What are the benefits of switching to the cloud?
Cloud computing is fast becoming the technology of choice for many businesses, of every shape and size, and across every sector. Replacing the traditional, in-house or on premise server approach, cloud or hosted systems are being recognised as a more cost-effective, highly secure and resilient alternative. Although some large businesses prefer to manage their own system infrastructures, there are significant operational benefits by making the switch at any level. For one thing, the need to focus more on core business priorities, and much less on IT issues, is not just highly desirable but increasingly important. Put simply, in these ever more competitive times, it’s a choice between having the responsibilities of running your own IT ‘generators’ or plugging into a secure, fully supported, ‘national grid’. Which, given that communications and network capabilities have become much faster and more reliable, strengthens the case for cloud computing.
Making the switch
No one would suggest replacing a perfectly good server and infrastructure that’s performing well - the business case would be hard to prove. But when an upgrade or system replacement is planned, perhaps with business development or capacity issues on the horizon, then that’s probably the best time to review the use of the ‘cloud’. Evaluate what the business needs, understand the options and then be ready to make an informed decision.
Security is everything, always
First and foremost, it’s understandable that running a system through the cloud may give rise to concerns of unauthorised access to data. For Kerridge CS, safeguarding customers’ systems is the number one priority. A combination of advanced security controls, coupled with extensive knowledge and experience, ensure that the risks to data are minimal. Data protection may well be as good, if not considerably better than in a non-hosted environment; particularly in terms of recovery from a major outage or system failure – more about that later.
Evaluating the costs and pure financial benefits of a cloud solution versus an on- premise server is certainly not an ‘apples v apples’ exercise. Besides, it’s virtually impossible to put a price tag on some of the components and that’s before factoring in short, medium and long term considerations. For the basics, switching to a per user/month cost base means there’s no server to buy, maintain and support, nor capacity/upgrade issues either as business needs evolve. Furthermore, the buying power of hosting centres equates to economies of scale in hardware purchasing terms which influence the cost base and hence competitive user pricing. There’s no slack tied up in case it’s required in the future which may well be the case when investing in a new on premise server. In short, with a hosted cloud solution you only pay for the resources you need, when you need them.
In many ways, it’s probably best to regard the move to cloud as one that presents great opportunities and many hidden savings along the way. Just how big those savings are will often depend on how the business wants to manage its IT now, and into the future.
System performance may be a concern in switching to cloud and certainly some parts of the UK yet to have access to reliable high speed networks. Fortunately, the situation is constantly improving; Kerridge CS’s partner OCSL for example, has more than 9,500kms of private network connecting major towns and cities. With K8 - the company’s flagship system being designed specifically to operate over minimal bandwidth, users should not experience any reductions compared with an on-premise configuration.
Full service solution
Choosing a hosted cloud system means that a business gains the advantage of having a full service solution; a much smoother and streamlined IT experience. Simplistically, there’s less risk and less downtime. With the growth in extended opening hours and online trading, having 24/7 access to a team of multi-skilled and experienced IT professionals is more important than ever. Such facilities would be hard to match by all but the very largest in-house IT department. Given a choice, it’s likely that many IT managers would probably prefer to focus their time and energies on servicing strategic requirements. Working on more challenging tasks is surely more interesting than caring for servers and networks.
Kerridge CS partners operate Tier 3 data centres – a standard that exceeds the provisions that are usually made for on-premise servers. Tier 3 means strictly-controlled environments; offering multiple redundancy provisions for power and connectivity, fire suppression and substantial physical security facilities. Systems are always on, monitored 24/7, backed up daily and data copies are kept off securely off site. It’s also worth noting that data centres also invest in keeping their staff up to date with the latest server and communications technologies – another important comfort benefit factor that’s difficult to put a value on.
Meeting business needs
In addition to providing substantial ‘peace of mind’ value, cloud systems are also immensely flexible; both in terms of growing to suit changing business needs, but can also be rapidly deployed into new locations or business moves. Issues about server and network capacities along with the cost and inconvenience of hardware upgrades do not arise.
The vital role now played by integrated business systems means that the need to safeguard trading operations has, to all intents, become an imperative that cannot be sidelined. The impact of a system outage is felt immediately and many processes simply stop with little or no fall back position. System failures or worse still, a major disaster, are comparatively rare, but the risks of exposure should now be as close to zero as possible.
Simplistically, running an on-premise server generally means a single point of failure. If a board or disk fails, it could easily take several days to recover the system and resume normal service. Older servers can easily have component supply issues and other complications in a re-build are not uncommon. In the meantime, trading will have suffered; customers may have gone elsewhere and the financial hit not inconsiderable. Even before re-keying transactions and catch-up work is factored in.
When the cloud system is in a secure hosted environment, there are in effect no concerns at all by comparison and the reassurance that the system is being well looked after can be experienced by every user. Even at the most basic Silver level offered by Kerridge CS, SLA states 99.5% system availability and less than 24 hours restoration time should the worst happen. Opting for top level Platinum cover, with its dual data centre provision and Oracle Dataguard, it will take just 30 minutes to recover from a failure. With an SLA stated system availability of 99.99% - that’s less than an hour’s down time per annum.
There are other considerations: the mid-level Gold cover provides for an annual ‘disaster recovery’ test, while Platinum enables a customer to have a quarterly, on-demand recovery test, completed in 30 minutes. Gold and Platinum levels offer customers real-time network performance dashboards. Even then, the data centre staff may well be reacting to an issue before it’s even noticed by the customer.
While some of the largest multi-site operations may continue to favour their own in-house configurations, a growing number of companies are opting for the cloud. SMEs in particular, who are looking to maximise their IT capabilities, have everything to gain by taking a closer look at the cloud computing offerings. With reliable high speed network and communications, along with comprehensive secure data centre services, any concerns of moving to a fully managed service are fast dissipating. The benefits are certainly becoming more transparent and substantial.
In order to serve its customers and meet their wide-ranging business requirements, Kerridge CS continues to invest in providing a choice of robust, high performance system platforms. Serving its customers which range from a handful of users to several hundred or more, and across different industry sectors, the company recognises that one-size-fits-all solutions are rarely successful. On-premise server, private cloud or secure browser access, Kerridge CS fervently believes that businesses must have the freedom to choose what best suits their needs.
Quite simply, Kerridge CS believes that helping its customers to make good technology decisions is a fundamental part of building successful, enduring partnerships. Although striving for product excellence and delivering first class support services are uppermost customer-driven priorities, IT investment value is certainly influenced by choosing the most appropriate infrastructure platform. For many, that future will be in the cloud.