The future of Cloud Management: Managed vs Unmanaged Cloud

In this article, we’ll take a look at the growing trend toward digital transformation, how it’s been accelerated in the past eighteen months or so, and how businesses can walk the tightrope of cloud adoption. By Jon Lucas, Co-Director of Hyve Managed Hosting

If ‘digital transformation’ was a buzz term before the pandemic, it’s now gone stratospheric. It’s something that’s been high on the agenda in boardrooms around the globe for at least the past decade, but the pandemic and its fallout has led to something of a digital boom as businesses flocked to the cloud in their droves in order to stay operational during lockdowns and other restrictions. Office-based businesses in particular were faced with a ‘sink or swim’ dilemma that saw them cram more than a decade's worth of digital change into the space of weeks, according to McKinsey.

First, let’s take a look at why COVID-19 accelerated cloud adoption, and why moving to the cloud is so much more than a temporary fix.

The acceleration of cloud adoption

Technology thrives during periods of disruption. While the true scale and fallout of the pandemic is yet to be reckoned, there are some small silver linings that came with the displacement and upending of businesses. Necessity is the mother of invention, and in order to stay operational and keep their customers and clients well looked after, businesses had to rapidly establish remote working policies and cloud strategies. According to Gartner, there was a global surge in cloud adoption across a diverse range of industries in 2020, and spending on cloud services is likely to grow by more than 18% in 2021.

Why? Because businesses have learned that a presence in the cloud offers a level of resilience that they can simply no longer afford to pass up. There are no shortage of reports online from businesses that talk about how their cloud computing capabilities mitigated pandemic-driven disruption, allowing them to carry on relatively unscathed while other, less digitally mature businesses, floundered. Perhaps that’s why nearly a third of business leaders increased their spend on cloud technology during the pandemic - they want a slice of that resilience, and they’ve learned the hard way that they very much need it.

In this way, the pandemic has been a catalyst that might actually service businesses well in the long run. But as business leaders well know, rushing headlong into a new technology as a solution to a very immediate problem rarely comes without challenges. In the case of cloud, those challenges seem to boil down to how much a business thinks it can take on, and whether it opts for managed or unmanaged cloud to carry itself forward. Any business that approaches cloud transformation will undoubtedly come across this choice at some point in the early stages of its journey - so let’s weigh it up.

What is an ‘unmanaged’ cloud solution?

An unmanaged cloud solution, as the name suggests, refers to cloud migration with a ‘do-it-yourself’ mentality. The core services will be provided to a business, but after that, they’re largely on their own. It’s a little bit like renting a property, where the landlord will give you access to a home and fix anything that falls under their jurisdiction, but you’re largely responsible for its upkeep. In this instance, the cloud provider is the ‘landlord’, renting infrastructure to a business, but the business itself is entirely responsible for running it and all the tools and applications it hosts. Such ‘landlords’ - to strain the analogy - include AWS or Azure.

One of the most appealing things about unmanaged cloud solutions is that they can be very cost-effective for businesses with the in-house expertise to use them effectively. Many of them have a pay-as-you-go pricing model that can make unmanaged an attractive proposition for businesses with lots of in-house talent that want to scale quickly without wasting resources. However, therein lies the rub. In order to take advantage of unmanaged cloud solutions, a business needs an expert in-house team, otherwise it’ll find itself out of its depth very quickly.

For this reason alone, businesses that were looking for rapid cloud transformation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic would have done well to steer clear of an unmanaged solution, as they’re unlikely to have had the expertise on hand to properly implement it. Even if a business had unlimited HR resources, finding the talent it would need to run a cloud migration process on its own in such little time would have been a near-impossible feat. In fact, demand for candidates with cloud expertise shot up to its highest-ever level during the early stages of the pandemic, and salaries skyrocketed as a result.

What is a ‘managed’ cloud solution?

With a managed cloud solution, the hosting provider does more than rent out space and infrastructure - it effectively works as an extension of an organisation’s own IT department. If an unmanaged cloud solution was comparable to a landlord/tenant relationship, then a managed cloud solution would be more like living in an all-inclusive hotel where the majority of your needs are taken care of. A managed cloud provider will ensure that you have access to expertise whenever your business needs it, whether that’s a team of expert engineers to implement a tailor-made cloud solution, or a dedicated consultant to lead discovery and map out solutions from the very beginning.

Managed cloud solutions have been more popular during the pandemic because they represent more of an ‘all-in-one’ solution that businesses can tap into quickly. Cloud design, configuration, storage and networking will all be taken care of on a business’ behalf, leaving them to get on with day-to-day operations. Managed cloud solutions usually come with a fixed pricing model, so it doesn’t have quite the same potential for shaving costs and limiting resources that an unmanaged service would, but for most businesses the predictability of the cost structure more than makes up for it.

Managed solutions, such as the one offered by Hyve, should feel like a natural extension of a business’ team. It should help with all stages of the cloud migration process, including designing and planning the cloud infrastructure, mapping out the migration process, as well as ongoing security monitoring and management.

More than 90% of organisations already have at least one foot in the cloud, and since the pandemic, more than 60% of all cloud-based workloads are running on a managed cloud service. It’s yet more evidence that managed cloud service adoption is going mainstream, and for all the right reasons.

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