By Gerrit-Jan Albers, Service Delivery Manager at RDB Consulting
Despite international interest and uptake, cloud computing has been slow to gain traction in the local market. However, the fact remains that cloud computing can demonstrate great benefits in a number of Information Communication Technology (ICT) areas, including the database. This is particularly relevant in the local market. Migrating the database to the cloud is becoming an increasingly viable option for businesses, but organisations wishing to go this route need to choose their partner carefully or risk falling foul of an ineffective database service.
Some of the generic benefits of the cloud include significantly reducing capital outlay and introducing a ‘pay-per-use’ model which enables Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) as well as larger organisations to take advantage of the latest technology in an affordable way. With regards to the database, benefits include lower energy consumption and reduced energy costs, optimised office space and consolidated infrastructure amongst others.
Another major benefit of the cloud, and more specifically databases hosted in the cloud, is the ability for organisations to leverage greater economies of scale. Put simply, the provider should be able to negotiate better rates based on greater volumes of customers. The database for multiple clients will also be centralised, therefore fewer resources are required to administer this database. This means that both support and licensing costs are impacted in a positive way for the end user. As the database is provided as a service, it also reduces the hardware requirement and as a result the capital outlay required for businesses, making technology more accessible and affordable for SMEs.
The cost saving benefits are not just applicable to the SME market as a continuing unstable economic climate has meant that even large organisations are constantly looking for ways to trim costs to the minimum. For all sizes of organisations, cloud databases also provide access to scarce skills that may not otherwise be available, and access to existing infrastructure which is bound by Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to be kept up to date. The database as a cloud service is highly scalable and flexible and the service can be tailored and adapted dynamically as conditions and markets change.
However, simply migrating the database to the cloud does not automatically mean that businesses can leverage these benefits. There are several considerations that need to be taken into account in order to ensure that your organisation can realise the ‘silver lining’ of the cloud-based database.
One of the main inhibitors of cloud computing, including cloud databases, in the South African market is the issue of connectivity. When critical database information, applications and services are hosted within the cloud, connectivity becomes crucial. If connectivity fails, staff are unable to access any of the information and applications stored in the cloud database, which could effectively cripple any organisation. Support is another crucial aspect, given the mission critical nature of the database to many organisations.
A large number of organisations fall short when it comes to implementing cloud database services as they assume that the service provider delivering the cloud infrastructure will be able to offer high service levels coupled with the required experience. Unfortunately this is often not the case, since database administration and maintenance are specialist skills that are not in large supply. This tends to result in a cloud service that fails to deliver on the database functionality and required uptime and availability. It can end up costing a company more money rather than saving money in the long term.
Organisations need to be wary of cloud and hosted providers that claim to offer everything, as their service levels tend to be inconsistent across the various services. They may be specialists at hosting in the cloud, but might lack the skill, experience and expertise to migrate and maintain specialist, mission critical company databases and database applications. In order to truly leverage the multiple benefits of the database in the cloud, the better option is to engage with a specialist outsource database partner.
Attaining the services of a reputable specialist provider with a stable database track record, which complies with international governance around database security, is key. If data is not secured and the company is not a scrupulous one, an organisation’s data may be at risk of being sold to the competition or leaked.
By ensuring that an outsource partner is a database specialist, it is possible to take advantage of the silver lining of cloud computing, as an organisation can be assured that their partner will have the expertise and know how that is vital for this platform.