Discussions of Microsoft cloud permeate the world of IT — both the advantages of Microsoft cloud (accessibility, backup and recovery, a smaller environmental footprint, and the potential for lower maintenance costs) and its potential drawbacks (security and regulatory compliance). The decision to move to the cloud isn’t an easy one. You must consider your business model and organizational needs and then weigh the pros and cons of a cloud environment with your current, on-premises infrastructure.
Traditionally, larger businesses have had to invest in often-expensive infrastructure — servers and data centers — to operate efficiently. In addition to the upfront costs of the hardware and software, there is the cost of maintenance, the labor required to keep systems updated with the latest security patches as well as software and operating system versions, and the costs of physical security and cooling the environment in which these servers operate. In a cloud-based infrastructure, a business can eliminate its data centers and some servers, moving their data and functions to cloud provider-hosted systems that the business can then access from virtual machines (VMs) or browser-based applications. The cloud provider takes on the burden of keeping up with security patches and system maintenance for a monthly or annual subscription.
When it comes to accessing data and applications, today’s businesses have three options besides traditional, on-premises options:
- The public cloud: The public cloud is basically the Internet. Options such as Microsoft Office 365 come at a relatively low cost and offer scalability, reliability, and a range of storage options. The public cloud is an appealing option when you have standard workloads that many people use (e.g., email) or when you have peak times of the year that require greater resources or storage.
- A private cloud: In a private cloud, services and infrastructure run on a private network. The business that owns the private cloud has greater control over and security for the services and data but must invest in the software and infrastructure necessary to run it. A private cloud is ideal if your business must maintain strict regulatory compliance (e.g., a pharmaceutical company). As with traditional, on-premises infrastructures, the cost of purchasing and maintaining the necessary infrastructure tends to relegate private clouds to enterprise-level businesses.
- A hybrid cloud: In this model, businesses can maintain control of their private cloud for greater security over data and so on, while taking advantage of the public cloud for email and other commonly-accessed services.
Microsoft cloud offers two services options: Office 365 and Microsoft Azure. Office 365 is a Software as a Service solution, providing access to the Microsoft Office suite of applications — Word, Outlook, Excel, and more — in Microsoft cloud anywhere, any time. Office 365 subscriptions are available for home users and students, businesses, government organizations, and educational institutions. Microsoft’s Platform as a Service solution is Azure. With Azure, businesses can host applications through VMs that can run Windows or Linux. Azure lets businesses deploy infrastructure and services based on their needs, with a wide range of pricing options available.
Have you already decided Microsoft cloud is right for you?
If you’ve made the decision to move to Microsoft cloud, the next step is to plan your migration. Microsoft or a partner can help you. Microsoft also publishes a deployment-planning checklist for Office 365 that includes such tasks as:
- Determining deployment goals,
- Learning to inventory your current environment,
- Preparing your data for migration,
- Preparing your IT department for the move, and
- Educating your users.
If you’re running a small business, many of these tasks may seem overwhelming. That’s where a managed IT service provider is invaluable. All Phases IT is a Denver-based IT management service that can help you determine what kind of cloud environment is best for your needs and then work with you to manage the transition. Contact us today for a complimentary consultation and evaluation of your needs and goals.