Today the IT world is undergoing a dramatic shift due to the cloud and mobile revolutions that directly impact how employees create, access, and manage data. In response, many organizations have implemented cloud-based solutions to improve and secure the processes through which their mobile and cloud users now live and work.

Market analyst firm IHS Research has projected that cloud-related spending will hit $235 Billion by 2018, tripling in size from 2011. However, for many organizations there remains uncertainties about deploying cloud technologies or if their current infrastructures will support them.

How do you know if your organization is ready to join the Cloud Age? Allow me to help clear up some of today's cloud confusion and provide insight into how you can upgrade your traditional infrastructure to lower total cost of ownership (TCO) and drive productivity gains.

What you need to know

First, it’s important to understand the differences between various clouds. There are private clouds, where organizations own their own infrastructure, deploy applications, and manage the infrastructure themselves. Typically these are very expensive to build and maintain.

There are virtual private clouds, where the organization is provisioned a logically isolated part of a public cloud service where 100% of the data and computing lives behind a customer-defined and customer-managed VPN and subnet.

And then there is SaaS, where your company is provided an account on a centrally managed, multi-tenant application upon which many users co-exist in an environment logically managed by the SaaS solution provider.

Which do you choose?

But which is right for your organization? It depends on the organization, naturally. We found through research earlier this year that enterprises overwhelmingly (by a ratio of 2:1) prefer to use cloud storage applications on infrastructure they control, whether private clouds or “virtual private” clouds.

Rather than adopt SaaS solutions, these organizations are driven by concerns over security and data governance. Why is security a concern with the traditional SaaS model? Very often SaaS vendors enjoy access to all of their customers’ data - even when encrypted, by sharing encryption keys with customers - and this leaves environments inherently more vulnerable to data leakage.

But for companies not 100% cloud-ready, a hybrid model that combines private and virtual private clouds can help ease the transition. This approach allows companies to choose to put some types of data on virtual private clouds - less sensitive data, for example - while keeping other types of data in a private cloud.

Other reasons for using virtual private clouds include extended geographical reach, pressure to reduce CAPEX, speed of deployment and lack of in-house expertise. It’s now clear that the private vs. public cloud debate is a false dichotomy: it’s not a question of either/or; for many enterprises, especially the larger ones, it will be both.

Mobility matters

Whichever approach you choose, the cloud can help your organization implement innovative and integrated technologies that can drive down costs while improving employee access and collaboration. Take the mobile employee use case, for example.

If you are utilizing traditional file servers in your primary location and/or branch office, your mobile/off-site employees might struggle with the rigidity of these legacy systems that hinder their productivity. They then turn to unsanctioned cloud storage services (Dropbox is a well-known example) that can greatly compromise corporate data security. Your IT department could try to counteract these measures by purchasing external file services, but there are additional costs and complexities in synchronizing internal and external sources.

Many organizations consider cloud solutions because they deliver more agility at lower costs, and this is doubly true for cloud storage solutions that securely sync data between internal resources and user devices. That employees are used to consuming cloud services on a daily basis as private consumers is a significant factor to consider implementing cloud solutions organizationally. Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS) solutions are a generally cost-effective means of improving the mobile user experience, securing files, and replacing aging FTP servers.

It’s important to note that file sync and share is but one use-case or application where cloud storage can help. “Cloud storage” covers as many use cases as traditional storage, in that there are multiple and divergent needs, and multiple solutions to address those needs. Consider data storage for remote/branch offices (ROBOs).

Again, the limits of traditional storage are apparent: time and expense of file server management, increasing data loads, latency issues, etc. Many organizations have found that the investment in traditional technologies is not worth it, when the cloud delivers huge benefits in security and control over data and users, as well as management capabilities that lead to a lower TCO.

You might not be completely confident with implementing cloud-based solutions for your organization – that’s OK. But I would encourage you to start experimenting new ways to leverage the cloud to simplify your IT infrastructures while at the same time maintaining your IT controls. Today’s organizations face unprecedented demand to deliver data across any number of file services, all while minimizing IT costs and administration overhead. Private and virtual private cloud technologies can solve these challenges with technologies not available with traditional IT infrastructure.

  • Jeff Denworth is SVP of Marketing at CTERA.