Here are the influential voices leading the conversations where nonprofits and technology overlap.
As they consider ways to take advantage of the many benefits of cloud computing, IT managers should consider the suitability of specific types of applications for the cloud. Here are different type of apps and how they may fit in the cloud.
Entities with active internal software development teams can benefit substantially from the cloud. Developers and quality assurance testers often need significant computing capacity for relatively short periods of time. Internal IT operations teams may not be able to provide this capacity quickly or cost-efficiently, which can delay important development projects and consume developers’ time.
The cloud offers developers near-immediate and relatively inexpensive access to the computing capacity they need. It can also give them access to the different environments they may need to thoroughly test how well their code runs under a variety of potential real-world conditions. This can help accelerate the delivery of new high-quality applications and services.
Just as important, with the cloud, this capacity can be rented only for as long as it is needed. This eliminates the waste associated with buying extra hardware for development teams.
Email, web conferencing, document sharing and other social/collaborative applications are increasingly important to organizations seeking to increase productivity, accelerate business processes, improve decision-making, foster innovation and leverage institutional knowledge.
Cloud computing allows organizations to provide communication and collaboration tools from anywhere. This offers the ability to support work from any location, at any time and on any device. Furthermore, it provides credence to the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) phenomenon and the resulting incremental productivity offered to the organization.
Added security comes in the way of authentication and security protocols offered by the cloud service provider for access outside of the firewall. The CSP also provides ongoing maintenance efforts needed to keep protocols secure and data compliant.
Desktop word processing, spreadsheet and presentation apps — in particular Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft PowerPoint — have become staples of knowledge worker productivity. They have also become more expensive to own and manage as users increasingly work on multiple devices from diverse locations. Licensing can be a particularly thorny issue as many employees work from a varying number of devices.
Microsoft has responded to the changing needs of knowledge workers with Microsoft Office 365, a cloud-based version of the company’s popular Office suite that provides anytime/anywhere access — along with other useful features such as calendar syncing and collaboration tools. By migrating users to this type of solution, companies can reduce their software ownership costs while better supporting today’s workers.
Every minute of every day, users and computing endpoints generate a wealth of data. From Facebook posts to utility meter readings, this data offers tremendous potential for actionable insights about changing market dynamics, sales opportunities, operational problems and exposure to risks.
To realize this potential, companies must be able to rapidly process massive volumes of Big Data, perform sophisticated analysis of it and deliver results to users in a visually intuitive way. That kind of computing requires a lot of processing power, storage and throughput, which can be expensive to acquire and maintain. Plus, Big Data workloads are often highly sporadic, requiring massive capacity for short periods of time and then extended periods of inactivity.
Here again, the cloud is an obvious fit. With the right cloud service, organizations can get access to the Big Data processing capacity they need for as long as they need it — without massive capital expenses for capacity they don’t need. Many cloud providers also specialize in analytic applications and offer advanced and highly customizable analytic algorithms that help find the high-value “needles” in Big Data “haystacks.”
One major caveat: Organizations should seriously consider cost and time factors when moving large amounts of data to a cloud service provider’s environment. Additionally, significant costs may be incurred if data has to be moved out of that environment. However, in most cases, the capital savings and elastic scalability of cloud environments more than offset these costs.
As organizations become increasingly dependent on applications and other IT services on a moment-to-moment basis, they also must safeguard those applications and services from all types of disasters — including extreme weather, regional power outages, terrorist attacks and even a large-scale failure of an enterprise data center.
The cloud can clearly play a central role in provisioning recovery and continuity. With the cloud, replicated versions of critical applications and their associated data can be maintained in one or more locations sufficiently distant from a main enterprise data center that they are unlikely to be vulnerable to the same disaster. Users can then access those resources from other locations.
Organizations can also leverage cloud service providers to comply with regulations that govern records retention. The cloud can provide economies of scale that reduce overall storage costs — while also providing rapid access to data over the network when necessary.
Most organizations have a set of core applications, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, that function as their primary systems of record. It may be challenging or impractical to migrate these applications to the cloud for a variety of reasons:
Performance issues: Because these applications tend to be transaction-intensive, they may require high network throughput and very low latency. This performance may be difficult to achieve in a cloud environment.
High-availability requirements: While the cloud offers excellent overall continuity and availability, any application accessed over the Internet is susceptible to the occasional “hiccup.” For systems where even a relatively brief interruption can have significant consequences, organizations may be better off investing in high-availability infrastructure in an in-house data center.
Sensitive data: Systems of record are almost always repositories for some of an organization’s most sensitive information — including customer data and financial records. Regulatory compliance and governance best practices may therefore prevent movement of this data to the cloud.
Application architecture: For companies that have been running their businesses on the same ERP system for many years, the architecture of the application itself may preclude migration to a virtual environment.
The cloud is not a panacea. It won’t eliminate every IT challenge an organization faces, and it isn’t appropriate for every application. But with the right insight and the right partners, companies can leverage the evolving range of cloud solutions to drive down costs, improve productivity, empower managers to make better decisions and drive the kind of innovation that dramatically improves business performance in dynamic and competitive markets.
Want to learn more? Check out CDW’s white paper, “Migrating Enterprise Applications to the Cloud.”