By Ashton Steyn, Regional CTO, HP Enterprise Services, South Africa
Cloud computing is quickly gathering steam as one of the most prominent emerging topics in IT, and indeed business as a whole.
In almost every sector, managers and business owners alike are investigating the ways in which a move to the cloud could potentially benefit their organisations. Despite this, there is still a significant lack in understanding around the benefits and inner workings of this exciting new phenomenon.
Concisely put, the days in which small businesses were forced to invest in costly IT infrastructure to accommodate growth are over.
Today, cloud computing is offering businesses a simple answer to the challenge of IT scalability through the use of hosted environments which can be provisioned in a matter of hours, sometimes even less.
In essence, this represents a departure from on premise IT solutions such as file servers and temperamental email platforms in favour of always-on, secure platforms that are able to grow and shrink according to business requirements.
The movement towards the cloud has been precipitated by a shift in focus on computing as a service, rather than a product. Through both private and public off-site offerings, organisations throughout South Africa are now deploying cloud based computing, storage and applications at a fraction of the cost of on premise IT infrastructure.
Understandably, some businesses are wary of hosting sensitive information within a cloud environment. Data security is a large focus area for every organisation and the perceived risk associated with storing mission critical information at a remote location can be daunting.
This perception is somewhat justified. At present, there is very little commitment to service level agreements (SLAs) for uptime and security within a public cloud setting. As these services mature however, so the standards that govern them are expected to become more stringent, giving users greater piece of mind when opting for application based public cloud services.
Nonetheless, the promise of security and guaranteed uptime within the virtual private cloud environment is far more reliable. Here, large entities provision virtualised computing environments a tenant basis, resulting in a more consistent offering than their public cloud based counterparts.
Unfortunately, the costs associated with deploying a virtualised private cloud solution can be considerable. In response, HP has provisioned its HP CloudStart Solution, which allows businesses at all levels to roll out a reliable and secure private cloud environment within 30 days and within budget.
This enables SMEs and Mid-Market organisations to enter the cloud environment with minimal investment, marrying the best of freely available public cloud offerings with the safety of a private cloud.
Combined with services such as HPCloud.com, which provides Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) in a public cloud setting, local businesses now have access to a host of secure, dependable cloud offerings which reduce capital expenditure and ensure data security.
Although cloud computing is still maturing, reputable services aimed at the SME or Mid-Market user are beginning to emerge. At their core, these offerings aim to reduce the hassle associated with on-premise IT while reducing costs.
Every successful organisation seeks to minimize expenditure and exposure to risk – Cloud Computing is one of 2012’s most compelling ways to achieve this.