Public cloud: Myth v reality
Public cloud is now the most identifiable example of cloud computing, where a service provider such as AWS or Microsoft Azure, makes resources such as virtual machines, applications or storage on a shared platform, available to a public audience via the internet.
This is in contrast to a Private Cloud solution where a company’s data is kept on their own private infrastructure and protected by a myriad of privately controlled security and ingress/egress controls. This is often the preferred option for organisations who hold sensitive data.
It’s becoming more commonplace for law firms to utilise public cloud services, with Taylor Wessing and Farrer & Co recently announcing their move to Azure. But when shifting to a cloud first strategy, it’s important for firms to do their research to ensure they fully understand whether a Public, Private or Hybrid approach is the most appropriate solution.
Inevitably when researching this topic, you will come across a whole host of information. Often, there are many misconceptions about public cloud, resulting in commonly believed ‘myths’ about the benefits it brings, so we’ve written this post to help you to distinguish myth from reality.
Myth No. 1 – Public cloud is more stable and secure
Many believe that public cloud services are ‘always on’ but in reality, Amazon and Microsoft are no strangers to outages that cause downtime. When this happens, it can significantly disrupt critical services and take them offline whilst connections are re-routed. And with thousands of customers using these services, those affected by outages are left at the mercy of the provider, waiting indefinitely for an update on when the issue will be resolved.
When it comes to security, law firms are typically reluctant to move to public cloud due to the fears of hosting data on a shared infrastructure, and the difficulty in satisfying their clients’ questions around that very topic. During the early days these fears could be justified as the technology was untried but we are now two decades further on and providers now have an enormous amount of experience behind them in ensuring rights management, strong governance and systems monitoring.
Despite these advances, many firms and their clients are still uncomfortable with their data being stored in the public cloud and, to some extent, this is understandable. As we’ll cover further on in this article, public cloud services are notoriously difficult to manage and any errors made by a firm’s IT team can result in severe consequences.
Myth No. 2 – Public cloud is cheaper
Public cloud services are mostly offered on a pay-as-you-go pricing structure meaning organisations can access the resources they need, when they need it, yet only pay for what they use. This reduces the need to invest in and maintain on-site IT structures and resources and gives firms more flexibility.
Given as well that public cloud infrastructure is shared, along with having the ability to optimally size virtual machines in terms of their storage and memory, the assumption is that this will be cheaper than going for the Private Cloud option. Whilst this is true to an extent, to maximise your investment you’ll need to take full advantage of the public cloud’s flexibility making sure you don’t overspend on unused resources.
A key factor in overspend is the lack of meaningful analysis tools available to users. There is limited visibility into how much of the infrastructure their cloud apps need in order for them to meet their service levels and provide them with sufficient functionality.
In addition, as public cloud platforms have become more established, service options have expanded which in turn increases the number of configurations available – these limits are set, non-customisable metrics that could result in doubling resources assigned to a server/service. Coupled with the numerous price changes and the fact that a firm’s data will continue to grow, this lack of operational visibility can mean that costs easily spiral out of control.
On top of that, high availability environments can often work out less expensive with a hosting provider instead of the public cloud. When you start adding various locations and transferring data across them on top of the overall environment structure needed for high availability, it can get much more expensive in the public cloud.
Myth No. 3 – Moving to public cloud is simple
Public clouds such as Azure or AWS are intricate environments built like a jigsaw puzzle. They need to be designed, configured and managed by technical specialists that have the experience behind them. Configuring networks, handling auto-scaling and maintaining systems is very different in the public cloud from what an in-house team will be used to and is not a simple ‘lift and shift’ process.
When configuring your infrastructure, mistakes can be costly and damaging to the reputation of your firm. But when you’re using a public cloud service, your servers are connected to the open internet and the stakes are even higher. Where there’s a significant regulatory, fiduciary or legal impact of a data breach, many firms decide that a hosted Private or Hybrid Cloud solution is a lower risk option.
Firms need to build out the right teams, processes and governance models to support a strategy that uses public cloud. Alternatively, firms should enlist the help of a specialist partner to determine their strategy and to manage their infrastructure going forward. Failing to do so will cause issues further down the line and potentially prevent the firm’s applications from working successfully within the structure. Not all workloads are suitable for public cloud, and some will take longer to move than others. Firms need to ensure they have a long-term roadmap in place to plan the move effectively.
Have you started thinking about cloud but not sure where to start? Our Cloud Readiness Assessments are designed to support firms looking at moving to the cloud.