Is multi-cloud right for SMEs?

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Cloud computing might be a relatively mature technology now, well-adopted by many types of SMEs, but changing your cloud strategy can still be daunting. Do the benefits of multi-cloud outweigh the costs? Is it worth the additional time spent managing multiple services, especially for a smaller business? I think that it is, and here’s why.

There’s no denying that a multi-cloud strategy – using a mix of cloud services from different providers – takes more management than using a single service. In fact, 40% of IT managers say that operating cloud services takes too much time and effort (according to a survey we conducted with Freeform Dynamics). However, in return for this investment, multi-cloud delivers maximum flexibility, better security and through diversification, better resilience.

I believe the most important benefit of multi-cloud is flexibility. Every business is different and taking a multi-cloud approach means that your infrastructure can be tailored to match your exact requirements, instead of being one-size-fits-all. For this very reason, some businesses are multi-cloud by accident, because different services were adopted by different parts of the business as and when they met their needs. Making multi-cloud a purposeful strategy can maximise the benefits.

A multi-cloud approach provides a comprehensive mix of public and private clouds and unlike hybrid cloud, the clouds do not need to be integrated. Flexibility also comes from the fact that you do not need to be locked in to one provider and many platforms are built using open source. For example, OpenStack or Kubernetes, which is supported by many cloud service providers, and gives you an element of interoperability.

At OVHcloud, our customers have had success using multi-cloud set-ups which combine multi-cloud solutions with on-premise systems, combining the security, compliance and visibility benefits of on-premise, with, for example, the scalability of public cloud. This type of flexible approach means that these companies have been able to shift to the cloud in a way that suits them best, running an application, workload, or data on any cloud (public, private and hybrid) based on their individual technical requirements.

It might seem that using multiple services increases your security vulnerability – and of course it’s important to have good security behaviours in place – but using more than one provider means that you do have increased disaster recovery and have spread your risk of attack across more than one service. If you have good control of your security and governance, for example, staff that are trained on avoiding security failures and reacting to breaches and data loss, multi-cloud can be a security benefit not a threat.

Another consideration is whether multi-cloud is more expensive or makes it more difficult to control your budget. Within an enterprise organisation it’s a good idea to have an internal team to consolidate costs and analyse the benefits of your cloud infrastructure, however, in a smaller business it’s unlikely you will have these resources. It may only be the IT and/or finance person monitoring costs. This is where managing multi-cloud could take more time, but it’s essential to monitor cloud spend carefully. As mentioned above, if you have an accidental multi-cloud environment, good monitoring is even more important, and may identify areas of savings if you can move to a strategic set-up.

Monitoring costs is an area where vendors can help to reduce the barriers that stop businesses from moving between clouds. Our customers tell us that they want an easier way to calculate their cloud expenditure and to predict future costs. They need great price transparency and not to be charged for Ingress, Egress or unused systems. We think this is fair.

IT managers in companies of all sizes are now more experienced in buying cloud services – they are cloud natives, to use the jargon – and are becoming more confident in adopting a multi-cloud approach. It’s important that SMEs also consider being this type of cloud purchaser, so that they can get the flexible and customised infrastructure that they need to grow their business, to innovate, and to succeed.