Businesses rely on data for just about everything they do. No matter the industry, access to real-time data is necessary to make decisions, identify patterns of behavior, determine root cause analysis, and so much more. So as a business leader, you need to ask yourself where will all of this data will live—in the cloud or in an on-premises data center? Both options have their advantages, and they both have their drawbacks. The question can only be answered by looking at the pros and cons of each to determine which is best for your specific scenario.
Cloud vs. Data Center: Getting to Know Them
The main difference between the public cloud and a data center is where the data is stored. In a data center, data is most often stored on the premises of your organization. Some data centers may be in locations not owned by your organization—in this case, your data center is colocated, but not in the cloud. The cloud is completely off premises and your data is accessible from anywhere via the internet.
Gartner expects that the public cloud market will grow to $266.4 billion in 2020. Despite these numbers, there are still reasons why an organization would choose to rely on their own, on-premises data center. The analysis below will provide a more complete look at the cloud versus data center debate.
The Data Center
An on-premises data center is a server, or a collection of servers, that you purchase and keep on site to serve your data storage needs. Some people see this as a disadvantage; you have to purchase the server hardware along with networking hardware. Like any technology, it will age and need to be replaced. Along with the cost of purchasing all of this equipment, you will also need to hire a staff to configure, customize, manage, maintain, and secure it all. These staff members need to be highly trained and keep their skills up to date.
Finally, some people see this model as limited when it comes to scalability. Sure, you can always buy more hardware, but it takes time to bring additional servers online, and that time lost may affect your business.
Reliance on a data center is not all bad; there are a number of advantages to this model. For one, you have complete control over your data and equipment. No one, other than the people you allow, will have access. Because you own the equipment, you also control exactly what hardware and software you are using, making customizations much easier because you don’t need permission from a vendor. Finally, if you are running any legacy systems, you can set up an environment that will cater to these solutions. This gives you flexibility when it comes to migrating to a newer system on your own terms.
In a cloud-based solution, you store your data on someone else’s hardware and infrastructure. Many people are concerned about the idea of giving up so much control. Even though employees at reputable cloud hosting vendors undergo background checks, some companies just aren’t comfortable with someone else handling and possibly accessing their data.
Security is also a concern with the cloud-based option. Even though your vendor is storing your data, you are still ultimately responsible for protecting it. If data is compromised, you will be the one who winds up paying the price. There are companies that feel that if they are going to be responsible, then they are going to be the ones to take on the responsibility of security. Additionally, there is the issue of accessibility. If your internet connection goes down, you can’t access your remote data stores, and for some, that can be a big problem.
Ironically, security is also seen as an advantage of cloud-based hosts. Reputable vendors hire highly trained, experienced staff members to make sure that everything is configured properly, constantly maintained, and adequately secured.
Other benefits that are associated with cloud-based data are cost and scalability. Because you aren’t laying out any up-front costs to purchase hardware and infrastructure that will be outdated, you see instant savings. Also, with cloud computing vendors, you only pay for what you need, so you don’t have servers sitting dormant and waiting to be put to use. This leads into the scalability argument. When you need additional space, it is readily available. It may cost a bit more, but it is there when you need it. Likewise, if your data storage needs scale back, your usage costs will be reduced.
Cloud vs. Data Center Myths Debunked
Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of each option will help you understand which choice may be better for you. However, not everything that comes up in the cloud versus data center conversation is based in fact. Let’s take a look at some common myths.
The cloud is not secure.
This is one of the most pervasive myths surrounding the cloud and was one of the biggest obstacles during the early days of cloud adoption. People assumed (incorrectly) that because data or services were moved to the cloud, the cloud was less secure because other people would have access to it. Nowadays, most people realize that this isn’t usually accurate.
Most cloud providers actually do a better job than data centers when it comes to security because they have experts who handle the security, management, and maintenance of the servers and infrastructure used.
Data centers are too expensive to operate.
The cloud has the ability to be cheaper and can work better, but this isn’t always the case. You won’t always get the same level of service from one vendor that you would from another. Additionally, costs for using cloud services fluctuate based on time of day, usage, and other variables. So although moving to the cloud is cost-effective for some businesses, others may rack up unnecessary costs—especially if a migration to the cloud is not planned properly or if they require a large amount of bandwidth.
Cloud migrations and data consolidation are difficult.
Migrating to the cloud requires a lot of moving parts— so many that people often think this type of move is an extremely difficult one. However, this is another myth that isn’t 100 percent accurate. Yes, there are enough horror stories about cloud migrations gone wrong that it makes sense to think twice about considering such a move. Yet often, the difficulties that arise could have been avoided if the organization took the right steps to plan the migration properly.
All mission-critical applications need to run in a data center.
Some people are still under the impression that all mission-critical applications need a dedicated administrator on site who will ensure availability and security. True, uptime is vital for these solutions, but you have to ask yourself if your team is capable of maintaining the same level of service that your cloud provider will.
A reliable cloud partner will provide a service-level agreement that will likely meet or exceed what an internal team can provide because that cloud partner is dedicated to maintaining the services. There are plenty of reasons to keep mission-critical applications in your own data center, but they are not necessarily any more secure on-premises than in the cloud.
So Which One Wins Out?
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. The best option is the one that will help you achieve your business goals with the resources you have available. In some cases, your current IT team might prevent you from exploring one option over the other. This is a common problem with small IT staffs; they just don’t have the experience and expertise to handle some of the tasks associated with migrating to the cloud or running an on-premises data center. Your team may not even be able to tell you which option is better for your organization.
This is where a trusted managed services provider can help. You can count on their deep bench of well-trained, experienced professionals to help you decide which solution is best for your organization and then help plan, implement, train, manage, and support your project.