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There’s no denying the cloud’s impact on information services. In a short amount of time, cloud-based services have effectively evolved from copious amounts of storage space to hosting applications to serving as the backbone of an organization’s network and security infrastructures–or all of the above.

SEE: Top cloud providers in 2020: AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, hybrid, SaaS players (TechRepublic Premium)

The use of cloud-based services is growing by leaps and bounds, according to a Gartner forecast that sees the public cloud market growing overall by 17% in 2020. Software as a Service (SaaS), which has seen the highest gains in the past, is set to be dethroned by Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), forecasted at a year-over-year growth of 24%–“The highest growth rate across all market segments,” Gartner said.

That should not come as a surprise, since the mobile nature of work has made it so that traditional data centers simply cannot keep up with demand from users, who have an average of 6.58 network connected devices each, according to Statistica.

Due to the increased costs associated with procuring and managing more equipment, IT staff, training, expensive support contracts for software and hardware, higher-density networking equipment and bandwidth, many organizations find it cost effective to off-load the maintenance of their core services to managed services in the cloud, which include monitoring, security, and disaster recovery.

Below are my predictions of the services that will make the largest leap to the cloud in 2020–with no looking back.

SEE: Special feature: Managing the multicloud (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Directory services

Segment: IaaS
No matter your enterprise’s platform of choice, directory services are the crux of centralized user and device management. The large market share for Microsoft’s Active Directory has migrated to the cloud under the Azure umbrella. Microsoft added to it an increasingly easy-to-use, scalable, and remarkable web-based solution that provides cloud-based connectivity for domain authentication of devices and does not require traditional “line-of-sight” to the domain controller. In fact, due to its cloud-based nature, users can theoretically authenticate across any network worldwide, freeing them to work remotely without the need to cache credentials but still be able to access shares over their wireless connections.

Azure Active Directory, unfortunately, does not support a security mainstay, such as Group Policy just yet. However, the inclusion of Intune, Microsoft’s MDM software, can (and should) be used to manage security on Azure-connected devices to ensure they are hardened–and remain secured–through the use of remote policies that enforce device management through any network connection.

Mobile Device Management/Unified Endpoint Management

Segment: SaaS

MDM/UEM applications run just as well on a physical server as they do compared with a virtual machine (VM) instance. Many of the applications offer a version that may be managed on-premise that is identical to the cloud-based version, so why pay someone else to manage what our organization can do itself? The answers are simple: Scalability, security, and less administrative overhead.

SEE: How to choose the best MDM partner: 5 key considerations (TechRepublic)

Almost all MDMs have migrated to cloud-based offerings, with few keeping their on-premise solutions available. The per-device price point between device management and the administrative side to rolling out your own MDM has been shown to increase exponentially as the number of manageable devices increases past a certain point–usually the limits of your infrastructure. At that point, new equipment, software licenses, and bandwidth resources must be provisioned to prevent loss of service to the devices.

Enterprise email

Segment: SaaS

Judging by the number of business emails sent and received each day in 2019, 293.6 billion, Statistica said–we can see why managing email is more than a full-time job for any administrator.

That’s before adding the increased threat exposure and hardware costs associated with self-hosted email services. Securing servers, connections, and clients covers only the transmission aspect of email. There are still access considerations, and the biggest points of contention: Spam and phishing-related messages that will almost certainly find their way to a user willing to provide his bank account number to aid an ousted prince.

SEE: Top five on-premises cloud storage options (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

Segment: SaaS/IaaS

ERP, the business backend that integrates hardware and software resources used to manage and automate functions relating to human resources, technology, and services, is a beast of a system that typically involves many man-hours to put together, then countless more to maintain. After all, it drives a large portion of an enterprise’s core functions and can be used by just about anyone in the organization to handle many tasks. These systems are large and complex, usually requiring dedicated staff and support contracts to keep ERP operating smoothly.

SEE: Top 10 ERP vendors in 2020 (TechRepublic)

Imagine handing off the maintenance of these monolith systems to the vendor or manufacturer. You could save the time, energy, and resources it takes to administer these systems, scale them as needed, and allow your team to refocus its efforts to tasks that add value to the organization. Similarly, SMBs that wish to incorporate an ERP system but may not have the staff or knowledge to do so can provision software- and infrastructure-as-a-service in as little time as it takes to make a call or conduct a meeting.

Disaster recovery

Segment: IaaS

Nothing is worse than having your organization’s equipment destroyed and finding that there was no disaster recovery plan (DRP) in place. Correction: The only thing worse is finding out a DRP exists but data cannot be recovered properly or it will take too many resources to get the organization fully operational in time. Luckily for us, a variety of options exist in the field of disaster recovery to allow organizations of all sizes and budgets to effectively implement a working recovery plan that will allow them to become operational in days, hours, or even minutes.

SEE: Disaster recovery and business continuity plan (TechRepublic Premium)

With the elasticity of cloud-based options, any business can start with the minimum requirements that suit its current needs and scale as needs grow. Whether those needs are storage, servers, clusters, or data centers anywhere in the world, the ability to activate multiple hot and cold sites still requires careful planning, but no longer the upfront expense of purchasing multiple sets of equipment or the long-term costs of maintaining said equipment in the event of failure or catastrophic loss.