Retailers and hospitality operators rightly see cloud computing as a chance to bring themselves big advantages in cost, flexibility and resilience by enabling many business process to be moved away from an organisations own infrastructure into a cloud based platform that allows them to adapt the storage and processing of business applications with fluctuating sales and seasonal changes, However, many organisations still want to keep the more personal business applications such as accounting, POS and customer relationship management (CRM) solutions within their own control.
Yet as retailers and hospitality businesses move their data and applications into the cloud, the connectivity that links it all together is often neglected, with potential damaging consequences. Businesses either end up with larger-than-necessary bills or find their applications, such as point-of-sale, re-stocking and management solutions, virtually come to a standstill.
In many cases this is down to not understanding all the business applications that are running across a network and the cost of both input and retrieval of information in and out of cloud platforms..
There is no question about the momentum towards cloud adoption. A survey by the Cloud Industry Forum last year (2015) revealed that half of all UK businesses expect to move their entire IT estate into the cloud at some point. The survey also revealed that 84 per cent of UK businesses are already using some cloud services.
For large enterprises, a hybrid approach is increasingly seen as the approach that best combines safety with the inherent efficiency and flexibility of the cloud. Organisations pursuing this strategy place some of their data and applications in the cloud and keep others, such as highly-sensitive customer information, on their premises.
This is a sensible policy as the ability of cloud providers to supply full and complete backup remains unproven. The hybrid model also gives expanding businesses the capability to scale up quickly.
Yet even the hybrid cloud requires efficient and cost-effective connectivity. All too quickly costs can spiral out of control when data traffic increases or excessively expensive connections are installed.
Unfortunately, many organisations have little or no idea of the scope of their requirements. If insufficient attention is given to connectivity, the simultaneous use of Wi-Fi in a store or at a conference or hospitality venue can take up bandwidth, slowing down cloud-based business, or point-of-sale applications, to the detriment of the entire enterprise.
The advantages of managed services
A managed serviced approach to cloud connectivity will address these problems by starting with a full assessment of bandwidth requirements. Even where organisations rightly pursue a hybrid strategy, insufficient attention is paid to connectivity.
Experience shows that all organisations say they want more bandwidth. Unfortunately it also shows that if they install the fastest type, which is fibre, costs can soon over-run.
However, in conjunction with a managed services provider, it is usually possible to reduce requirements without affecting performance. This is achieved by restricting the use of certain applications such as YouTube to set times of the day or week. On the other hand, a managed services provider will probably advise that interactive applications are not best-suited to the cloud, because of the need to ensure complete and reliable access.
For general access to the cloud, an expert scoping exercise may reveal that a standard ADSL internet connection will serve a business well, or that a VDSL connection will be required to provide higher speeds.
On the other hand, fibre, although the most expensive, offers the fastest connection. However, the expertise of a managed services provider means fibre can be deployed in a cost-effective manner that matches the unique characteristics and requirements of each business, ensuring that it does not render cloud operations financially counter-productive.
For dispersed or remote locations, satellite is also a robust alternative, ensuring connectivity in adverse conditions or where the telecommunications infrastructure is basic or unreliable
As enterprises make these increasingly significant decisions about moving data and applications into the cloud as well as keeping more personalised information within their own network, it is going to be vital that they consider connectivity. Making the wrong moves could result in rocketing costs, crashing performance-levels and huge damage to a business.