It’s an ongoing question that IT and business leaders wrestle with: Where should critical data be stored, and what level of protection does it need? These are just a couple of the many factors that go into complex decisions that need to be made regarding how data is handled. However, when a recent Microsoft Exchange data breach compromised up to 30,000 organizations and made headlines, it brought the question back to the forefront. What are the pros and cons of having data in the cloud versus on-premises, and how can you balance security and access in today’s digital-first and remote-enabled landscape?
It’s All About the Data
The essential question that drives the on-premises versus in-the-cloud debate isn’t really storage; it’s data. Data is an organization’s most important asset. It’s the record of every transaction, insights on customers, the way to track productivity, and your proprietary intellectual property. According to one study, more than 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created daily. When evaluating the best solutions for where a company’s data should live, it’s important to consider factors such as:
- Security: Can you outsource the security of this data to another organization? What’s at risk in the case of a potential breach?
- Compliance: Are there regulatory or other industry compliance situations that must be factored into the conversation?
- Speed: How quickly does data need to be accessed? Are issues like latency and bandwidth considerations?
- Reliability: What are your uptime requirements?
- Costs: What’s your budget? Storing data in the cloud can be cost effective if it’s frequently used, while in other use cases on-site storage of archived data can be more effective.
The Call of the Cloud
The cloud has been one of the most explosive areas of growth within business computing over the past decade—and in many cases, adapting to digital-first interactions and remote work accelerated the adoption of cloud even more over the past year. Cloud computing has allowed companies to move applications, data, and workloads out of the data center and onto public or private cloud solutions that increase flexibility, reduce costs, and enable modern IT management.
TechCrunch recently reported: “There is a prevailing notion that while the cloud infrastructure market is growing fast, the vast majority of workloads remain on-premises. While that could be true, new research from Synergy Research Group found that cloud infrastructure spending surpassed on-prem spending for the first time in 2020—and did so by a wide margin.”
One of the main advantages that’s often cited for cloud is cost. By moving data off-premises, there are several costs that are reduced or eliminated. These can include:
- Hardware, such as servers
- Licensing for software
- Space for server rooms
- Electricity and power costs for cooling
- Staff time for maintenance
Many cloud providers have also embraced flexible consumption models, or a “pay-as-you-go” approach, that allows companies to shift the cost of computing from capital expenses to operating expenses and better control their ongoing expenses.
There are other advantages of cloud, including the ability to scale up or down as business needs demand. In addition, companies can leave upgrades and ongoing management to their cloud partners, freeing up IT resources and time for their most important strategic priorities.
Why Some Workloads Stay On-Premises
Despite all the advantages cloud offers, most companies are opting to keep at least some of their workloads on-premises. On-premises simply means that applications are deployed, data is stored, and workloads are powered by machines that are housed on-site in a data center.
Maintaining an internal data center requires that companies have the hardware, space, and IT talent to configure, maintain, and oversee these IT assets. That can mean both upfront investments and ongoing costs—and in certain use cases, it’s the best way to go.
There are three significant advantages of on-premises deployments and storage. The first is that companies retain control of their data and assets. As highlighted at the beginning of this piece, a cloud-based data breach can have significant consequences for those it impacts. Retaining control over your applications and data means that you limit the third parties with access, and you reduce the chances of a data breach. When you retain control over your IT infrastructure, you’re also able to customize the environment to fit your unique specifications.
The second related, but separate, reason is security. Cloud environments are perceived as having additional security risks because you’re relying on outside organizations to manage security settings and enforcement. The reality is that cloud companies deploy sophisticated, multi-layer security protocols and have teams of experts. However, whether it’s the perception of increased risks or the reality, it’s important to note that security concerns drive many companies to keep their workloads on-site.
The third consideration is proximity. On-premises deployments are increasingly being seen outside the traditional data center in Edge environments. Some common examples might be a small storage and compute deployment on a factory floor to support robotics process automation, or within a warehouse to enable an AI sensor network. In situations where latency of even a few seconds matters, on-premises deployments can help close those nanosecond gaps.
How to Choose What’s Right for You
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution that works for companies deciding where to house their data. Instead, it’s important to go through a systematic approach and ask the right questions to determine how best to serve the information under consideration. Increasingly, organizations are embracing both cloud and on-premises as part of a hybrid solution. Hybrid IT infrastructure allows organizations to develop plans that best fit their unique needs in the moment, and flex to adapt to the changing environment and business needs over time.
For many organizations, the reality of today’s computing environment is complex. Cloud services offer the flexibility and cost savings that remote work and modern workloads demand. Yet regulatory considerations, security, and internal policies may require that some applications and data remain on-premises. By understanding the pros and cons of each of these computing options, it’s possible to make decisions that keep your computing environment modernized and a source of competitive advantage.
Don’t navigate this alone. Contact Connection today to speak with a technology specialist who can help you determine the solutions and services to best meet your unique organizational needs.