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Posted 20th November 2016 by Lawrence McCrossen

What Does Your Cloud Look Like

The Cloud has steadily revolutionised our world in recent years, perhaps in a quieter way than smart phones and Social Media.

It’s a very broad subject, and I won’t attempt to cover all areas. I’ll focus on a number of small to medium sized clients that we know, and can add insight based on our experiences working with them.

What about security?

A detailed analysis is not the purpose here, but I once heard a Microsoft speaker say that they spend a billion dollars a year on security. Of course Microsoft are a big target, but it’s hard to argue with that.

It’s true that in a sense you lose control of your data in the Cloud, and it’s a good idea to have some kind of backup strategy in place, but can you really convince yourself that it’s safer in your own rack?

There is the question of sovereignty, but many services now guarantee that data won’t be stored overseas.

So, what are the flavours?

1 Selected Applications

The first point to make is that many companies have been using Cloud based systems for many years, it’s just that they referred to them as ‘Web Based’. Everyday products like Salesforce, Survey Monkey, Mailchimp, and many, many others.

Something like Zoho Apps aims to provide every application you could ever need – all in the Cloud. Our very Seymour product for automating and displaying spreadsheet data to websites run fully in the Cloud. 

2 Basic Business Tools

Major change has come with Google’s office products. And the highly significant Microsoft 365 – basically you can completely remove your (high maintenance) Exchange Server hardware and software, and enjoy all the tools – email, contacts, calendar as you did before, but without the worry of what happens if your exchange server goes down. The move for a small organisation is relatively simple, and I from our own experience at The Bridge, you won’t look back!

3 Business Applications

Excludes standard applications such as Word, Excel here, or any application where user interface is tied very closely to the data stored (see 4 below).

Pseudo Cloud – just taking an application and running it on Cloud server, using a remote access tool like Citrix. It’s cloud for the purists, but it does get the application off your in-house infrastructure, which is one of the reasons for having the Cloud.

This aside, you don’t have to have web based application to benefit from the Cloud in a more sophisticated way. At the Bridge we’ve built complex desktop applications that install locally on PCs and laptops, but with the database residing in the Cloud. With some security built in, you can use the system from anywhere you have the application installed. And the database is truly pay-as-you-go in Cloud fashion.

The only word of warning is it be aware of external connectivity of your applications – this may be affected when you move server based components.

4 Files and Standard File-based Applications

In spite of being the simplest conceptually, file storage can be difficult to work out. My experience is that keeping a small server (or just a storage box) on your local network will consistently give you the fastest file retrieve and save, but the difference may be minimal.

Where it matters is for some file-based applications, such as complex spreadsheets or other file types that have many links to other files or services. This can be very slow outside of a LAN. If you are considering this, you should test thoroughly first.

So if like we do, you decide to keep some local storage, you can then use the Cloud as a backup location for the files.

I imagine one day Internet speeds will be consistent and fast enough as to be indistinguishable from a LAN. 

5 ‘Thin’ Desktops

Another option is to host everything – I mean everything, from files, common applications though to email clients in the Cloud. Access is either by Remote access to an application running in the Cloud, or a cloud version running on a browser. But I haven’t heard of this working well, and I imagine it could get quite costly. And it really wastes the capability of your desktop or laptop.

How do you choose?

With the possible exception of Thin Desktops, you can mix and match as you wish. The costs comparison will likely involve sunk costs of existing systems versus immediate ongoing fees, plus the initial cost of the move. Backup strategy will also need to be considered.

In my mind though, the long term benefits of having reduced infrastructure, pay-as-you go, and reduced support headaches, are in most cases compelling for the first 3 flavours, and the 4th flavour in some cases.

If you'd like to discuss your software development options with The Bridge at no cost or obligation, feel free to call Lawrence on 02 9993 3300 or email lawrence@thebridgedigital.com.au