Cloud Basics: Here’s What IT Pros Need to Know About This Powerful Trend

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For over a decade, cloud computing has been making its mark on IT operations. As with any trend, there was uncertainty in the early days. Many IT pros approached cloud with some hesitation, not sure whether this new model held real benefit or if it was an overhyped term without much substance. Since that cautious beginning, cloud has proven to be a real game-changer. Modern IT architectures are built using cloud components, and companies are accelerating cloud adoption plans in order to gain efficiency and competitive advantage.

CompTIA’s latest cloud study, Cloud Computing and IT Operations, looks at the changes taking place in IT departments as cloud adoption moves into secondary stages. However, there are companies across the adoption spectrum, with some firms pushing the leading edge and others just getting started. This article is the first in a series leading up to our webinar, Concept to Completion: Implementing a Cloud Strategy, on November 6, and we’re starting with five things IT Pros need to know about this powerful trend.

Cloud computing starts with virtualization.
Most IT pros have been virtualizing servers for quite a while, but some working in small-to-medium-sized businesses may have never had a need to explore this method for optimizing infrastructure. With virtualization, a single physical server can be divided into multiple virtual servers. Each virtual server operates independently, using some portion of the physical resources. This method helps ensure that physical servers are fully utilized, and it opens the door for the unique characteristics of cloud systems.

Cloud computing is not just offsite resources.
Another trend that predates cloud computing is hosted computing, where another company hosts and manages servers to run their clients’ applications. This model helps the end client focus less on server maintenance and more on IT strategy. Many firms that offer hosting services have rebranded these services as cloud, but they are not necessarily offering the tools found in true cloud offerings. There are still benefits to using hosted computing, but not the full benefits companies find in cloud computing.

Cloud computing usually adds strain to the network.
While some companies may build cloud systems within their local infrastructure, the majority of cloud implementations utilize external resources. As this happens, there is usually more data traveling back and forth. This drives a need for network management and upgrades, even to networks that are relatively recent. CompTIA has found that network upgrades lead the list of unexpected costs related to cloud migrations.

Cloud computing is secure…if the right steps are taken.
The biggest hurdle for cloud in its early stages was security. Companies were not sure if they could trust this new model (especially from a new vendor) with their data. Over time, they have realized that cloud can be just as secure (or more secure) than their existing setup. But it does require a new approach. Without a secure perimeter around applications and data, those components require their own security layers, and that responsibility lies with the owner of the components, not the cloud provider.

Cloud computing completely changes cost structure.
IT budgets in the past were typically dominated by one-time purchases, such as new equipment, software packages or upgrades. One of the reasons virtualization became popular was the desire to spread a large capital expense across multiple applications. With cloud computing, there is the ability to take virtualization budgeting a step further and only pay for the resources that are used, but this also introduces the challenge of managing ongoing expenses. As multiple cloud environments are added to the corporate architecture, this challenge grows rapidly.

These principles are critical for establishing the right mindset around cloud resources. New adopters can avoid mistakes by recognizing the key differences between their existing operations and cloud-enabled operations. The next article in our cloud series will look at some of the issues companies are facing as they move into later stages of adoption, and the webinar will go into more depth on all these topics.

Members: Register now to join us on November 6 for the webinar Concept to Completion: Implementing a Cloud Strategy. Not a member? Join now for access to this webinar and exclusive benefits designed to help IT pros grow and advance in their careers.