Addressing the data storage dilemma
The cloud has revolutionised how organisations store data today.
However, many UK charities remain reliant on tired, sometimes unreliable on-site servers for data storage, along with older in-house equipment, to make the most of their major investment in hardware and licencing.
Faced with limited funding, we understand that UK charities and other non-profit organisations are always seeking cost effective solutions – so which approach is right for you and your data?
Let’s start with the basics: what does on-premises mean, and what is exactly is the cloud?
What is on-premises storage?
On-premises data storage, sometimes called “on-prem” or even “on-premise,” is where:
- You procure and own a group of servers
- All IT infrastructure is physically stored on-site at your workplace
- Hardware is controlled, administered, and maintained by your in-house IT team, or an IT partner
- Backups and security are your responsibility
- Data is stored locally on your servers and shared between computers through your local network
- Software is also owned and installed by you
- You decide on the configuration, upgrades, and any system changes.
What is cloud storage?
Traditional cloud computing involves leasing data centre resources from a third-party cloud service provider, where:
- Data is hosted and stored in a public cloud managed by your cloud provider
- Hardware, software and infrastructure is procured, installed and maintained by your cloud provider in their own data centres
- Backups are managed by your cloud provider
- You lease the required storage space – typically on a monthly subscription basis
- Software is stored and managed on the cloud provider’s servers
- Access to these services is via the internet from a web browser or mobile app.
The division of responsibility
In an on-premises data centre, you own the whole stack. As you move to the Cloud, some responsibilities transfer to your cloud provider. The following diagram illustrates the areas of responsibility between you and the Microsoft cloud, according to the type of deployment of your stack.
What are the benefits and risks of both approaches?
On-premises solutions incur upfront investments, such as purchasing hardware, software, and other IT infrastructure. You also have to cover ongoing operational costs, such as server upgrades, maintenance costs and software licensing, and pay to power your on-premises servers and equipment. These expenses can be an issue for smaller charities with limited budgets and few technical resources.
With the cloud, you do not need to purchase your own hardware or physical infrastructure. You simply use the infrastructure in the data centre owned by the cloud provider. Storage is paid on a regular monthly basis which also covers software licences, upgrades, support and daily back-ups.
Scalability is a key advantage offered by cloud hosting – as you only pay for what you use. It’s easy to request more storage space – or less – which allows your charity to readily adapt to changing conditions as an when required.
If you choose to host your data on-premises, adding additional resources to meet a spike in demand costs money and takes time – and if the spike in demand is short-lived, your spend is likely to be highly inefficient.
With on-premises computing, your IT staff has more control over the server hardware and the data configuration, security, and management because they can physically access the data on site. You do not rely on internet connectivity or external factors to access your software or data. Effectively, your internal teams have instant access to data, where no third party can access it remotely. This also means that users can only access the data when working on site. Once they are out of reach of the server’s location, they will be unable to access any apps or company data.
With cloud hosting, your files, documents and other information are all stored remotely. Users can access this data in real time, from any device with just an internet connection – enabling employees and volunteers to work remotely from any location. There is always the risk that if an unexpected issue occurs in a public cloud environment, you might not be able to access your data until the cloud service provider resolves the issue, however the majority of today’s reliable cloud services provide almost uninterrupted services.
Keeping data on-premises can be perceived as being more secure as it is in-house, you know exactly where your data is and who has access. However, there are multiple measures that need to be taken to maintain data security, such as constant monitoring of your servers and the network. You will need security tools to build a firewall, as well as encryption and secure access control. This all requires a lot of in-house resource, time and money which can be challenging for a non-profit organisation.
Cloud storage providers use data centres equipped with outstanding security measures, often beyond the affordability of most organisations, no matter the industry sector. There will also be a team of cybersecurity experts on site, often 24/7, helping to safeguard your business assets and data at all times.
UK charities and other non-profit organisations are faced with meeting many government rules, regulatory controls, and industry regulations – compliance is imperative. This can be achieved if all the data is maintained in-house. However, you will need to ensure your systems are properly configured and maintained to remain compliant, which can be costly.
For those organisations who chose to adopt the cloud computing model, they need to ensure that their cloud service provider meets the regulatory mandates within their specific industry, such as GDPR. Compliant cloud platforms with access to a team of compliance experts can significantly reduce the costly compliance burden for many.
On-premises vs cloud solutions: Pros & Cons
|High upfront hardware investment||No hardware spend|
|Limited scalability||Easy to scale up or down|
|No monthly fee||Fixed monthly fee|
|Maintenance, updates, back-ups, disaster recovery and upgrades are own responsibility||Maintenance, updates, back-ups, disaster recovery and upgrades included in monthly fee|
|Security reliant on in-house expertise and resources||Professional security included|
|Maximum control over access & infrastructure||Limited control over infrastructure|
|Accessible on-site only||Accessible on any device, anywhere|
Is the cloud better than on-premises for UK charities?
Every customer is different and has different requirements that will influence their choice.
With guaranteed up-time of 99%, cloud is becoming the number one choice for many, but there will always be those who will opt for an on-premises solution. Both approaches offer different benefits, but only after proper consideration will you be able to determine the ideal fit for your organisation.
The top differentiator between cloud and on-premises for charities is cost.
With a predictable, monthly subscription fee that covers software licences, upgrades, support and daily back-ups, cloud platforms are a cost-effective, affordable and somewhat hassle-free solution that is perfect for charities working with limited budgets and IT resource.
Cloud storage also makes it easier for staff and volunteers to collaborate online – from any location at any time – driving productivity and other internal efficiencies.
How AspiraCloud can help
We work with numerous charities and other non profit organisations work with the cloud, on-premises – and even hybrid cloud solutions, where some data remains on site and some in the cloud. Our experienced cloud consultants will take the time to understand your exact requirements. We can assess your needs, goals, and anticipated future growth, to help you make the best decision for your data, your people and your charity.
Read how we have helped national charity, the Law Centres Network, achieve more with the cloud.