TIME TO READ: 6 MINUTES
In our last issue we discussed the biggest risk of using cloud services...lack of data control, which leaves you at risk of being cut off from your data.
Does that mean you should drop all your cloud services? No, not at all. The cloud still has plenty of value. Should you go all-local, running all your IT systems in-house? Only in certain situations.
This is a murky topic. 2020's drastic shifts didn't make it any clearer. Over the next 5 years, companies will explore all sorts of different business models.
That includes how they structure their IT systems. Which is why we're talking about cloud vs. local IT infrastructures in this WOOF.
Why Talk about IT Infrastructures Now
Last year we spent a lot of time helping customers flip from office-based to remote. Technically, the process is called "Digital Transformation." And for some, it really was a transformation!
Did the process of going all-remote work in every case? No. We saw companies struggle with secure access to company networks, bandwidth problems (see our "Bandwidth Overload" article for more on that), and ransomware attacks.
As such, in the next 5 years, we think a lot of companies will make changes to their overall structures. Maybe they'll stick to remote-based. Maybe they'll shift to location-flexible. Maybe they’ll go back to the office. Plenty of options exist.
What we want you to consider right now is this: Factor your IT infrastructure method into your plans.
It does make a difference, in terms of data control, performance, and cost.
The Elements of IT Infrastructure, and Where They Live
Let's look at all the elements in a typical IT infrastructure.
- Servers (physical & virtual)
- Networking hardware
- Data storage
- Security hardware/software
- Office software (Standard)
- Office software (Specialized)
- Operations Management tools
- Website Development/Hosting/Management
That's a lot of elements. All of which need a place to live. Which is the foundation of IT Infrastructure – the "place" where your company's technology lives.
The two "places" we're discussing are Local (servers in your physical office) and Cloud (servers from a cloud service provider).
- LOCAL – Total data control, but higher up-front expense
- CLOUD – Less data control (maybe none), but lower up-front cost
Cloud IT vs. Local IT – The Advantages & Disadvantages
Does one approach work better than the other, across the board?
Our experience says, "Not really." It depends on the type of business, and its overall organizational structure.
Let's list out the advantages & disadvantages of both cloud and local infrastructure. Having it all in one spot, we can better determine which business types should use all-local infrastructure, and which could use all-cloud infrastructure.
CLOUD IT INFRASTRUCTURE
Several points of failure
Low monthly cost
High cyberattack surface
Flexible—move from service to service
Under Big Tech's terms
The software / SaaS provider takes care of cybersecurity
You don't know where the servers are, and who has access to them
Support small SaaS companies
Subscription price increases
No support / poor support options
LOCAL IT INFRASTRUCTURE
Low cyberattack surface
Single point of failure
Fewer backup points
High setup time/cost
More data control / IP protection
More data to back up (Full drives of employees, server drives, etc.)
Access control—only approved users access the servers
Need IT staff or consultant to maintain
You know where the servers are
Local / onsite support
Now that we have a list, where would you put your company?
If you're not sure, here's a way to prioritize. We've listed several business industries out according to their highest IT priority.
HIGHEST IT PRIORITY
BUSINESS TYPE EXAMPLES
CLOUD OR LOCAL?
Technology / Software, Finance, Construction
Intellectual Property Protection
Biotech, Engineering, Government
Ease of Use (Office & Remote)
Professional Services, Engineering, Construction
Education, Finance, Government
Low Maintenance Costs
Construction, Education, Finance
No clear winner, right? We'll come back to that.
Judging by these priorities, you should go with:
- Local IT for privacy-first operations, where high performance is crucial
- Cloud IT for predictable cost, low-maintenance operations, where ease of use is crucial
Now, we're not saying, "Go out and overhaul your entire IT department now!" That's silly. Not to mention way too expensive!
What we want to convey with this article, and the next one, is that adjusting your approach to IT infrastructure over time may benefit your organization. And your budget.
A Third IT Infrastructure Option: The Hybrid Model
If there was a "clear winner" in terms of the highest-performing, most-secure IT infrastructure, we'd recommend it to everyone, right?
Well...there is a third option.
It's called Hybrid IT Operations. As you might suspect, it combines elements from local & cloud infrastructures.
- Security without harming ease of use.
- Reliable backups and data control.
- Better balance between costs & performance.
How do you get there? Depending on your current IT setup, you may already be close.
The next WOOF issue will dive into the Hybrid IT Operations model. For now, we hope this information will help you evaluate your current IT infrastructure. Its current form may work for you now…but would another form work better for the future?
Looking to improve your IT operations' efficiency this year? Contact us for a network review (no obligation!) at firstname.lastname@example.org.