Cloud technology has been incredibly beneficial for organizations of every size and type. However, as the use of cloud increases, some common misperceptions are setting the stage for substantial operational problems in the future. The first misperception, and perhaps the most notable, is the belief held by many small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) utilizing cloud services that they don’t have to worry about their on-premises IT equipment and ensure it is housed in a reliable and protected physical environment.

The reality is that ignoring your IT infrastructure and the physical hardware that supports it is as risky for SMBs that are heavily cloud dependent as it is for those with on-premises solutions. The primary reason is that the network infrastructure to support the cloud will have substantial demands for new features/capabilities, increased bandwidth, reliability, and scalability. Similar to traditional IT architectures, the cloud also requires more than a 1990s wiring closet or a section of the break room for IT hardware. You need a modern physical infrastructure to ensure your critical network and IT hardware are highly reliable, have effective thermal management, and can scale up to meet your needs for new cloud services.

The starting point for understanding why companies must invest in racks, cooling, and power distribution/backup solutions is the issue of reliability. Equipment that overheats or loses power will result in an outage that effectively stops all business processes dependent on cloud services. At a minimum, you should have some type of uninterruptable power supply (UPS) and cooling solution to prevent that from happening. And make sure there is somewhere for the hot air to go. This might be the most common mistake that SMBs make.

In addition, your physical infrastructure must have the agility and flexibility necessary to easily incorporate new or changed hardware as you add cloud services. This issue cannot be dismissed, as network infrastructure designed for 2005 is substantially different from what a cloud-centric SMB needs in 2022. The inability to use a new cloud service because you can’t update your network hardware in a timely manner is inexcusable.

Another misperception to avoid: With the cloud, you don’t need any local servers or storage. In fact, you do need local hardware, and there are two important facts that support this. First, data sovereignty laws that dictate where sensitive information can be stored may require you to keep local storage (and lots of it). Second, a key future trend in cloud architecture is “Cloud to the Edge,” which means putting compute and storage hardware closer to the customer to ensure good application performance. This may result in more equipment on site.

When a thorough examination of a cloud-driven IT environment is made, it becomes clear that the need for 21st century physical infrastructure (racks, cooling, power, and management software) is critical. Don’t make a mistake that will result in unplanned downtime, the inability to access key systems and data, and a complex IT experience that will hurt the success of the organization.

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