Is the cloud the solution to all of your problems, a major liability that should be avoided or something in between? If you're in the managed services business, the answer depends on exactly what you hope to get out of the cloud and which types of risks you can tolerate -- as last week's AWS outage reminded everyone.

The AWS crash was a stark reminder of the risks that come with moving workloads to the cloud. When the cloud infrastructure on which your business relies goes down, your business operations also go down -- and unless you prepared a back-up plan ahead of time, there is not much you can do about it besides wait around on your cloud host to resolve the problem.

To Cloud or Not to Cloud?

But that doesn't mean the cloud is not worth risks like these -- or that keeping your workloads on-premise is a guarantee that your systems will never go down and your data will never be lost. To decide whether migrating to the cloud is right for you, you have to weigh the following questions:

  • Which regulatory and compliance challenges do you face? Moving data and workloads to the cloud can complicate things from a compliance perspective. These challenges can be managed. But they'll require more work if you operate in a tightly regulated industry or work with highly sensitive data.
  • How predictable are your storage and compute needs? If the amount of infrastructure that you require to power your workloads is relatively consistent, then you may not have much to gain from the cloud. But if you need high scalability, the cloud is likely the only efficient way to get it.
  • How well can you manage your own infrastructure? Part of the benefit of the cloud is that it allows you to outsource much of the responsibility for managing infrastructure to a cloud host. That's great if you don't have the in-house expertise to manage servers and storage arrays. But if you do have the talent on staff, the cloud may be less beneficial to you.

The Best of Both Worlds

Keep in mind, too, that cloud computing and on-premise computing are not an either/or proposition. There's nothing stopping you from using the cloud to power your main workloads but running backup systems on-premise, or vice-versa. Strategies like that can help mitigate the impact of problems like the AWS outage that happened last week.

Running workloads on multiple clouds is another strategy for achieving this. For example, if you use AWS as your main cloud provider but also keep some resources on Azure as a back-up option, then you probably would have come through the AWS crash relatively unscathed.

Of course, maintaining workloads on two clouds at once also entails extra overhead. Everything's a trade-off.

And that's the key lesson for MSPs to understand when evaluating their cloud options. Finding the right fit boils down to figuring out how much risk associated with the cloud you can tolerate and comparing it to how many benefits you can derive from migrating to the cloud.