Small and mid-sized businesses that aren’t taking advantage of the cloud today are missing the boat. Benefits like better business agility, scalability, security, and cost control are so compelling that more SMBs than ever are moving software and infrastructure to the cloud. And it's not just Line Of Business functionality and solutions; IT management itself is also moving to the cloud.
According to an IDC survey, Multicloud is the New Normal, 54 percent of cloud adopters’ C-level executives insist on a cloud-first strategy for new applications, and 55 percent have a cloud-first strategy to replace existing ones. Simply put, this means that new applications are more likely to be deployed or developed in a public cloud instead of a private data centre.
SMBs are getting the message. According to one survey, almost half of small businesses in the UK plan to extend their use of cloud computing this year. Globally, 78 percent of small and mid-sized businesses will be using some form of cloud computing by 2020.
In most cases, the smaller the company, the more likely to use software or as a service (SaaS). For example, a small business isn’t likely to buy a server and run Microsoft Exchange locally; they are much more likely to run Office 365 in Microsoft's public cloud. At some point, often as small businesses become mid-sized businesses, they may find the need to have some sort of compute infrastructure capabilities in-house, looking after servers and data, and/or developing/customising applications.
This is where IaaS and PaaS come in, with plenty of solutions that are constantly evolving. These include hosting workloads with different cloud providers for disaster recovery and backup and using cloud-based platforms for developing with microservices and container offerings, which seamlessly connect on-premises data centres and different public clouds.
The multicloud world at its best!
What are the benefits of a multicloud approach?
The appeal of cloud computing is so great that it seems many companies agree that more is better. According to RightScale's 2018 State of the Cloud survey, public cloud adoption increased from 89 percent in 2017 to 92 percent today, while private cloud adoption increased from 72 percent in 2017 to 75 percent in 2018.
To get the greatest benefit, companies are adopting a multicloud approach, which involves using various clouds and different cloud models for different areas, depending on specific needs, requirements, and cost.
Multicloud is about more than moving workloads to the cloud; it’s about connecting securely to different clouds; protecting your users, devices and data; and generally building a strategy to manage the use of multiple clouds. Often, this means using a combination of on-premises or hosted private and public cloud environments. With this flexibility, a company can keep sensitive data hosted on-premises to satisfy compliance requirements, while business applications can easily be run from a public cloud in the form of SaaS.
In another scenario, a development team might be more comfortable deploying applications on the Microsoft Azure platform because they might already use Microsoft software on-premises extensively, while another might be more at home with Amazon Web Services. A multicloud approach can enable both and that seems to be the new normal.
The multicloud approach is gaining steam across the board. The recent IDC survey, Multicloud is the New Normal, found that 85 per cent of cloud adopters now have multiple cloud deployments, with 15 percent of them working with at least ten cloud vendors.
Challenges SMBs face when moving to a multicloud approach
Clearly, there are many benefits to adopting a multicloud model. Yet there are also challenges businesses may face when choosing the right mix of clouds; ensuring security for users, devices and data; visibility between clouds; and optimising cost.
Choosing the right mix of clouds:
If your company gets to the point where it makes sense to have some infrastructure on-premises and some in a public cloud, the first step is discovering what environment is better for which use case. Done manually, this is a complicated task that requires constant vigilance and strategy. Most companies opt to automate this process with a cloud management application. With this approach, companies can ensure that the best deployment environment is chosen for specific applications based on price, performance and pre-set policies.
Security across all clouds:
Ensuring security in one cloud is challenging enough, but multiplying the risk can cause real concern. Of course, any cloud vendor you choose should be vigilant with must-haves like multi-factor authentication for every device and application.
Beyond that, however, it makes sense to look for a coordinated approach to security across networks, endpoints and clouds, focusing on visibility, analytics, control and responsiveness. This is a complicated and important endeavour, and one that most small and medium sized businesses don’t have the IT staff to handle. In most cases, the best way to ensure multicloud security is by treating the on-premises internal network and all connected public clouds as one potential attack surface, and selecting the minimum amount of vendors that offer visibility and protection "to and from" those different clouds.
Cost management and containment for workloads:
When talking about workload placement with different cloud providers, according to IDC, more than 42 percent of European organisations say managing and controlling cost is their biggest multicloud priority. That’s not surprising; while more clouds means more flexibility (including your on-premises), it also means more complexity. With so many clouds at a company’s disposal to host applications and data, it’s easy to simply pick one you’re comfortable with for a given project. The problem is that the cloud you choose may not be the best value for that use case.
Avoiding this problem means tracking and analysing the price you’re paying for various application workload for example, on various clouds, noting the specifics of each situation. That’s almost impossible without automation, but there are many types of tools that can help, such as cloud service expense management tools that track and manage cloud costs across multiple clouds, right-size resources and terminate idle ones.
Multicloud is fast becoming mainstream. According to IDC, that’s certainly true in Europe, where IDC predicts that most European enterprises – and no doubt many small and medium businesses – will soon use multiple cloud services if they aren’t already.
It’s not too soon to start laying the groundwork.