83% of enterprise workloads will live in the cloud by 2020.

Forbes

Businesses embarking on digital transformation need to make big decisions about their infrastructure, data, and applications. This is where cloud computing comes in. With all types of clouds options out there, many businesses get overwhelmed and struggle to find what they need. Do they need a single cloud environment for data and applications? What about multi- and hybrid clouds? Will the public cloud serve their needs?

Our guide will help you learn everything you need to know about the cloud, how to choose the right cloud services for your business, and what to look for in a best-in-class cloud provider.

What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing – often referred to as “the cloud” – allows users to access computing services and resources (including servers, storage, databases, and applications) over the Internet instead of on a personal computer or local server.

A brief history of cloud computing

The roots of cloud computing were planted in the 1950s with large-scale shared mainframes. Deploying these massive systems was expensive, so it made financial sense to let multiple users share the single resource.

In the 1970s, the concept of virtual machines began to emerge. Using virtualization software, it became possible to have multiple distinct compute environments, or virtual machines (VMs), on the same physical environment.

The next major milestone came in the 1990s, when telecommunications companies began to offer virtual private networks (VPNs) to organizations, allowing users to securely and remotely access the same physical infrastructure.

Shortly after that, the World Wide Web and first browsers became available for commercial use. These innovations pushed companies to move services from licensed software to software as a service (SaaS); Salesforce pioneered this concept in 1999.

In 2002, Amazon launched Amazon Web Services (AWS) and began offering a suite of cloud-based infrastructure services for other organizations. Many other providers – including Google, Microsoft, and IBM – followed soon after.

Today, cloud adoption is surging, making it a key driver in digital transformation initiatives for many organizations. The pace of innovation is staggering, with new solutions and approaches (including containerization, micro-services, and serverless computing) changing the market.

The benefits of cloud computing

Cloud computing supports innovation and business agility. Leveraging cloud computing can help your business gain the competitive advantage.

9 benefits of cloud computing

cost effectiveness

Cost Effectiveness

Virtualized resources remove the capital expense of purchasing hardware. Cloud service providers deliver economies of scale and expertise for a faster return on investment (ROI).

Data Security

Cloud computing providers have the scale to hire high-demand cloud security professionals, and the expertise and resources to implement best-practice controls, policies, and technologies for cloud security.

Speed to Market

A virtual machine creates a cloud server with any operating system. Ready-made software development platforms let software engineers provision an environment and deploy applications quickly.

Availability

Redundant infrastructure, cloud security, and 99.99% uptime service level agreements deliver high-availability cloud environments.

Scalability

Cloud computing lets you right-size your compute, cloud storage, and network bandwidth – up, down, or off – whenever your business needs change and wherever you may need the resources geographically.

Resiliency

Cloud computing enables replication and failover to an alternate location to bypass local disruptions with Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS).

Increased Productivity

Cloud resources and managed cloud service providers let your business achieve more with fewer in-house resources. Your IT staff can focus on the goals of your business, instead of maintaining IT infrastructure.

Innovation

Cloud providers innovate rapidly, enabling access to the latest technology. And using the cloud lets your internal IT team be strategic and focused on innovation, instead of tending your infrastructure.

Improved Performance

High-performance computing, fast communication networks, and local edge computing are among the many ways cloud computing reduces latency and improves performance.

How cloud computing enables digital transformation

Cloud computing is the foundation of digital transformation strategy for 62% of mid-market companies.
SOURCE: (Frost & Sullivan survey)

Digital transformation refers to the investment in and development of new technologies, mindsets, and business models to deliver new and relevant value for customers and employees in an ever-evolving digital economy.

Depending on where a company is on its IT journey, transformation can mean different things. But if you aren’t looking at ways to use technology to better serve customers, you can be sure your competitors are. One constant is that digital transformation is supported by cloud computing.

Sixty percent of respondents in a recent survey expect the majority of their IT environments to be off-premises by the end of 2019. The cloud’s scalable, flexible resources are ideal for transformational initiatives, allowing accelerated business evolution through nimble infrastructure that makes change affordable.

Organizations choose their cloud services and cloud providers based on the needs of each application and workload, making multicloud and hybrid cloud computing the new normal. Often, one cloud isn’t the best for all workloads: Placement depends on a range of factors, including lifecycle stages, usage patterns, application behavior characteristics, data criticality, and data sovereignty.

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Types of cloud platforms

Public clouds, private clouds, and hybrid clouds are the three main types of cloud computing platforms. When choosing the right cloud – or clouds – you must consider the unique needs of your organization and workloads. It is important to understand the value provided by each type of cloud, as well as how each platform can meet the needs of different applications.

Public cloud and hyperscale cloud

Public clouds provide a pool of virtual resources that are owned and managed by a third-party provider and shared by customers in a multitenant environment. The world’s largest public cloud platforms offer hyperscale clouds that deliver the highest scalability. Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS) are well-known hyperscale public clouds providers.

Public clouds are cost-effective for companies that want to avoid purchasing, managing, and maintaining on-premises hardware, since all management and maintenance of infrastructure and services are the responsibility of the cloud service provider.

Public clouds are ideal for organizations that have needs related to big data, media and collaboration, e-commerce, and specialty workloads, or that have highly variable workloads that need to scale.

Some managed service providers have relationships with public cloud providers, giving their clients access to a public cloud without the effort of setting it up and managing it.

Private cloud

Sometimes you don’t want to share. With a private cloud, your organization can accelerate digital transformation with dedicated resources, security, application control, and regulatory compliance. Private clouds can be managed by internal resources or by a third-party provider. Additionally, they can be hosted internally (on-premises) or in a third-party data center. Depending on your provider, your hosted private cloud can be located near your offices in a local cloud data center or closer to your customers.

Hyper-converged infrastructure

Many organizations are opting to leverage hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) platforms with their private clouds to accelerate implementation, scale rapidly, and simplify operations. A hyper-converged infrastructure is a software-defined solution that combines compute, network, and storage together into a single system.

Deploying a hyper-converged infrastructure gives a private cloud the elasticity of a public cloud. Because it is software-enabled, users can spin up new resources quickly and easily.

Research firm Gartner predicts that as much as 20% of business-critical applications currently deployed on three-tier IT infrastructure will transition to hyper-converged infrastructure by 2020.

When deploying a private cloud, look to vendors such as Nutanix, VMware, and Dell EMC for industry-leading HCI platforms, or to a cloud service provider that can deploy and support these technologies.

Hybrid cloud

A hybrid cloud delivers a business function seamlessly across one or more clouds or other computing resources, on- or off-premises.

Hybrid clouds are ideal for workloads that would be limited by a single cloud.

Hybrid clouds are common, as are hybrid IT strategies. The majority (58%) of companies use or plan to adopt a hybrid mix of cloud and non-cloud infrastructure, while 12% use or plan to use a mix of clouds.

Four common uses of hybrid cloud are:

Replication and failover for disaster recovery and business continuity

Archiving and data storage for storage tiering, backup retention, and data lakes

Managing spikes in demand on bursting workloads

Spinning up new software development environments

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What is multicloud?

Sometimes one cloud won’t serve all of your data and application needs. There is no “one size fits all.” Many businesses are looking to multicloud deployments to support their diverse workloads.

Multicloud (the use of multiple clouds) is now the norm, because one cloud typically isn’t the best for all workloads. With multicloud you can pick and choose the best execution venue (BEV) for each workload and application.

Increased cloud options (59%) and easier and faster disaster recovery (40%) are two big benefits of multicloud, according to IDG.

Multicloud environments are usually interoperable, as shown in these multicloud trends:

25%

of organizations will deliver a single business function across multiple clouds – that is, hybrid cloud computing, which requires interoperability.

35%

of organizations expect to migrate workloads or data among multiple clouds, which also requires interoperability.

40%

of multicloud implementations will have no or minimal interoperability.

Four common uses of multicloud are:

  • To support specific business needs, such as edge computing
  • To use hyperscale resources for disaster recovery, storage, bursting workloads, and dev-test
  • As a by-product of a merger or acquisition, when each organization depends upon applications hosted in different clouds
  • As a result of subscribing to SaaS applications hosted in different clouds

Multiple clouds can multiply complexity. A multicloud strategy often requires additional IT skill sets such as cloud security and cloud connectivity.

Hiring all the IT skills you need for multicloud can be problematic, because it’s a full-time job to maintain knowledge of a single hyperscale cloud. Many multicloud adopters will choose an experienced partner to handle management for them.

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Cloud computing service models

IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS are the three main models of cloud computing services. Each model represents a different part of the cloud computing stack and each has its own benefits and use cases.

It’s necessary to understand the differences among the three in order to select the right model for your workloads and organization.

Cloud computing services differ depending on the level of abstraction. Which of these statements best matches your needs?

  • I want virtual machines and storage resources that I’ll set up and manage (IaaS)
  • I want a ready-to-use development platform for creating, testing, and delivering applications (PaaS)
  • I want to use a ready-made cloud-based application (SaaS)

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

IaaS delivers the most basic elements of a cloud: servers and VMs, operating systems, storage, and networking.

You can manage IaaS resources as you would your own hardware, or you can engage a managed cloud services provider.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

PaaS provides a convenient software development environment to develop, test, deliver, and manage applications.

The PaaS provider delivers middleware, development tools, database management systems, and analytics for your use.

You develop and manage your applications and data.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

With SaaS, you rent a ready-made application. The SaaS vendor delivers cost-effective standardized functionality to large groups of geographically distributed users.

Popular Uses

Popular uses for IaaS

  • Cloud servers for websites and media
  • Creating a virtual data center
  • Compute-intensive applications

Popular uses for PaaS

  • Software development
  • Analytics or business intelligence (BI)

Popular uses for SaaS

  • Email
  • Collaborative platforms
  • Sales and field support

Examples

IaaS examples

  • AWS
  • Microsoft Azure
aws azure

PaaS examples

  • AWS Elastic Beanstalk
  • Azure App Service or Dev Ops

SaaS examples

  • Office 365
  • Salesforce
office 365

Software + Services is a related application delivery model.

An average organization uses a mix of SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS

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Is the cloud secure?

Data security is a major concern for every organization. As you plan your cloud strategy, ensure robust security solutions are built into every facet of your deployment.

Despite eagerness to adopt cloud services, security remains a top concern for many organizations, particularly when they’re considering a multicloud strategy. But cloud computing can be secure when companies move thoughtfully and carefully with a formal cloud policy.

Cloud security requires vigilance on the part of both your organization and your cloud service provider. Sometimes, however, in their rush to multicloud deployments, businesses do not fully embed security into their plans. In other cases, in-house IT professionals may not have the time or expertise to stay on top of security monitoring.

Working with a partner that has cloud security expertise can improve protection, lower costs, and speed implementation and deployment. In addition to offering managed security as a service, cloud service providers should ensure cloud security by design through technologies and techniques such as:

  • Logical isolation
  • Role-based access control
  • Encryption for data at rest and in transit
  • System hardening and DDoS protection
  • 24x7x365 monitoring
  • Physical data center security

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Finding the best cloud

With so many options when it comes to the cloud, many businesses struggle to find a place to start. A cloud readiness assessment is a critical first step to help you find the right cloud solution for your business.

Is your organization preparing to move one or more workloads to a cloud or to a different cloud? Like any IT and business investment, cloud migration requires analysis and planning to reduce risk. Just as no IT department would buy network hardware without considering the rest of the network, a cloud readiness assessment evaluates cloud services as interdependent investments.

 

What is a cloud readiness assessment?

 
Start planning your cloud migration with a cloud readiness assessment, which involves an analysis of your organization’s current and future cloud needs.

Out of the assessment, you should receive a customized cloud road map, a right-sized cloud design with estimated cost of ownership (TCO) and ROI, and a cloud migration plan based on IT dependencies. A cloud readiness assessment should consider and evaluate:

  • Existing IT applications and infrastructure
  • Security and compliance requirements
  • Current and projected computing workloads
  • Business processes
  • Internal IT human resources
  • IT budget
  • Future business goals
  • Estimated costs

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5 things to look for in a cloud service provider

Many organizations find digital transformation and cloud migration challenging due to a shortage of cloud expertise skills. In a recent 451 Research survey, 57% of respondents are feeling the pain of this skills gap, with 30% struggling to find and recruit the right talent to support their cloud initiatives. Many providers out there can help, but how do you know if you’re getting the right expertise? Consider these five areas when choosing a cloud provider.

1. The multicloud and hybrid cloud expertise you (will) need

Even if you don’t need a multicloud or a hybrid cloud yet, it’s likely you will, and probably sooner than you might expect.

Look for a cloud provider with the right partners and expertise with multiple clouds, cloud security, and managed services; they can design and manage all your clouds, from a single-cloud deployment to a multi-vendor multicloud.

2. Disaster recovery and Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS)

Cloud computing can deliver improved disaster recovery and business continuity by lowering recovery times and reducing data loss.

A cloud service provider (CSP) with DRaaS expertise can design a cloud infrastructure that meets your recovery point objectives and recovery time objectives, and manage and test your DR processes so you know your disaster recovery plan will work when you need it.

3. Highest levels of availability, performance, security, and connectivity

Your business will depend on the quality of your cloud. The best cloud service providers offer robust and redundant communications networks, resiliency and guaranteed uptime, scalable infrastructure, physical and operational security, and certifications of compliance.

In addition, a provider that can provide on-ramps to the major public cloud providers is critical as multicloud and hybrid infrastructures become more prevalent.

4. Location, location, location

Your business has a geographical component. To minimize latency, you may want a cloud near your headquarters or near your customers. A cloud data center located in another region can improve resilience in disaster recovery, or you can physically visit a locally hosted private cloud service.

5. Breadth of managed services and variety of IT cloud solutions

If you’d like to acquire cloud expertise or offload routine management tasks, look for a provider that offers a variety of cloud environments and the services you need.

A CSP can provide services from cloud architecture design to security as a service, from database administration to patch management and systems monitoring, and more. One with experience in your industry could provide additional value.

Finding cloud expertise and solutions

Getting started on your journey to the right cloud solution for your business doesn’t need to be difficult. TierPoint’s team of cloud advisors can help you to work through your cloud strategy and consider your options. We help in three ways:

 

Enabling digital transformation

Enabling digital transformation initiatives for our customers is a key focus at TierPoint. We provide managed cloud solutions built on best-in-class technology and backed by a dedicated team of cloud experts.

Customizing cloud solutions for you

Our hosted private cloud, multitenant cloud, hybrid cloud, and public cloud solutions can help your organization improve performance, manage costs, maintain compliance, and enable disaster recovery.

Providing responsive partnership

With a customer-first mindset, TierPoint is a responsive partner that will be involved in the entire planning, implementation, and maintenance of your cloud solution. You’ll get 24x7 support from our available and responsive cloud experts.

Managed cloud solutions designed for your business

Hosted Private Cloud

Move to the cloud and maintain control.

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Multitenant Cloud

Scale your IT infrastructure quickly and cost-effectively.

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Hybrid Cloud

Get the cloud configuration that’s right for you.

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Managed Azure

We’ll work with you to make the transition easy.

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Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Accelerate business transformation with AWS.

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Colocation

Deploy your hardware in our state-of-the-art data centers.

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Take the next step

Let TierPoint help you create the high-availability, high-performing cloud strategy that is right for your business objectives and budget.

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