Producing a business case for cloud computing - what are the benefits?

In this second article, Peter Groucutt outlines some of the benefits charities should expect from a migration to cloud computing

Peter Groucutt
Peter Groucutt

Having previously summarised the first steps charities should consider when migrating to cloud services, this article is designed to give a brief run-down of some the benefits organisations should expect from such a move. 

As hype continues to surround cloud computing, it is important to focus on the key benefits. So what are the positives charities will see from migrating to cloud services?           

Flexibility

This is particularly important for charities because they frequently operate on seasonal models. Specific events such as disasters or fundraising periods like Christmas result in huge spikes in demand for computing resources. Ensuring that your infrastructure can stand up to such spikes is crucial. The scalability and business agility of cloud services allows charities to scale up quickly for these busy periods and - just as importantly in terms of cost - scale back down when the spike in activity recedes.

Green

Organisations can certainly lower their energy bills by shifting legacy systems to a cloud service provider. This isn’t necessarily a reduction in a company’s carbon footprint, because that energy consumption is passed on to the service provider. However, it will mean that the charity’s use of energy should be much more efficient. Organisations won’t have the problem of unused or idle capacity – on-premises servers often run at only 5-10 per cent of their potential, using much more power than is actually needed. The servers of cloud service providers are, on the other hand, much more likely to be running at optimum levels. Many cloud service providers are now striving to power new sites using renewable energy and to generate efficiencies in older ones.

Security and disaster recovery

Much of the information held in charities' IT systems is highly sensitive – the thought of handing it to a third party that is going to ‘place it in the cloud’ is a concern for senior decision-makers. Indeed, research has found that security remains one of the major obstacles to charities migrating to cloud services. In most cases, however, cloud service providers use data centres that have security levels far above those of a charity’s on-premises facility. These data centres are designed to withstand human attack (online and physical) and natural disasters, ensuring that your data is safer than ever. This also means that in the event of anything happening to your own office, your entire infrastructure and data is safely stored elsewhere - off site.

Cloud services can undoubtedly deliver great benefits for the charity sector. The relatively slow uptake is not a reflection on the amount of enthusiasm there is in the industry; rather, it highlights a general lack of understanding. For many charities the next step won’t simply be adoption. Instead, it should be a period of discovery and planning. Organisations should establish how their IT is currently configured and how specific cloud technologies will improve and integrate with their overall business strategy.

Peter Groucutt is managing director at Databarracks

- Read Groucutt's first article on what cloud computing can do for charities

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