Cloud-Based vs. On-Premises: How to Maximize Benefits of Each Infrastructure Model

By Ed Harnish  |  Posted 2010-08-27

Cloud-Based vs. On-Premises: How to Maximize Benefits of Each Infrastructure Model

From data backup technologies to antivirus solutions, vendor polarization between on-premises and cloud-based solutions is forcing organizations to make difficult-and unnecessary-choices. On-premises solutions should not just be limited to organizations with great in-house resources, nor should businesses feel compelled to move lock, stock and barrel to the cloud to take advantage of the flexible, pay-as-you-go model.

IT infrastructure design has always been influenced by business needs-from compliance requirements to cash flow and in-house expertise. So why are vendors now forcing organizations to make restrictive choices that actively compromise business security and continuity? To achieve a secure, flexible and business-relevant deployment, organizations need to seek out solutions that seamlessly support both on-premises and cloud-based deployment.

New infrastructure options

The extraordinary pace of technology change is transforming the way organizations run IT, with growing numbers opting to evolve from on-premises to cloud-based or hosted models for core applications. But how does this shift in infrastructure affect IT security? In theory, more choice puts greater pressure on organizations to be far more adaptive and to use the most appropriate technology in the right way.

But the current way technology is being sold is actually constraining an organization's ability to adapt. Organizations should not be forced to move to an all cloud-based solution or to retain all technology in-house. Instead, organizations must look to mix and match technologies, maximizing the pros and cons of each infrastructure model to deliver the most robust and cost-effective solution for each business at any particular point in time.

Antivirus Protection

Antivirus protection

This combination approach has particular resonance when considering security. Running solutions that are designed to protect an organization from viruses, spyware or malware in the cloud offers significant benefits, typically preventing around 80 percent of e-mail-born attacks from ever reaching the organization.

This not only improves the quality of security and reduces risk, but has a knock-on effect on infrastructure costs, minimizing the overhead on the network and improving user productivity. Furthermore, for organizations with strict compliance requirements that demand every e-mail message-whether genuine or spam-is stored for anything up to 30 years, preventing 80 percent of these e-mail messages from accessing the corporate network significantly reduces the storage overhead.

However, organizations cannot just rely on the cloud-based solution. There is also a need to address the 20 percent of e-mail messages that do come through to the organization. Running a local solution in tandem with the cloud-based technology enables users to locally manage their own whitelists, greylists and blacklists to fine-tune spam management and improve overall security and productivity levels.

Data Archiving

Data archiving

A similar approach to combining cloud-based technology with local solutions should also be applied to data archiving. While growing numbers of online storage vendors are pronouncing cloud-based backup the only way forward, organizations have justifiable concerns. One is the security of the data-a valid concern given it was an online service that enabled hackers to access millions of customer records held by retailer TJ Maxx (as just one example).

But there are other issues such as business continuity that cloud-only solutions are failing to address. Consider what happens when a server fails, for example, and the organization needs to download that online archive. First, the IT team-if there is one in this cloud-only model-needs to reinstall the server, reinstall the operating system, reset network permissions, and reconnect to the router and ISP. Only then can the company start the process of recovering data from the online backup company. The entire process will take several hours, during which time staff members are unable to work. This is bad at any time but potentially catastrophic during the weekly payroll run or during month-end processes.

Therefore, in addition to the online archive, organizations need a local, on-premises solution to which all the operating system parameters, applications and network provisioning are backed up. When the server goes down, it can be recovered very quickly from this local system, enabling the business to start accessing the online data archive within a matter of minutes.

Ideal Solution Combines Cloud-Based and On-Premises

Ideal solution combines cloud-based and on-premises

It is this combination of cloud-based and on-premises solutions that offers organizations the best way of exploiting technology change. Unfortunately, with the current vendor polarization, to achieve this mixed model could add complexity and cost; organizations could need to manage both multiple vendor relationships and the interfaces between solutions.

The ideal compromise is a solution that leverages both on-premises and cloud models to meet each organization's specific needs. For example, an e-mail archiving solution that backs up to the cloud automatically and then-should the Internet connection fail-continues seamlessly to back up to a local archiving service. Then, as soon as the Internet connection is back up, automatically pushes the archive backup to the online solution. The technology is seamless not only for users but also for in-house IT personnel, minimizing the management overhead.


As we've discussed, the current vendor polarization between cloud-based and on-premises models is undermining the value of both approaches. Organizations need different solutions to meet their needs-and the way in which both cloud-based and on-premises technologies will deliver value will change as an organization evolves. The key is for organizations to not just leverage both models to meet their evolving business needs, but to find suppliers that can seamlessly and transparently move between the two models to meet those changing needs.

Ed Harnish is Vice President of Marketing at GFI Software. Ed, a 25-year veteran of the high-technology industry, has a long track record of providing both customer and shareholder value. A pioneer of the concept of customer-centric organizations (where everyone in an organization works toward a clear set of goals that empower its customer base to become more competitive), Ed has assisted dozens of companies to achieve their growth goals. Prior to joining GFI, Ed was vice president of marketing at Acronis, contributing to the company's growth from less than $20M 2005 to $120M in 2008. Ed has held senior positions at Aptus Technologies, Switchboard, and Banyan Systems. A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Ed was honorably discharged in 1979. He can be reached at

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