As your reliance on cloud technologies increases, it might be time to think about bringing your cloud infrastructure in-house.
Businesses have almost reached the point where working within the cloud is a necessity. Be it for data storage, data synchronization, web-based apps, or even cloud-based operating systems, businesses need to hitch a ride to the cloud to keep up with the ever-expanding world around them. However, that doesn't mean you need to depend upon a third-party to host your cloud. Any business can pull the cloud within reach and inside its own infrastructure. But why would you bother spending the time and resources to make your own cloud when so many are already available? Does this wheel really need reinventing?
1: Cost effectiveness
Personal clouds are cheap. I pay something like $39.00 a year for my 25 GB UbuntuOne cloud. But when you ramp up to business levels, clouds can get costly. Bringing that cloud to your own hardware might have a high cost up front, but once that initial cost is paid, you're done. So long as you're using the right software (like an open source cloud), with an in-house cloud, you don't have to worry about added costs of additional seats.
2: Data security
Can you honestly trust your Dropbox account? Are you certain? One of the benefits of rolling your own cloud is that you, and only you, are responsible for the security of your data. Now, that can be good or that can be bad (depending upon your security acumen). But since you (and your IT department) will be completely responsible for data security, you can bet plenty of time and resources will go into making sure data on the company cloud is locked down tight. If you're not comfortable with the level of trust you have in your IT department's understanding of security, there is a fundamental flaw in the hiring process of the company.
3: Better control
If you rely upon a third-party for your cloud, you have little to no control over how that cloud can be used, how it's deployed, the granularity of its management, or how quickly (and how much) it can be expanded. If you bring that cloud in house, you are in complete control. No matter how large you want your cloud, how many users, how you manage groups, how strong you want your security -- it's all in your hands.
4: True flexibility
With third-party clouds, you have to take what the provider offers. There might be scenarios you have developed that go outside the boundaries of the standard offerings. Not every business is the same, so not every cloud will fit. If you bypass this limitation and build your own cloud, you can remove the lack of flexibility forced upon your company by third-party vendors. With an in-house solution, your cloud can do whatever you need it to do, in a way that perfectly fits your business model and needs.
5: Sync speed
I've had issues with third-party cloud storage and sync where, due to heavy usage, my files and folders took far too long to sync. In a business setting, this is not acceptable. Workflow must enjoy immediacy or everything could bottleneck. If you bring your cloud in-house, you are only as limited as the data pipe you have feeding your internal network.
6: Company integration
You probably already have servers with shared directories and either and Active Directory or LDAP service running. If you build your own cloud, there's no reason why those preexisting services can't be rolled in. Not only will this make your cloud more powerful, it will also make it more IT- and user-friendly.
7: Unlimited size
Run out of space on your cloud? Slap on another drive. That's not the case with a third-party solution (where you wind up having to purchase more space). And even if you are allowed to purchase more space on a third-party solution, it will eventually max out. With your own internal cloud, that space is unlimited.
8: User management
Like the space issue, an in-house cloud means you won't be limited to the number of users who have access to your cloud. Those users can be easily managed, as well. Put varying caps on users based on need, department, etc. Suspend users, set password requirements --your ability to manage users on your own cloud will be greatly enhanced compared to what you can do with a third-party solution.
9: Backup control
How is your current cloud backed up? If something goes hideously wrong, are you sure you can recover your data? If your cloud is in-house, you can always be sure that you have an up-to-date backup. Of course, you'll have to set up a backup and ensure that it backup works. But you'll be able to physically check on your backup (and even rotate drives). Take this one step further and make sure you have a regular, current image of the cloud server. With this image, should something catastrophic occur, you can be back up and running quickly.
10: HIPAA Compliance
Not all clouds are HIPAA compliant. If you bring your cloud in-house, so long as your internal network meets HIPAA requirements, your cloud will be closer to being compliant. With the in-house cloud, you can make sure that you meet the strict demands of the OCR HIPAA Audit Protocol. The only challenge beyond that will be ensuring that any client that connects to the cloud is also HIPAA compliant -- but that issue has to be addressed regardless of cloud location. Although cloud computing itself offers some serious challenges to HIPAA compliance, having your own in-house cloud server will make it easier for you to reach a compliant stage.
Pros and cons?
There are plenty of reasons for having your own in-house cloud. Naturally, it all boils down to one major factor: Do you have the staff with the skill to build and manage that cloud? If so, the decision is a no-brainer.
What are some other benefits -- or disadvantages -- of bringing your cloud in house? Share your thoughts with fellow TechRepublic members.
- Executive's Guide to Best Practices in SaaS and the Cloud (PDF)
- Cloud: How to do SaaS right (ZDNet feature page)