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Is Infrastructure as a Service right for your business and how does it compare to On Premise Infrastructure?

by Chris Shaw

Implementing the right IT infrastructure is one of the most important decisions a housing association will have to make. But as your business changes over time and server capacity becomes stretched, the requirements for your systems may also change, meaning that the infrastructure in place will need to be regularly reviewed.

An Options Appraisal can help you to assess the suitability of your existing and similar On Premise infrastructure solutions, compared with the capabilities of the latest infrastructure offerings, such as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), available on the market to identify the potential benefits of making the change.

Infrastructure as a Service

When designed and built effectively, Infrastructure as a Service can offer significant benefits to housing associations. IaaS often provides the greatest level of flexibility and scalability when compared to other forms of ICT Infrastructure and can encourage improved agility and business transformation.

Flexibility

Because your asset base, workforce and workload are constantly changing, the key requirements of your systems will also change over time. The flexibility of IaaS makes it easy for you to scale your systems and services up or down as you need to.

With IaaS, you only pay for what you use when you use it, so you can choose different contract terms for different applications and exchange these as and when required. This therefore allows for peaks in work to be better managed. For example, if the server needs to perform with a significantly higher workload at the end of the financial year, capacity can be increased just for this limited time period.

Cost saving

Having the ability to dynamically scale capacity, also means that IaaS solutions can offer significant cost savings over time.

Traditional server procurement requires a purchase of capacity for the expected future, which is typically a minimum of 25% extra, so the first two years of capital procured systems waste the 25% unused capacity. Having the ability to scale up and down means you can just rent the amount of storage required at the time of purchase, without the worry that your server will reach full capacity later.

Security

IaaS solutions also provide high levels of security. Because the service is rented, the provider is responsible for managing security, with updates being applied automatically to ensure your systems are always running on the most up to date versions. IaaS providers will also have an internal team who are constantly assessing potential threats to ensure you receive the highest levels of security possible.

And because the provider is responsible for managing and maintaining the IT infrastructure, this will free up your internal IT department's time to focus on projects that add value to, and transform, the business.

Resilience

Choosing an IaaS solution also provides a high degree of resilience and reliability. When designed and implemented correctly, an IaaS system should have no single points of failure, meaning that if one part of the system were to fail, you would still have access to the others.

In addition, with an On Premise solution, contingency planning and disaster recovery can be expensive, and requires a significant amount of technology and staff expertise. With an IaaS solution, because your systems can be accessed online, and backups will be stored in an off-site data centre, the planning and management of emergency application access and data recovery can be simplified significantly.

On Premise Infrastructure

The main benefit of choosing On Premise Infrastructure is the control that it gives you - both in regards to the choice of hardware used and security. Some housing associations prefer On Premise Infrastructure because all data is stored on your own hardware. However, this means that your business is responsible for all ongoing maintenance and updates, which can be time consuming.

On Premise Infrastructure is also unlikely to offer the same level of flexibility that comes with IaaS. On Premise systems often have a fixed size and therefore are bound by the capacity of the servers and storage implemented. While these can be upgraded later if required, this could be at a significant cost to your business.

Also, given the requirement for software licenses, in-house IT support and a typically longer integration period, On Premise Infrastructure can be a more expensive option overall than IaaS.

Assessing whether Infrastructure as a Service or On Premise Infrastructure is right for your business

Some housing associations that invested in On Premise Infrastructure in the past now find that their systems can not easily scale up with their growing asset base and workforce. Or they may find that an outdated system with single points of failure does not offer the resilience needed to safeguard the business.

Infrastructure technology is constantly improving, and the latest systems and services offer the potential for significant improvements to service delivery and internal efficiency. So with the range of IaaS services now available on the market, the time is right to seriously consider Infrastructure as a Service.

Engaging a specialist IT consultant who has strong knowledge of the different options available on the market to undertake an Options Appraisal could help you to make an informed decision on whether IaaS would be the best fit for your organisation and its budget.

By assessing the challenges presented by your current infrastructure, the services you require and the available budgets and internal resource, an independent consultant will be able to determine which option is the most suitable for your business. They will also be able to ensure that your new infrastructure is designed and built in a way that is most effective for your organisation, can scale dynamically to meet the changing needs of your business and offers high levels of resilience with no single points of failure.

Shaw Consulting are specialists in IT consultancy for the social housing and care sectors. We operate independently from the supplier marketplace, meaning that we will work with you to identify which systems and services will be the most suitable option for your organisation, improve bottom line performance and help you increase productivity and efficiencies.

We are actively advising a number of housing associations on replacements of IT infrastructure and the implementation of both On Premise and IaaS solutions, so can provide you with the insights needed to make the right decision.

If you have a project you'd like to discuss, please contact us via the website or request a Skype call and one of our expert consultants will be happy to help.

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