On-premises cloud: The worst of both worlds?

As 2022 begins, the demand for cloud-fueled IT services has reached an all-time high. Given the tumult of the past two years, it’s understandable that businesses should be looking at every option on the table as they continue to navigate the uncertainty of a post-pandemic landscape. Even businesses that are keen to get their workers back in the office are laying the groundwork for a hybrid working future. What we’re witnessing is the gradual unveiling of the so-called “new normal”, and one thing’s for certain – the cloud will be one of its key pillars.

on-premises cloud

According to the latest figures from leading global tech firm ISG, investment in cloud-based services is soaring with no sign of slowing down any time soon. In Europe, for instance, investment in cloud-based services will soon account for more than half of all IT spending. But where is that money going? Businesses across the board are now fully aware that cloud investment will need to feature heavily in their plans for rapid digital transformation, but not all clouds are created equal. While some may opt for the increasingly popular cloud-as-a-service model, outsourcing their cloud access and resources to a third-party, others are looking to private on-premises cloud solutions to mobilize their teams online.

While an on-premises cloud solution might seem like an appealing way to get your team online while retaining full control and maximum security, is it really the best of both worlds? We’ll get into that in a moment, but first let’s outline what we mean by on-premises cloud and how it differentiates from regular cloud solutions.

What’s the difference between on-premises and private or public cloud solutions?

“On-premises cloud” might seem like a contradiction in terms, but the idea behind it is actually very simple. If we think of cloud migration in terms of living arrangements, choosing a public cloud solution would be akin to moving into a house share – contracts are often short-term and you’d have your own space, but you’d have to share some of that space with others depending on how much you pay and what you need from month to month.

A private cloud solution would be comparable to renting your own house or apartment – more expensive, but you’d have private access, greater customization, and your landlord would still take care of maintenance and upgrades. To stick with the same analogy, on-premises is like buying a house – it’s a heavy investment and long-term arrangement where you’re responsible for everything, including upkeep, maintenance and fixing anything that goes wrong.

With an on-premises cloud solution, a business can offer everything that regular cloud solutions offer, including secure remote working, but that business must house all hardware itself and perform updates and upgrades where necessary. Some businesses go for this option because they think it offers more security and they like the idea of ownership, but there are several drawbacks to an on-premises solution that often go overlooked.

What are the drawbacks of an on-premises cloud solution?

Some of the perceived advantages of on-premises solutions are disadvantages in disguise. Let’s take security and backup capabilities as an example. Having your data in front of you doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safer. In fact, it can mean quite the opposite. With an on-prem solution, your virtual machines, including all servers and associated components and peripherals, are housed within your business and are your sole responsibility. While this comes with some added control, it also comes with a tsunami of responsibility.

What if there was a fire, storm, flood or earthquake that damaged your equipment? Would your business have the latitude and capability to simply push its data through another data center as a back-up to keep things moving? Most likely not. What about keeping your software and equipment patched and up to date to guard against the latest cyberthreats? That alone is going to require a dedicated in-house team, which might not even be feasible as we inch closer to a hybrid working future.

The fact is that a private cloud solution offers comparable levels of control to your business without the inherent risk. Instead of being solely responsible for your own equipment and its integrity, physical servers and all their associated components and peripherals are usually off-site, managed by a third-party vendor that takes care of all the technical details.

Another often missed drawback of on-premises cloud is cost. While on-premises cloud solutions can be procured via a subscription-based model where you pay a monthly or annual fee to “rent” the equipment, the risks of hidden costs with an on-premises solution are far greater than private or public cloud options. With the latter, you pay your monthly fee and everything you need in terms of storage, processing power, backups, maintenance, and upgrades is taken care of at an off-site location that your business will never need to worry about.

With an on-premises solution, costs can pile up on top of your monthly fee due to the need for regular maintenance and on-site troubleshooting. You may find yourself drafting in engineers to diagnose a problem or hiring more in-house staff as your business grows and the IT workload snowballs.

While there is no doubt some instances where on-premises cloud solutions make sense, at least as part of a hybrid cloud strategy, for most businesses the risks far outweigh the benefits. Quite rightly, security and cost are key focal points of any plan to migrate to the cloud, but off-premises private cloud solutions offer the same – if not more – security and control than an on-premises solution, particularly when it comes to backup and disaster recovery. So any business considering an on-premise cloud solution as we move into a post-pandemic “new normal” must be working very hard to try and justify it. The future, in every sense of the word, lies off-premises and in the cloud.

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