The move to cloud offers many benefits to organisations; predominantly the assurance of increased agility compared to traditional environments and the guarantee of lower costs than building one’s own infrastructure.
However, it is not as simple as it seems, writes Modeen Malick, senior systems engineer: MESAT at Commvault. There are a issues that can create complexity and result in the promise of lower costs often not being met.
This being said, cloud storage, or backup, really is cheaper than on-premise storage, as many cloud providers offer bundled backup at virtually no additional cost with their services package. Additionally, the cost of building one’s own infrastructure can be hefty when compared to the costs of running applications and services over the cloud, especially for those organisations that benefit from a “pay-as-you-use” model.
However, there are many unforeseen, uncommunicated, or unplanned for costs and components. Not all of these components come included as part of cloud packages, and are often additional costs that organisations don’t take into consideration — costs which can increase the overall cost of cloud to more than originally planned for.
The cost of backing up and storing data is minimal, thanks to deduplication. Yet, the cost to recover that data in its entirety when it is needed can be very expensive. Data download charges are comparatively high in South Africa, making the retrieval of large quantities of data very expensive even without the recovery fees that many cloud providers charge.
There are also “hidden” costs around adapting to a cloud environment, such as upskilling or reskilling of staff. Many organisations employ a multi-cloud or hybrid (combination of on-premise and cloud) environment. Each cloud provider will have different processes, different service plans and different interaction methods which will need to be managed accordingly. Moving data and applications across clouds can be incredibly complex and requires that staff are skilled to do so.
Typically, processes and policies also need to be changed, adapted and put into place in line with the cloud services being used. Companies need to ensure that their cloud providers’ policies are aligned with their own business policies across all providers. This includes considerations such as data security, access control, availability of infrastructure, data and services, etc. Therefore, consultants and extra time spent on making sure that the policies in place are correct, may lead to extra costs incurred.
Finally, data needs to be protected, and accessing services needs to be secure. This ties in strongly with security policies. It is important to confirm that cloud security aligns with the organisation’s own security so that there are no gaps.
The role of data classification and standardisation
Organisations also need to be very cognisant of data classification, and the rule of thumb is that not all data is created equal. When it comes to backing up — and minimising the costs around this — data classification plays a very important role. Policies need to define what constitutes valuable data, which requires a high level of backing up and protection, and what data can be discarded or stored less securely. This also plays a part in defining policies around data access, and who may or may not access what data.
With organisations often having upwards of eight different cloud vendors at any given time, the ability to manage multiple cloud platforms, as well as how they are managed according to policy, is also important. One possible relief of this can be standardisation of operating environments. However, not all organisations — or cloud environments — are able to standardise, and migrating mixed operating environments to the cloud can be incredibly tricky and expensive.
A cloud management platform becomes a critical element of achieving best cost effectiveness from the cloud, while assisting with upholding policies and promoting agility. A cross-cloud data management suite enables organisations to select the best cloud solution fit for the business. It takes the business’s requirements and policies into account, and makes the management of those cloud vendors far easier, thus opening the door to those promised cost savings.
Cross cloud management platforms — the way forward
Cross cloud management platforms provide single views of all cloud services and vendors, providing comparative insights into offerings, license agreements, tools, data security, flexibility options and more. These platforms also take into account on-premise environments; something that is critical while the majority of businesses are still in a state of flux with the move to cloud.
An effective, across the board management platform reduces the need for unnecessary upskilling/reskilling, and allows organisations to take advantage of the tools which enable agility while ensuring their policies are upheld and their data is properly protected. This ensures that ‘cloud’ delivers its promise.