What distinguishes the business cloud from Google Drive & Co.

Security and availability are the most important criteria for the use of cloud in the enterprise.

The cloud lays the technical foundation for digital transformation. With the help of cloud solutions and the associated simplified and flexible access to virtual infrastructure/computing resources, companies can use new digital business models or develop new business processes. The step into the cloud begins with the underlying strategy and the selection of the cloud provider(s). What works in private with Google Drive & Co. is sometimes tricky in business. What does a company need to consider when moving into the cloud?

In simple terms, cloud computing involves running applications without having to provide local computing or storage capacity. The applications are processed via the Internet, and the computing and storage capacities are thus outsourced. Such clouds are now an important part of the IT infrastructure in many companies – regardless of industry and size. The cloud has become established because of numerous advantages: The cloud helps a company to achieve higher mobility and greater capacity, and it is also financially attractive. Local hardware and its occasional replacement is no longer a budget item. In addition, the fee incurred for the cloud services is transparent and easy to plan. Especially for young companies or for companies with few (IT) resources of their own, it is important to be able to roughly estimate such costs.

The cloud also makes companies more flexible for changes. Depending on a company’s needs, the number of users, performance or storage space can be adjusted. This means that only effective consumption is paid for, and seasonal fluctuations or the steady growth of a company can be taken into account in the cost of the solution. In addition, cloud computing makes applications and storage independent of location, platforms and devices. The cloud is also a great support for companies in terms of security. If devices are lost or stolen, applications and files are not lost.

Business-Cloud vs. Google Drive & Others

But why not use the many free offerings on the web such as Google Drive & Co. What distinguishes a provider of professional business clouds from a (partially) free cloud platform? And why is it worthwhile to turn down the free versions and invest money in a solution like Open Telekom Cloud, Amazon Webservices or Microsoft Azure? The differences are primarily on two levels: Availability and services. Business cloud providers support and advise companies on their way to the cloud, thus reducing the risk of switching to a minimum. In addition, a company has no or only very short interruptions in its operations if it brings in an experienced partner for support. Furthermore, permissions for data structures and applications can be set granularly for users and groups. If a customer has any questions, he can also contact technical support, who can help him in his own language and solve the problem.

Maintain the availability

It is absolutely crucial for a company that – once data and computing power have been migrated to the cloud – it can always access them. A reputable provider of business clouds achieves availability of almost 100 percent through comprehensive quality management. To put this into perspective, an availability of 99.999 percent means an eventual outage of just a few minutes per year. Providers train and provoke several such outages every year in order to be optimally prepared for an emergency. In this way, they can ensure that any disruption can be rectified very quickly and that the cloud has increasingly antifragile properties, because antifragility is positively opposed to randomness and uncertainty. Business cloud providers, unlike free cloud services, can offer their customers guarantees for certain performance characteristics, for example for certain bandwidths or latency times for business-critical applications.

Safety must be in the foreground

Another important criterion in favor of a business cloud is the high security standards. Migrating a company to the cloud during ongoing operations requires a great deal of experience and expertise on the part of the cloud provider. In addition, data protection, data security and compliance requirements of a company must be taken into account. For example, data must be migrated/transferred securely between the cloud data center and the user’s end device. In addition, the security systems of business cloud providers are regularly adapted and improved to meet future security requirements.

A provider of business cloud solutions must also ensure that data protection laws, specifications from authorities and auditing requirements are complied with. The advantage of the professional provider is that it can always tell its customer precisely in which country and in which of its data centers the data is located. Who has access authorization to this data is regulated by what is known as access and identity management. Solutions such as GoogleDrive or OneDrive do not offer their customers such a service.

The IT departments of a company would therefore do well to “educate” their specialist departments about the advantages and disadvantages of the various cloud types. Because nowadays it is extremely easy to click together one’s own cloud landscape virtually by credit card via the self-service portals. This creates security and compliance problems and, in the worst case, a real “shadow IT” is created. This means that individual employees or even entire departments use non-proprietary cloud services without informing or involving IT. Once a company has decided on one or more cloud providers, this decision must be communicated internally and it must be specified for which business-critical data and applications this platform(s) is to be used.

Steven Henzen, Innovation Architect bei T-Systems in der Schweiz, Informatiker mit Leib und Seele, Absolvent der IBZ Schulen für Technik Zürich und der Fachhochschule für Technik Zürich, Microservices- und Cloud-Spezialist, Autor von Fachartikeln zu Themen rund um Digitalisierung, digitale Transformation, IT-Architekturen und -Services sowie Cloud und Internet of Things.

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