Moving your projects to the cloud, but why?
Understanding the cloud main advantages and disadvantages
In this article, we are going to change the context slightly. In the last articles, we have been talking about data management, the importance of data quality, and business analytics. This time, I am very excited to announce to you that we are going to explore, over the next few weeks, a current trend that will affect all companies in the decade in which we find ourselves: the cloud. I know that the topic cloud is very broad since it has a lot of concepts so we’ll focus on data in the cloud.
I thinkby now, we have all heard about the cloud and its capabilities but, do you know all the benefits and implications it has? In this first post, I would like to explore the basic concepts of the cloud with you, and in the next few weeks, accompany you on a trip about how we can find relevant insights using the cloud resources.
First of all, I want you to understand why this post is for you. So, if you are…
an individual, whether you’re in business or tech, you need to understand these concepts and how the cloud is changing the game.
a company, you must have a cloud strategy. We are not talking about having your workload 100% migrated to the cloud tomorrow, but you should have a roadmap for the next few years.
What is cloud computing?
At this point, I would like to define what cloud computing is. Since 2017 an infinite amount of statements have been distributed over social networks saying:
''Cloud computing is just someone’s else computer''
This false idea has spread over the Internet. I must admit that I had a sticker on my laptop with that slogan a few years ago. But the truth is if you say that, you are not understanding well what cloud computing is. It is true that, reduced to a minimum, cloud computing is about renting compute power from others for your purposes, an infinite world of possibilities has been raised over this idea with implications at all organizational levels of a company.
Let’s talk about the advantages
The economy of scale
As you surely know, today everything is done on a large scale, especially when we talk about the world of data. For this reason, we must be able to operate less expensively and more efficiently when we do things on a large scale. The cloud takes advantage of the economy of scale, allowing our businesses to grow and be more profitable as they grow.
Another of the many advantages of cloud computing affects the financial level because it changes the spending model. You should understand these spending models well, to know why it is an advantage of the cloud.
- Capital expenditure (CapEx): they consist of an investment in a fixed asset and then deducting that expense from your tax bill over time. Examples of assets that would fall into this category could be buildings, equipment, or, more specifically, when you buy a server or a data center (On-premise).
- Operational expenditure (OpEx): can be understood as expenses necessary for the operation of the business. You can deduct this expense from your tax bill in the same year. There are no upfront costs, you pay for what you use.
Operational expenses enable a pay-as-you-go pricing model, which allows your company to reduce costs and gain flexibility.
Thanks to the cloud, the time-to-market for new products or the growth of the existing ones is reduced.
If your company, regardless of its size, wants to try a new product, with the cloud you will be able to do so much more agilely, since it allows you to allocate resources in a much faster and more precise way.
On the other hand, if you already have a product running and want to make it grow to other countries, the cloud will allow you to do it much more efficiently.
Scalability, elasticity and reliability
Another advantage of the cloud is closely related to the pay-as-you-go model. In this case, we are talking about scalability and elasticity, which allows your business to constantly adapt to demand. This has two aspects: on the one hand, it prevents you from incurring extra costs when you have wasted infrastructure and, on the other, it allows your business to grow as demand grows, guaranteeing the quality of the service.
Also, the cloud allows you to increase the reliability of your technology through disaster recovery policies, data replication, or backups.
Focus on the business
With the shared responsibility models of cloud providers, you can free yourself from certain responsibilities and put a greater focus on growing your business. There are different cloud models, which we will see below, but I anticipate that depending on the model you choose, the distribution of responsibility will vary.
It’s not about being carefree. Using technology always carries a great responsibility and many aspects must always be born in mind, especially when we talk about data. However, in any cloud model, there will always be a delegated party to the provider, which will allow you to free yourself to a greater or lesser extent from recurring and costly tasks for your business.
I believe that security should always have a separate section. Closely related to economies of scale, security solutions are cheaper when deployed on a large scale, and the cloud takes advantage of this. Security is a key element today, being a differentiator for many clients like you. This demand makes cloud providers put special focus on security.
Finally, and related to the shared responsibility model, depending on the solutions implemented, the cloud provider usually acquires certain maintenance responsibilities such as the installation of updates, application of security patches, or security implementations at the infrastructure level so you don’t have to worry about these tasks.
But why does nobody talk about the risks?
There are always two sides. We have talked about the advantages and I am sure that many, if not all, you would already know. I hope that at this point, you have gathered that the cloud offers you great opportunities whether you are a small, medium, or large company.
Now, why do so few people talk about risks? There is no perfect solution, so I think it is just as important to know the benefits as it is to talk about the risks. When you have all the information on the table, you can make a decision with a much more objective criterion than just seeing a part.
When you use any technology, a link is established between your business and that technology. A dependency is created that can be higher or lower depending on the technology and the function it has in your business. This dependency gives cloud providers greater bargaining power, as switching costs arise that were not so present before. For example, if we use accounting software or a CRM in the cloud, the switching costs are very high, because they perform very core functions in your business.
The same happens with the infrastructure, if all your technology infrastructure relies on a specific cloud provider, it gives that provider greater control. For example, if the cloud provider decides to change prices and you have all your infrastructure hosted with that provider, you have two options: either you accept the changes or you incur the cost of infrastructure migration.
Not all services are available everywhere
Not all cloud providers offer the same services and the same services from one provider are not available worldwide. You may need to use a service offered by a certain provider that is available in a geographic area that interests you. Now, if you need to scale to other geographic regions, that service may not be available and your ability to act will be limited.
On the other hand, and related to the previous point, the fact that you use a specific service with a certain provider does not imply that should the time come when you need to change providers, you can do it since not all providers have the same catalog of services.
As you have seen, the cloud has great potential for your business since it allows you to gain agility, reduce time to market and optimise costs, which, with on-premise solutions, will be much more difficult. However, in addition to the advantages, you must always keep in mind the main disadvantages, since dependencies and change costs that were not so present before may well appear.
In this first post of the series on data in the cloud, we have introduced what cloud computing is and what the main advantages and disadvantages are. In the next few weeks, we will go deeper into this topic, talking about the different cloud types and solutions that can be implemented, but always focusing on data.
Thanks for reading!
Author: Samuel Fraga Mateos
Source: Towards Data Science