As with many technological innovations in their early stages, it seems that discussions about “moving to the cloud” have been happening in the enterprise for years without a real tipping point being reached. A Gartner survey in 2012 showed that 85% of all companies planned to have at least “some” applications or data in the cloud by the end of the year. 2013 showed that fewer than half actually implemented such solutions. From exchange servers to data backups to complex applications, the number of companies utilizing cloud services for the majority of their server needs has not yet approached anything resembling mass adoption.

Cloud services

Enterprises are still slow to move to the Cloud.
Image courtesy of Atom Rain

One of the many reasons for a divide between planning to move to the cloud and actually doing so is that when it finally comes time to make a decision, many IT decision makers maintain comfort in having access to their hardware.  At the last moment of a cloud migration and integration, many CIO’s and network administrators will stop and say, “You know, it wouldn’t be THAT much more expensive just to refresh the hardware in our server room and move forward that way…”  Soon enough, there are new servers in-house and the cycle continues.

This is unfortunate because there is a different, better way to do things. Moving to the cloud doesn’t have to be a black or white decision. There are a number of solutions available that combine cloud services and physical hardware to create a custom solution for the customer.  Here are three different options available to consider the next time you are tempted to refresh the hardware in your own environment despite the increased expense and decreased reliability of doing so.

  • Cloud Servers – Offerings like Microsoft Azure, Amazon EC2, and Rackspace Open Cloud allow companies of any size to virtualize servers that are truly “in the cloud.” Using hardware located in the geo-redundant data-centers of larger companies, cloud servers allow you to pay only for the resources you use and tap into significantly better performance than you might be able to afford on your own. The downside of these services is that the rare (yet real) connectivity issue can impact your business, there is no physical access to the hardware, and certain compliance requirements (such as ITAR) can be hard to come by.
  • Colocation Services – Colocation services provide physical access to your own servers while keeping them in a facility that is much better suited for server hosting than your old closet or the space on the floor next to your desk. Colocation services offer electricity (with power backups), redundant high-bandwidth connectivity, fire-control, and on-site security to make sure your hardware is able to operate at an optimal level at all times. The downside of colocation services include the higher cost of still buying new hardware, having to travel to gain physical access when needed, and having to manage the relationship with the “colo” facility with regard to bandwidth and support.
Colocation services

Maintaining physical access is important to some organizations.
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  • Hybrid Model – One of the newer offerings in colocation services, the Hybrid model provides all the benefits of standard colocation services while also providing the server hardware necessary. This can allow companies to have physical access to the machines while avoiding the high capital expense associated with purchasing servers outright. Even better, many colocation facilities will offer to manage the servers at an OS level as a way to support the customer’s service needs.

The IT industry as a whole is years, if not decades, away from organizations being completely comfortable with having their server and storage architecture entirely off-site.  Data shows that most organizations are offloading smaller, less mission-critical parts of their IT infrastructure into the cloud first, while waiting to move more important data and applications off of in-house hardware. Despite the cost reduction and high reliability of cloud and colocation services, many decision-makers continue to take a “wait and see” approach when it comes to embracing the cloud.

If that describes you and your clients, then my suggestion is this: start now and be proactive in finding a cloud or colocation services provider to make your transition to the cloud easier in the future. Most cloud or colocation service providers will help scope out projects in advance. If you don’t know where to start, click here to contact Mosaic NetworX and learn more about colocation services available to you.