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Migrating to cloud? Ensure it has a silver lining

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Despite international uptake, cloud computing has been slow to gain traction in the local market.  However, no one can dispute cloud computing’s benefits in several Information Communication Technology (ICT) areas, including the database.

Gerrit-Jan Albers, Service Delivery Manager at RDB Consulting (image: RDB Consulting)

This is particularly relevant in the local market.  Migrating the database to the cloud is becoming an increasingly viable option for businesses, but organisations looking to go this route need to choose their partner carefully or risk falling foul of an ineffective database service.

Some generic benefits of cloud computing includes, reducing capital outlay and introducing a ‘pay-per-use’ model enabling Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and larger organisations to take advantage of the latest technology in an affordable way.  Regarding the database, benefits include lower energy consumption and reduced energy costs, optimised office space and consolidated infrastructure amongst others.

Hosting in the cloud, you have the ability for organisations to leverage greater economies of scale.  Simply put, the provider should be able to negotiate better rates based on greater volumes of customers.  The database for multiple clients will also be centralised, therefore fewer resources are required in administering this database.  This means user support and licensing costs are better off. As the database is provided as a service, it also reduces the hardware requirements, resulting in the capital outlay required for businesses, making technology more accessible and affordable for SMEs.

The benefits not only apply to the SME market as a continuing unstable economic climate means even large organisations are constantly looking to trim costs. For all organisations cloud databases provide access to scarce skills that may not otherwise be available, and access to existing infrastructure bound by Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to be kept up to date. The database as a cloud service is scalable and flexible, and the service can be tailored and adapted to changing markets.

However, simply migrating the database to the cloud does not leverage business benefits by default. Several considerations need to be taken into account to ensure your organisation can realise its ‘silver lining’ of the cloud-based database.

Inhibiting cloud computing, including cloud databases, in the South African market is issues around connectivity. When critical database information, applications and services are hosted within the cloud, connectivity becomes crucial. If connectivity fails, staff cannot access any information or applications stored in the cloud database, effectively crippling any organisation. Support is also crucial, given the importance of the database.

Most organisations fall short  when it comes to implementing cloud database services, assume their service provider delivers the cloud infrastructure along with high service levels and the required experience. Unfortunately, this is often not the case, since database administration and maintenance are specialist skills not in large supply. This tends to result in a cloud services often failing to deliver database functionality, required uptime and availability.  It can end up costing a company more money rather than saving money in the long term.

Organisations need to be wary of cloud and providers claiming to offer everything, as their service levels tend to be inconsistent across the various services. They may be specialists in cloud hosting, but lack the skill, experience and expertise to migrate and maintain specialist, mission critical company databases and database applications. To truly leverage the benefits of cloud databases, the better option is to engage with a specialist outsource database partner.

Attaining the services of a reputable specialist provider with a stable database track record, which complies with international governance around database security, is  key. If data is not secured and the company is not a scrupulous one, an organisation’s data may be at risk of being sold to the competition or leaked.

By ensuring an outsource partner is a database specialist, it is possible to take advantage of the silver lining of cloud computing, as an organisation can be assured that their partner will have the expertise and know-how vital for this platform.

Gerrit-Jan Albers, RDB Consulting Service Delivery Manager


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