Cloud computing services: migrating systems to the cloud

by Jesse Rink


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Here’s a scenario where Cloud Computing Services can provide value-add for your company…  Imagine a small Milwaukee video production company’s editor filtering through a network of drives, looking for the right clips to complete a teaser video for his new client. Burning the midnight oil to complete a project due the next morning is nothing new. With a few quick clicks, the clip is inserted into the video and the editor hits “render,” a task he has done a thousand times on many videos over the past 10 years.

Except this time the server freezes, the cogwheel turning with no progress; the server no longer has enough free space to bring the project to completion. The editor stares at the monitor, frantically checking systems, before realizing it has been months since his last backup – a busy desk doesn’t get cleaned often. Not only is the deadline in jeopardy, but he could also lose all source files and client projects from the past six months, should a complete system failure occur.

Is there a better solution?

Of course, many information technology consultants are screaming: “Move it to the cloud.”


This Wisconsin manufacturer needed to modernize its IT infrastructure to support rapid business growth.

Discover what they did

Cloud computing services is a phrase every modern business owner hears frequently. It can be daunting to move years worth of server data over to a cloud if it isn’t necessary. But how can a business owner tell if migrating to the cloud is the best thing at this time?

Aside from the process of migrating information, businesses may feel less secure with having all information on a cloud-based server system. While the cloud may be great for a lot of businesses, you have to consider what your business needs are before you decide to move to the cloud.

Consider these questions before jumping in to migrate all systems to the cloud.

Which of your systems would benefit from cloud computing?

Many companies seek data storage systems stored on the cloud, because it grows on an as-needed basis. No matter how much storage you buy, there is always a need for more, along with back-up systems and required free space for your desktop systems to operate optimally. Google Drive, Dropbox and SkyDrive are already commonly used cloud storage systems.

Some companies seek more than storing large video and image files; they want improved functionality and efficiency. Needing more dynamic software integration that allows for speed of use and globalization of a company’s entire platform is the goal for other companies.

While the Milwaukee video production company would most likely benefit from cloud storage, a Waukesha insurance company might want agent access to proprietary quoting tools from ancillary offices or remote locations. A West Allis realtor may further need software programs access, such as Docusign or similar programs, from any computer on or off the network. Whether for employees or clients, accessibility via the cloud makes operations easier for service organizations.

These examples illustrate three different levels of cloud computing service options for companies, namely: infrastructure, platform or software services designed for cloud access.

Types of cloud computing services

Information technology consultants explaining design options during a business assessment of company needs often meet blank stares and perhaps the occasional snore. Unless you are tech savvy, you might not want to know the various terms. However, don’t let fancy tech acronyms confuse you, thus prevent you from taking smart action.

Take a moment to understand these cloud design services: IaaS, PaaS and SaaS.

IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service):

Instead of having physical components of hardware, software, storage, etc… the IaaS gives you what you need as you need it. If you don’t need a huge storage drive right now, you don’t need to buy it. The cloud IaaS upgrades as you need it – almost like on-demand self-service cloud solutions. This is the most basic cloud computing service that exists and the easiest to implement; it’s the baby step of migrating to the cloud.

PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service):

This cloud computing service takes the elements of IaaS and adds more elements of function to make the platform itself mobile. There are built-in software components. These components might allow a sales team to venture out in various directions while management monitors and tests results from the office headquarters. This is a more involved migration process for service-oriented architecture.

SaaS (Software-as-a-Service):

This cloud computing service combines the elements of IaaS and PaaS and provides additional functionality and integration. At this level, keeping operations efficiently running is a priority. For example, complex client relationship management systems, forms and several software components might be integrated.  This is the most sophisticated level of migration and sets the entire business operation on the cloud.

So when the information technology consultant starts talking cloud-speak, you will know that, generally speaking, you are moving from simplicity to complexity, from storage to high-performance computing.

Is a public or private cloud computing service better for your company?

Let’s address the pink elephant in the room first. Public cloud services are not like a library where anyone can go in and look through the books.

The public cloud simply means that cloud services are delivered by a third-party vendor. This vendor manages and maintains all systems on your behalf and shares resources. It eliminates the need of an internal IT department. Shared resources serve as cost-savers; servers and back-end networks may be shared with you and other companies.

A private cloud means you have everything based on the cloud network and you are not sharing resources in any capacity. Private cloud services fundamentally means there is no sharing, though you may still have a third party provider who will administer and manage the system.

Some companies will choose a public cloud because of budget constraints. Another company may not worry about budget constraints, but instead want the added protection of privacy.

Risk versus rewards of public and private clouds

A public cloud allows a company to order-on-demand. It scales up and down as your company flows with the ups and downs of business growth.

A public cloud is ideal for companies who don’t have stringent technology compliance issues for data retention and don’t want to invest in an IT team to develop and maintain a system they may not be using to full capacity all the time.

That being said, some companies use a private cloud for added features such as security and reliability while still paying a third-party to manage their private cloud system.

There are also hybrid cloud services that share information and resources between public and private cloud systems.

A practical technology solution

They best way to find a practical solution for your company is to consult with an information technology firm that takes the time to understand your unique needs.

Going back to our Milwaukee video production company: as a solo system with one editing bay and terabytes of files, a complex cloud solution isn’t necessary. The solution might just be storage in an IaaS solution. But, if the production company grows to two or more editing bays, the argument for a more complex cloud solution becomes compelling.

In this situation, the production company benefits from not only having all video clips stored and backed-up on the cloud, a PaaS cloud service system designed to access editing software, source files and final videos streamlines the process.

For one, networking the software can save a company on software licensing fees. There is also the productivity component, with two editors working on separate systems for the same project and then merging the segments into the final product. This might be a huge time saving tool.

There is a hybrid of this solution that is also becoming more popular: the Network Attached Storage (NAS). In this solution, the storage is a physical component straddling the other cloud or noncloud-based solutions.

For our production company, this means that the smart TV in the conference room can access items stored on the NAS. An iPad at the coffee shop can run the most current reel during a business meeting. This is a way to share storage for a reasonable cost among various end-user devices.

In fact, many smart homes are now using an NAS system to share data in a small network with many end-use devices. Smaller businesses that don’t have a need for larger, cloud-based solutions might benefit from this solution as well.

What is involved in migrating to the cloud?

If you are truly considering migrating your business solutions to a cloud computing service, start planning with your IT consultant about the smoothest way to migrate. While backing data up before you migrate is a no-brainer, there are other considerations such as which parts of your existing network can be rebuilt on the cloud.

[x_pullquote type=”right”]If you are truly considering migrating your business solutions to a cloud computing service, start planning with your IT consultant about the smoothest way to migrate.[/x_pullquote]Yes, most software applications work perfectly in cloud-based solutions, however, some do have external dependency requirements, meaning they need physical hard drive resources not available on the cloud. It can take time to build this type of network and test it before you can migrate.

In the interim, you will need to ensure that the existing network continues to function as optimally as possible. For this reason, many small businesses will migrate in phases, implementing new components to ensure that business runs without interruption.

Benefits versus risks of cloud migration

As already mentioned, there are many levels of cloud computing services and just about any business can benefit from some level of cloud integration. But that isn’t to say there isn’t a downside to some of this.

The key benefits of cloud computing services are usually reducing costs of hardware and software that become obsolete quickly. Costs associated with growing storage needs become more manageable as they grow as you grow. Turning over the tech systems to an outside vendor is also a key advantage for small businesses.

It gives businesses the ability to scale up, as needed without huge new investments in core hardware or software components. It also makes back-up and redundant data centers easier to maintain, making disaster recovery easier and faster.

Of course, there are risks associated with cloud computing services as well. The first risk is, well, risk. The more information going through extended cyber network lines and routers increases the more opportunity for hacker to infiltrate the system.

This is especially true in public clouds where resources are shared. That being said, your IT consultant should review the security needs and address the risk with appropriate firewalls and encryption. It isn’t hard, but it is a part of a migration project you need to budget for.

Another risk is potential service outages. Neither your IT consultant nor you can control a system outage stemming from the Internet provider. While a cloud computing service network is designed to have redundancies for protection, if the Internet goes down, so is your business for as long as it takes the provider to be running again.

Additionally, while many business owners happily turn the IT controls over, it does mean you are reducing the ability to fully control and manage certain areas of data and service management. It may also be difficult to know where the costs are going and how to scale the budget back if necessary.

Final decision on migrating with a cloud computing provider

It is imperative to have honest conversations about increasing and decreasing cloud usage, building proper protection encryption and only developing systems that make sense to your existing business needs.

Find an experienced IT consulting firm you can trust to show you what can be done for you in the various levels of business cloud design.

Look at the budget, migrate in phases and keep track of results in efficiency. This enables you to see how any one phase improves the business bottom line.

And, get in touch with Source One Technology – we can help you identify your needs, build a timetable and handle your cloud migration for you, on time and on budget.

Jesse Rink

Jesse Rink

Jesse is the owner of Source One Technology and has been providing IT consulting services to Enterprises, SMBs, schools, and nonprofits in Waukesha, Milwaukee, Dane, Washington , Jefferson, Ozaukee, Kenosha, Racine counties and across Wisconsin for over 18 years.

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