We’re starting a series of posts about cloud infrastructure here on our blog – so to kick us off, we thought it a good idea to explain some of the key approaches to business infrastructure, along with a quick summary of their pros and cons.
All the hardware physically located on your premises, and the software that runs on it, is your on-premise infrastructure. Until the advent of the cloud, this was the most common form of infrastructure for SMEs.
- it’s flexible: you can set it up exactly how you want it
- it’s easily accessible using very fast local connections
- it’s high cost – not just buying and installing hardware, but also software licences, maintenance and support
- remote users’ access is limited by the speed, bandwidth and reliability of your internet connection
- you have to manage the risks such as loss from fire or flood, hardware failure, or data security
This is what most people mean when they talk about cloud: suppliers such as Dropbox, Salesforce, Google or Microsoft Office 365 offer services such as email, file storage, or CRM systems hosted on the internet, which businesses can access for a fee.
- highly available from anywhere with an internet connection
- low cost – you do not have to invest in the infrastructure or support it
- services are standardised and relatively inflexible
- can be slower to access your data as it is not hosted locally
- not secure enough to meet some compliance requirements
A private cloud offers the same feature of being hosted on the internet, but is much more bespoke to your needs. For example, you might use dedicated cloud servers just for your business, or increase security around a service to ring-fence it for your use.
- More flexible and bespoke than public cloud services
- Highly available from anywhere with an internet connection
- Higher investment and support costs than public cloud
- Can be slower to access data as it is not held locally
Hybrid cloud: the best of all worlds
Many business owners think that moving to the cloud is an all-or-nothing decision. The reality for most businesses is that they can’t move all their business services to the cloud wholesale – and nor should they. Advances in connectivity and the ability to integrate on-premise, public and private cloud services means that you can get the best of all worlds, by putting some of your data and systems into public or private clouds, while retaining others on your own premises.
Often, larger offices will run private networks that include both their on-premise infrastructure and their public/private clouds, while smaller offices or remote workers will just connect to the cloud to access business resources.
Hybrid cloud set ups are perfect for dealing with old or legacy systems; phasing out on-premise infrastructure as hardware becomes obsolete; or reducing the risks and responsibility of running your own infrastructure while maintaining control over your business systems.