Reducing costs and alleviating security concerns with the cloud

by FM Media
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Facility managers have embraced cloud-based technology because of the efficiencies it can offer. For example, facility managers can use mobile devices to log reactive jobs as they inspect the facility and, similarly, occupants can send requests to facility managers using the same technology.

This means managers can ensure that maintenance tasks, for example, are ordered according to priorities and efficiencies, rather than undertaken in an ad hoc fashion.

As well as providing operational efficiencies, the cloud has also been touted as a way to reduce costs. Cloud computing marries the ubiquity of internet access with the extremely low cost of computing power, so it stands to reason that organisations look to the cloud as a way to save money. And it is possible to save money by switching workloads to the cloud, but this can be true only if the cloud is managed properly.

Organisations can save money by not having to purchase and maintain as much hardware and infrastructure as in the past. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) options make the latest versions of apps available as a simple download, rather than having
to spend time and resources on regular upgrades. But these savings can be eaten up by the additional costs of managing public cloud services.

These costs come in the form of organisations needing to build the capabilities to support and manage cloud platforms within the business, which can be expensive and time- consuming. Finding employees with the required skillset can be difficult. The latest research from Hays Quarterly suggests these skills are in short supply in the ANZ region.

In practice, most organisations’ priorities default to hitting product or software delivery milestones, rather than to managing their cloud services. The result is higher platform costs because, instead of managing the cloud proactively, they passively allow it to accumulate unnecessary costs.

Fronde research has found that organisations without specialist skills to manage and optimise cloud platforms spend up to 60 percent more in platform costs and experience 35 percent more security breaches.

Security risks increase when people managing and using the cloud don’t have the depth of knowledge and experience needed to keep it tightly under control. For example, when developers open firewall ports and forget to close them again, it increases the risk of a security breach. It’s also important to ensure that application stacks are getting patched and repaired. For many organisations, finding and allocating the in-house resources to manage cloud actively is both difficult and low on the priority list.

As a result, facility management organisations must find a balance between putting in place staff with a highly specific and necessary skillset, and managing budgets effectively. Public cloud services in particular require a specific skillset, which, once in place, can help the organisation to claw back savings in platform costs.

These skills include using specialised tools and DevOps practices. Organisations can also utilise the training offered by cloud providers to help develop valuable platform management skills within the organisation’s IT team.
This can help IT managers find ways to reduce costs by gaining increased visibility into usage costs.

Once they can get a clear view of costs, they can begin to take targeted steps to reduce those costs. This may include shopping around and choosing multiple public cloud providers for different purposes. While this can add complexity, with the right skills in place to manage it, this approach can offer significant financial savings.

DevOps combines agile operations with increased collaboration among development and IT operations staff. A cultural approach rather than a set of tools, DevOps can help organisations extract more value from cloud services by delivering increased business agility, high availability, improved scalability, reliability, security and compliance.

DevOps-based tools help organisations to set up applications sooner, spending fewer cloud computing resources on development and more on production, where the return on investment (ROI) is most likely to be found. It also increases the portability of apps to be deployed in different environments, for example, reducing the amount of extra development required.

cloud services

The business agility facilitated by the combination of DevOps and the cloud allows organisations to be more responsive to changing market dynamics, competing more effectively. Importantly, it also improves the way businesses utilise the cloud, leading to fewer wasted resources and vastly increased productivity.

However, these skills remain in high demand with nowhere near enough professionals available in the marketplace. For many facilities management organisations, the cost of employing these skilled professionals would be prohibitive.

Fortunately, businesses can overcome these challenges by outsourcing key aspects of cloud management. Partnering with the right organisation lets facility managers acquire the specialist capabilities to proactively manage cloud platform performance, costs and security. Also, to maximise the ROI, these organisations should engage with partners and use the specialist skills of their SaaS and Infrastructure-as-a- Service (IaaS) cloud architects.

These professionals can help businesses make better use of their cloud services, ensuring apps aren’t left on if they should
be turned off, minimising development time versus production time, and providing a clearer view of costs, so they can be managed actively. Skilled professionals can also improve security and data sovereignty.

An outsourced partner can help optimise organisational spend, manage security risks and get the full benefits of the cloud. At a minimum level, organisations can be freed from billing administration and become more informed on the performance of their cloud resources. Managed cloud services providers can gain flexible add-ons to manage their specific requirements. This has the twin benefits of ensuring a better ROI in cloud services, while freeing up the IT team to innovate and add value where it’s needed most.

For many organisations, achieving maximum ROI is unlikely, given their limited access to in-house skills and resources. These organisations stand to benefit reduced costs and improved security by outsourcing their cloud platform management to the right partner.

 James Valentine is chief technology officer at cloud computing experts, Fronde.

This article also appears in the December/January issue of Facility Management magazine.

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