People quibble about what a compute cloud is or isn’t and whether that cloud is public or private. For our purposes, let’s call a cloud any computing service you use that’s not hosted on your premises. Let’s call it “private” if you either own or control that cloud. This includes your own servers hosted elsewhere or applications provided to your company by a third party.
So why move your servers out of your building? For a law firm in Houston, the reason was hurricanes. The partners at this particular firm said that when — not if — the next hurricane knocks Houston for a loop, they want their servers and data storage somewhere safe. In this case, “safe from hurricanes in Houston” meant a data center in Dallas.
The lawyers didn’t ask for a business continuity solution, but that’s what they needed and that’s the direction they went. When bad weather hit the next time, all the firm’s lawyers stayed away from the office but continued to work. Rather than struggle to get to the office through all the mess and roads full of debris after even a minor hurricane (if you call any hurricane minor, then you haven’t been in one), all employees can now work from wherever they have a computer and Internet access.
That same law firm, when looking for a way to protect their data from hurricanes, was happy being a single firm in Houston in a single location. There were no plans for expansion at all. So what happened? They got the proverbial offer they couldn't refuse, and opened an office in Pittsburgh to support a new client.
Those of you who have set up new offices know the hassles: getting new servers, software, Internet connections, and building a safe place to hold it all. It costs thousands and thousands of dollars above and beyond the cost of the hardware and software, not to mention the time and trouble.
But this law firm had none of those issues to deal with because they had a private cloud. They added more capacity to the servers, which were hosted by a third party, installed the appropriate network bandwidth at their new Pittsburgh office, and they were done. Expansion? Successful. Headaches? Minimal.
This particular law firm doesn’t have fluctuations in head count, but many companies do during their busy seasons. For accountants, it’s tax time. For schools, it’s registration. For most retailers, it’s Christmas. The busy season brings more people who need to be supported, meaning more server hardware, storage and software. At the end of the busy season, the head count goes down, but the costs of extra servers, storage and software remain — unless you have a third party hosting your applications at their facility.
Need to add 20 users? No problem. Just pay the extra price per user, per month. Need to cut 20 users? No problem. Just reduce your head count with the provider, and stop paying for those users each month. When you don’t need to support as many users, you don't have to.
We’re glossing over many important details, such as how to pick a good partner to host your servers and storage, how to configure the right amount of network bandwidth to ensure high performance, and how to reduce PC costs in the office. Those are issues for another time. This time, all you need to remember is that private clouds offer some unexpected and cost-effective options for your business.