Cloud Computing 101: The Cloud is Better than a Hard Drive
In today’s digital age, isn’t it time you moved past the terrifying “low-disk-space warning” when the hard drive on your on-premise server starts to reach capacity? Instead of budgeting for a server replacement, why not think cloud instead?
In the business world, data permanently lost because a server failed is akin to writing the great American novel on your laptop, only to have the hard drive crash and wipe out all of your diligent work. Either way, it’s catastrophic if you don’t have some sort of backup plan in place.
When you work in a hard-drive-based environment and rely only on the one powering your on-prem server, you’re taking a gamble on data accessibility, not to mention security, backup and disaster recovery — and the ability to work smarter, better and faster.
Hard Drives are So Early 2000s
By 2000, most businesses had moved well beyond using floppy disks to share information between non-networked desktop PCs and connected employees with a shared server. Or, if not, they at least had joined the world of peer-to-peer (P2P) hard-drive sharing.
Both of these sharing methods have limitations. Let’s start with peer-to-peer sharing, which directly connects two or more devices without the need for a server. Data flows between all connected devices.
It all comes down to version control. Let’s say that everyone has a different version of a shared file on their hard drive. Which is the correct, final version? How do you keep track of that and make sure you are using the right one?
While setup and use is easy with P2P networking, this option can also trigger security concerns because it involves many users accessing files on individual hard drives. There’s no central security control, so malicious files can easily be shared across the P2P network. Anyone can also delete any files in the shared network at any time, even if just accidentally.
And when it comes to backup and disaster recovery, P2P networks must be backed up at each separate device’s hard drive rather than across the network at the same time. This means data might not be current on each of the devices. But if one device goes down, the network will keep going. You just won’t be able to access the files available on the sidelined device.
While P2P had its time to shine and still has a place in small LAN networks, on-prem servers alleviated some of the challenges of P2P storage and networking presented to the larger business world.
First, all data and related files were kept on the server and could be accessed by anyone at any time with the proper credentials. But when it was time to edit a file, only one person could do that at a time. Others who tried to open it would get a read-only copy — or not be able to open the file at all.
If you want to keep a file secure with specific access permissions, that’s exactly the kind of security features you need. If, however, you need multiple people to edit a single file, they’ll have to wait their turn if they want to make changes to the same document.
While servers scale easily as a company grows, all have storage limitations, just like a hard drive in a personal computer. The organization also is responsible for maintaining, repairing and upgrading these servers. While this sort of complete control has its benefits, there can be pitfalls.
What happens if the server goes down, for example? It’s crucial in an on-premise server environment that you have a strong backup and disaster recovery protocol in place, along with the tools to support it. You need this to ensure redundancy and file accessibility and to mitigate downtime in the event of a server failure.
Why the Cloud Rules Computing Environments
The cloud has been around, at least in theory, since the 1960s when IT pros and researchers began to discuss the possibility of an “intergalactic computer network.” Less than 50 years later, it became a reality, giving individuals and enterprises a faster, smarter and better way to use computing technology every day.
Simply put, the cloud is greater than a hard drive, a collection of hard drives in a P2P network — or an on-premise server when it comes to access, security, reliability, speed and even operating costs. Understanding this is basic cloud computing 101. Cloud solutions drive digital transformation.
Cloud service providers like Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services (AWS) ensure far more than 90 percent uptime. In fact, a recent Network World article looking at the downtime of these cloud leaders and competitors showed that for the period between Jan. 1, 2018 and May 3, 2019, AWS self-reported only 338 hours of downtime, and Google Cloud just 361 hours.
The one year, four months and two days reflected by this period totals 11,688 hours. Considering the cloud’s 24/7/365 accessibility, the outages self-reported by AWS and Google Cloud spanned only about 3% of this entire time frame. While the comparison in this article can’t be considered as apples to apples, it does suggest that the cloud delivers marked reliability as a computing environment solution.
Uptime Isn’t the Cloud’s Only Benefit
When uptime isn’t possible, the cloud gives you ways to enjoy business continuity despite a provider outage thanks to cloud backup and disaster recovery technology. It allows you to maintain access to disaster-proof vital data from anywhere at any time.
This technology continuously backs up your cloud apps and data to a safe, secure location. This information can be retrieved in minutes, getting you back up and running quickly should your main cloud provider experience unexpected downtime. To add an extra layer of security, data is encrypted during backup. None of this is available with traditional hard-drive storage, a P2P network or an on-premise server.
But, as they say on those “As Seen on TV” promotions, “Wait! There’s more!” Unlike hard-drive-based systems, the cloud provides worry-free IT maintenance. Your data is hosted by your cloud service provider, so you don’t have to take the time to physically upgrade software and hardware as you would with a PC in a P2P network or your on-premise server.
Likewise, deployments are quick. In many cases,you can install cloud software applications within hours since you don’t need to update a server and individual PCs.
Budget is another factor that makes the cloud better than a hard drive. Purchasing laptops or PCs and a physical server is a capital expense, requiring an upfront investment in equipment. Cloud computing doesn’t involve these upfront costs, instead functioning with a regular subscription payment. As such, it’s classified as an operating expense that doesn’t require annual maintenance and support contracts. It’s all-inclusive.
Lastly, unlike a hard drive or on-premise server that can run out of storage space, the cloud can grow with you. It’s scalable, allowing you to pay only or only what storage you actually use, and adjusting for as much storage as you need when you need it. Hard drives and server environments lack this on-demand capability.
Launching Your Cloud Journey
Every organization has different computing needs, which makes each cloud journey unique. If you haven’t started along the path to discovering why life in the cloud is a greater alternative than using a hard drive, there’s no better time to learn where the cloud can lead you.
The world is moving to a cloud-first workplace. And in many ways, the future is already here. Organizations are embracing the devices and infrastructure needed to take data to the next level, moving it off of hard drives and servers — and into the cloud. Are you ready to take the leap to cloud migration and transformation?