainframe technologies, n-tier applications, and other not-so-cloud-friendly architectural patterns.

Understanding these architectures, their interactions with each other, and the overall infrastructure is key to having a successful cloud migration. If your architecture makes it impossible to move to the cloud, are you not happier being where you are?

Costs

What costs? Isn’t that the main reason why a company would want to shift to a cloud?

Yes and no.

Cloud doesn’t require any costly investments upfront, and you can continue business operations with a monthly subscription fee. However, most cloud services have a pay-as-you-go model, which means your subscription rate increases as your business expands.

On the other hand, the capital investments you make upfront is a long-term investment that will pay dividends throughout the life of the system.

So should you go or should you stay? Estimate the upfront costs and the growing rate of subscriptions. Decide which will be cheaper over a certain term. If your investments work out to be cheaper, the cloud may not after all be a cost-effective solution for you.

Inability to monitor cloud performance

As a business, you should always stay on top of your applications’ performance, regardless of whether they are in the cloud or in your datacenter. If you can’t monitor your applications effectively on the cloud or if the service provider doesn’t offer the right tools to give you insights on application performance, you’re better off hosting it in your own servers.

Remember, cloud computing is a no-no if it can’t provide the right business value.

Legacy architecture

Most legacy systems offer little to no flexibility and scalability, so it makes no sense to move these applications to the cloud. In fact, if you move such applications, you’ll probably end up spending more money and resources managing them on the cloud compared to what you’re already spending in-house.

Avoid cloud computing for legacy architecture

Remote location

High-speed Internet connection is a basic requirement for the cloud. If you’re planning to have offices in a remote location or where Internet service is not so stable, you may want to rethink your idea of moving to the cloud.

Cloud is an all-pervasive technology that has changed our society and businesses in more ways than we can imagine. At the same time, there are some situations where avoiding cloud computing may be the best solution for your business. So, use your good judgment, study the pros and cons, and make an informed decision before migrating to the cloud.

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