As SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) continues to go mainstream, the viability of running business applications in the cloud is coming under the microscope. As for Business Intelligence (BI) and Disaster Recovery (DR), is the cloud an intelligent choice? Or are businesses courting disaster?
According to a recent issue of eWeek Magazine, the days of the monolithic datacenter are gone. With virtualization now commonplace and more and more enterprise applications moving to virtual machines, IT is undergoing a virtualization revolution. And where virtualization reigns, the cloud soon follows. As a consequence, businesses are increasingly heading outside the firewall and into the clouds for BI and DR.
Business Intelligence (BI) in the Cloud
Business Intelligence uses computer-driven analysis to drive better decision-making. The technologies involved are data intensive, requiring a good amount of expensive compute power to deliver useful predictive analytics and reporting. Is the cloud a good fit for the data-mining and analytical-processing technologies that BI relies on?
The early evidence says yes. For starters, there are economic factors to consider. With IT budgets still flat from the recession, the cloud can offer considerable savings, enabling businesses to avoid hardware, software, and other infrastructure investments required for the data manipulation that BI entails. Instead of building data warehouses and maintaining data extraction and analysis technologies, businesses can now purchase BI resources on demand as one-off SaaS expenses based on their changing needs.
New BI Services Drive a Faster ROI
Further good news on the economic front shows a number of less-expensive BI services coming to the cloud. By helping companies improve business performance, such new services can turn a cost center into a strategic asset that pays its own way via actionable intelligence that results in lower costs and greater profitability. Big players like IBM, SAP, BusinessObjects, and Tibco are now making BI for the cloud. And providers such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Windows Azure Cloud are bringing more database management muscle online to beef up BI performance.
More Reasons for BI in the Cloud
Other factors driving the adoption of the cloud include:
Flexibility — In today’s fast-changing tech environment, there’s often not enough time to develop an effective in-house BI architecture before it becomes outdated.
Storage — Since BI relies on large data loads, it’s typically less expensive to use cloud resources for storage, especially if you have to move large volumes from the datacenter to the cloud. Plus, as more applications move out, the cloud itself becomes a growing source of BI data.
Delivery — Since the Web is normally the delivery channel for BI reporting, a SaaS model offers an exceptionally good fit for consumers of BI analytics.
One caveat: If you’re attempting to deploy a hybrid solution, integrating the applications that run between your enterprise and a cloud can be problematic. Recognizing this, several companies are now offering BI solutions integrated for the cloud.
Disaster Recovery (DR) in the Cloud
In today’s always-on business environment, organizations demand 24/7 availability of business-critical information. That’s why having a solid DR plan for rapid data recover and uninterrupted business continuity can make or break your company. Traditional DR calls for comprehensive data backup on servers on company premises. Hardware and management costs can be quite expensive — even if the service is contracted out. But the cloud changes DR considerably. As an alternative to traditional backup and recovery, DR in the cloud comes as a service that can be purchased at a relatively affordable price.
Lower Costs, Faster Recovery
Disaster Recovery in the cloud offers two key benefits: lower costs and fast recovery. Since the data stored in the cloud is on the service provider’s servers, it can significantly reduce hardware, application, and administrative expenses, particularly for companies with satellite offices that lack on-site storage and knowledgeable IT staff. What’s more, data protection in the cloud typically offers several levels of backup redundancy that — from a cost perspective — are out of reach for many companies. As for recovery of files or systems from a cloud-based service, 30 minutes or less is a widely accepted standard — provided that you insist on it in your Service Level Agreement (SLA).
A Variety of Services
There are plenty of cloud-based services to choose from. In general, services offer data backup and storage and full disk imaging for mail and Web servers and other key systems. While the cloud can offer a reliable data protection solution that shields business-critical information from on-site catastrophes, be sure that the service provider you select has a strong security and authentication system to prevent data theft and ensure its integrity.