Cloud computing can be a big saving. If you get too enthusiastic though, you could end up spending money on computing you do not really need. Striking a balance is the key to using cloud and virtualization technology for controlling cost.
Virtual machines are easy to spin up. As a result of this, many IT departments create a new VM for every occasion or application. This used to be prevented by the cost of a new server. This cost is now much reduced and often not directly felt by the IT department.
The “virtual server sprawl” that results not only occurs direct costs, but also indirect. This is because each new VM still needs time to be configured and applications deployed on it. Instead of having to do a decent business case to motivate a new server, it is now easy to deploy on a whim.
IT Management has to be made aware of this “sprawl”. Keep a tight reign on VM deployment to prevent loss of focus and a slow increase in IT cost over time. By all means allow a bit more freedom that virtualization allows, but keep it controlled. I have seen organisations who used to have only 5 servers grow to 50 virtual servers in a matter months. This can lead to badly managed infrastructure and potential security holes.
The misconception that IT staff are somehow not needed if you move to “the cloud” is a common one with senior management. One can save a bit if you have a large IT department that had to look after many servers. If you are already running a lean management setup, you must remember that servers need the same skills to run, whether virtual (cloud) or real.
Your finance department will not suddenly “know” how to solve connectivity issues with your ERP database. At the same time, your hosting company can not be expected to know how to manage your in-house software set-up. Most hosting companies are not set up to manage end-user servers and can often only offer limited advice, if any. Even at Host Africa where we go out of our way to help customers, we often have to tell a client that we simply cannot help them sort out a MS SQL or Joomla issue. This is not because we do not want to learn, but rather because we have to focus on our main task – providing a good hosting platform.
Virtual servers have on great attraction for small business. They alleviate the need to spend thousands of rand on IT infrastructure before you even know if your business is going to make it or not. This can often help a small business by focusing spend on where it should really go and controlling cost. Large corporate companies often don’t mind spending a few hundred thousand on a good server or two. At SMME level, the same money would be put to better use growing your business. That is why we at Host Africa have the lowest price entry level VPS in South Africa. By helping our SMME market, we believe we can play our part in boosting the economy. Thus we create a real win-win situation.