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With server end of life near, is cloud computing the answer?

As server end of life nears, public cloud entices SMBs that don't want to invest more capital expenses. But will cloud security be strong enough?

We are a small to medium-sized business that's close to our server end of life. We have about 150 end users who use email and shared drives for client business. Much of our data is confidential, so we need security. What are the pros and cons of moving to the cloud?

To answer this, I'll assume that you are looking into a public cloud service provider such as Amazon Web Services or Rackspace. Timing your evaluation of moving to the cloud to coincide with server end of life gives you the opportunity to realize one of the first benefits of cloud computing -- a reduction in infrastructure expenses.

If your servers are at end of life, then they are undoubtedly fully depreciated. By moving applications such as email and file storage to the cloud, you would trade a capital expense of purchasing new servers and disk drives with an operating expense of using only the server and disk capacity you need. Storing data in the cloud gives you easy access to backup, archival and disaster recovery services at a lower cost than you could do in-house.

The security of confidential data is, of course, top priority. Because security has been the biggest "non-starter" issue enterprises give for avoiding cloud, most Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) providers have the same security measures in place as an on-premises deployment. Security should be addressed on-premises and in the cloud; therefore, it shouldn't be listed as a con for migrating apps to cloud.

Historically, performance and reliability have been the challenges of moving email to the cloud. Most end users rely on email. Often on-premises email, calendar components and message notifications are tightly orchestrated -- and users don't want to lose the efficient messaging they have grown accustomed to. It's important to shop around for a cloud service provider that offers the same performance and functions end users are familiar with for their current on-premises options.

With a background in managing one of the largest global financial networks, Mark Szynaka brings his network monitoring, security and ITIL best practices to the cloud. He helps enterprise IT investigate and implement cloud computing architectures -- public, private and hybrid -- using Amazon Web Services, Terremark Verizon and Rackspace technologies.

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