Colocation or cloud: options when upgrading from in-office servers

At the time of writing we’re almost two months into the government lockdown and many people anticipate that mass remote working will be standard practice for the foreseeable future. So, businesses that have been ‘making do’ with their hastily-adapted on-site IT infrastructure might now be considering an upgrade.

How do you know when it’s time to upgrade?

In more ordinary times, IT upgrades are a keystone of digital transformation. As businesses gather and process increasing amounts of data, add to their software suite and increase their reliance on digital solutions, their existing on-site computer systems will simply run out of capacity. The level of home working we are seeing right now further exacerbates this problem.

Some signs that it’s time for an IT upgrade include:

  • Servers are slow to respond or crash regularly
  • You’re running out of storage space
  • Maintenance costs are rising
  • Your system has been breached
  • Your staff spend more time loading resources than actually working

Some issues can be fixed by upgrading everyone’s devices and ensuring you have the latest version of your software packages. But when it comes to server capacity, which affects both performance and storage space, the only thing you can do is scale up.

Expanding system capacity

Adding capacity typically means adding servers. To do this in an on-premises server or comms room requires sufficient space, more power, appropriate levels of security, environmental controls and first-class safety measures. This quickly gets expensive and for many SMEs is both impractical and cost-prohibitive. To skimp on any of these things puts your IT infrastructure – and precious data – at risk. The choice then becomes: Cloud or Colo?

Cloud or Colo – Which is best for my IT upgrade?

Pros and cons of cloud

Moving to the cloud basically means putting all of your workload and all of your files onto the internet.

There are a number of benefits to this:

  • The cloud is infinitely scalable. You can keep adding capacity as your needs increase.
  • It’s also flexible, so you can ditch capacity when you no longer need it.
  • Cloud-based workloads are ideal for remote working.
  • Responsibility for IT infrastructure is transferred to your cloud provider.
  • High levels of reliability and uptime.

On the flip side, there are some downsides to be wary of:

  • Budgeting can be difficult, many businesses are paying for cloud capacity that they are not using, making it an expensive option.
  • Public cloud is a shared platform that is vulnerable to security threats. Private cloud is more secure but also more expensive.
  • Some legacy software simply can’t be transferred to the cloud.
  • In putting your data online, you are effectively handing over control to a third party.

Pros and cons of colocation

Colocation, or colo, is the act of storing your IT infrastructure in a third-party data centre – a purpose-built location for businesses to host their applications and data.

Benefits of colo include:

  • High levels of physical and digital security.
  • Specially designed environmental controls to protect your IT systems.
  • Economy of scale.
  • You retain control of your hardware and data.
  • 24/7/365 access to your systems, with Remote Hands services available if you can’t get to the data centre yourself.
  • Scalable as your business grows and you can remove capacity if you no longer need it.
  • Excellent connectivity, whether you’re working from home or in the office.
  • High levels of reliability and uptime, with resilience measures built in to ensure concurrent maintainability.

Disadvantages include:

  • Not all providers are created equal – check things like access, customer service, reliability and uptime before you commit to a provider.
  • You are responsible for your hardware, which could be a disadvantage for organisations without core IT skills.

Migration implications – how easy is it to move your IT infrastructure?

Moving your workloads to the cloud is not as simple as pressing ‘go’ and watching it all upload. Some things will be easy to transition, while other things may be sticky or downright impossible. A good cloud provider will walk you through it and help you overcome any obstacles along the way.

Moving your IT infrastructure to a data centre, on the other hand, is more of a geographic shift than a full-system transformation. Other than a little downtime for the move itself and, more than likely, an improvement in connectivity, your employees shouldn’t experience any differences in IT use as a result of the move. Prepare for the migration to ensure a quick, smooth transition. And don’t forget that data centres have remained open and accessible during the lockdown and we have taken every precaution to ensure your safety when you visit us.

Hybrid IT – the workload-first solution

Colo vs cloud isn’t just a cut-and-dried choice between the two, you’ve also got the option of a hybrid IT.

Many of you are probably using Hybrid IT already without giving it a name. If you’re using any of the popular SaaS suites like Office 365, Salesforce or Dropbox, you’re already working partly on the cloud and partly out of your on-premises server room. As you progress beyond the server room, it is likely you will take this Hybrid IT approach with you. What might that look like? Here are a few hypotheticals:

  • Mobility scooter leasing business: Email, documents and invoicing move to the cloud; sensitive customer data retained securely on a server in a data centre.
  • Packaging manufacturer: CRM, marketing and email in the cloud; high-tech product development across multiple servers in a data centre.
  • Trade magazine: CRM, email, documents and magazine layout in the cloud; legacy subscriptions database/software in a data centre.

Hybrid IT allows you to take a workload-first approach to your IT infrastructure. If something works best in the cloud, you do it in the cloud. Things like sensitive data and legacy software may be best kept on your servers at a data centre. With Hybrid IT you get the best of both worlds in terms of access and scalability, while keeping the lid on costs and maximising the security of your most valuable assets.

What works best now and into the future?

IT upgrades are not typically necessitated by global pandemics, but when they are they come with a sense of urgency. Right now, millions of people around the world are suddenly working from home and many of them probably feel like their IT systems are not up to scratch. If you are wondering how best to improve their experience, try not to rush to a ‘quick fix’ solution. You could find yourself spending a lot of money only to end up with the same problems.

IT infrastructure upgrades will increase capacity, improve connectivity and boost productivity – but only if done in the right way. Redcentric offers both colocation and cloud services, so get in touch and one of our team will help you find which is the best solution for your company.

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