Summary: The cloud is an amazing storage space for business data. Dave Hodgdon and Lonnie Cherry from Portsmouth Computer Group discuss different options for best utilizing the cloud. Listen or read more to find out which option is best for your business.

Mike:  It is Tech Tuesday here at News Talk 98.1 WTSN. We're always glad to bring in the folks from Portsmouth Computer Group, you can check out their website P-C-G-I-T dot com. They've got facilities in Portsmouth and Dover. And, founder and cyber security expert Dave Hodgdon is with us, along with Lonnie Cherry, good to see you guys. Welcome everybody. How are you? Good to see you.

Dave Hodgdon: Good morning.

Mike:  Good morning, how are you? It was a little chilly here in the studio for you. I have the temperature on 68, I always like to keep it energy efficient. It's cool, keeps me awake.

Dave: It's cool, it is chilly. The good news is, it's sunny out there, but we want to talk about the cloud. We want to talk about the cloudy weather out there, but it's a beautiful sunny day.

Mike:  Before we get into the specifics, I know for people who maybe just joining us for this segment, we've been doing this for a few weeks, we call it Tech Tuesday, and you join us at 7:40 every Tuesday. We talk a lot about cyber security. Let's talk about what Portsmouth Computer Group actually does with their offices in Dover and Rochester.

Dave: Sure.

Mike:  I know you're gearing your information toward businesses.

Dave: That's correct. Our primary focus is the business market, typically 10 seats to 100 seats. Our goal is to provide them a full breadth of services, ranging from help desk, to the onsite engineer, to strategic planning, to doing the back end — which we talk about as handling the security, the back end, all the tools, the antivirus, the back-ups, the patching. And our goal is to allow the business to work on their business, and they'll see us as a seat at the table of being their key component to making technology work for their business.

Cloud Computing Basics

Mike:  And one of the senior engineers is joining us today, Lonnie Cherry, who's been on our program over the last couple weeks. We're talking about cloud computing today Lonnie. Everybody hears about the cloud, and they don't know exactly where it is. They're looking up in the sky, it's not really there. But, what actually is cloud computing? Let's talk a little bit about that for a second.

Lonnie Cherry: Well, in the simplest terms, cloud computing is basically storing your data and accessing your data over the internet.

Mike:  So, there's actually, I mean it's like a storage shack, somewhere in cyber space.

Lonnie: Exactly, exactly.

Mike:  We don't know exactly where it is, but it's there.

Lonnie: It's in there, it's in the cloud.

Mike:  It's in the cloud. I love how you say that; I mean it's such a cool term, ‘it's in the cloud.’

Dave: We're in the cloud, we have a data center in our office, so we're technically in the cloud. We house a lot of data of our clients’ data in the cloud, but it's just another location.

Mike:  So, I mean even for personal use, when people store their stuff, whether there's pictures, or music, or data, documents. I mean the cloud, it's like saving space off your computer. Is that what it's like? It's like another storage space?

Lonnie: Exactly. It gives you the ability to not store it locally on your computer. It's stored in data centers across the world.

Mike:  It's amazing, if you think about it.

Dave: You see people with their iPhone, they got on the iCloud, you got the Google apps, you got the Microsoft with the One Drive. So many times, people don't back up their data, so it's very convenient to have their data somewhere if they lose their device, they haven't lost their whole history. You see people come in and lose their hard drive and you see these moms just melting down, "all my pictures of everything I've done" . . . so, it's a convenient way to replicate it to another location.

Benefits of Storing Data in the Cloud

Mike:  What are some of the benefits of the cloud, when you talk about it?

Lonnie: It basically allows businesses to focus on their core business instead of worrying about infrastructure, computer infrastructure and networking and all that stuff, and maintenance that goes along with that. It's being stored up in the cloud.

Mike:  Right, and the person who has that information, is that the only person who can actually access that? Is that how that works usually?

Dave: It's encrypted. You want to deal with a legitimate cloud offering, I mean there's people out there like Azure, Amazon Web Services. You want to choose a reputable place because it needs to be reliable, it can't be some mom-and-pop shop that are adding a cloud out of the garage. In today's world, the business has to be up 24/7, reliable, quick. In a big world they want to use, Mike, as it needs to be replicated multiple data centers, so if there's an outage in New York, it's going to run in Oklahoma. Or if there's something happening in Florida, it's going to run in California. It's replicated in many places for backup and for speed.

Using the Cloud as Backup

Mike:  We've talked about this in the last couple weeks. You have made it important, number one, to make sure that every information, all documents, all information within businesses are backed up somehow.

Dave: Correct.

Mike:  Some way. And this is kind of an easy way to do it.

Dave: It is an easy way. I think one of our earlier discussions, Mike was talking about backup, and even though the data's on premise, we do back it up to secure a place in the cloud shouldn't be there.

Ensuring the Cloud is Secure

Mike:  Right. We're speaking to Lonnie and Dave from Portsmouth Computer Group, you can check out their website P-C-G-I-T dot com, P-C-G-I-T dot com. A lot of information, they've got offices in Dover and Portsmouth.

When you talk about security, and that's really the most important thing these days, trying to be one step ahead of hackers and people that getting into computers, breaking down firewalls, things like that, what security does the cloud actually offer?

Lonnie: Most stuff on the cloud is encrypted. We recommend that if you're doing stuff on the cloud, that you make sure you focus on strong passwords, multifactor authentication, stuff like that. You just want to make sure that your data is definitely secure, and that's what the cloud offers for you.

Mike:  So, on the basic level, when you say it's encrypted, what does that actually mean?

Lonnie: It's basically encryption policies through certificate keys and stuff like that.

Mike:  So, it's kind of coded?

Lonnie: It's coded so that hackers have a harder time to decode that information. The better the encryption, the harder it is for a hacker to decode that information.

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Cloud

Mike:  I see. Let's talk about some of the advantages and disadvantages of all this right now.

Lonnie: Some of the big advantages: there's no large capital expenditure, you don't need to maintain hardware, so that maintenance cost that usually comes with hardware that you buy to put on premise isn't there, it's scalable, and it's great for startups, you can build it as big as you want or as small as you need it.

Mike:  Any disadvantages to it, or is it all pretty much good over bad?

Lonnie: There's a couple disadvantages. One of them is an operating expense, you're always paying that reoccurring cost, monthly, typically. And sometimes there's not a lot of compatibility with legacy applications.

Mike:  And do you pay X for day for storage, as far as how much storage you want?

Dave: Absolutely. The more, the kind of model, which we'll probably talk about next here, Mike, is you pay for what you consume. So, you put your stuff up there, how much CPU do you need, how much hard drive you need, how much memory do you need, and how many users are coming in dictates how much licensing you use. So, you're paying for what you use. In the long run, it's never less money to be in the cloud, but it's more predictable, you know what's happening, it's on the operating expense that you know that "this is what I'm going to spend." But it is very scalable, and they're almost making you go this way, Mike, that many vendors — Microsoft, now, they're not offering things at a level where you can just get it, they're making you pay for consumption.

Mike:  I see, okay. Kind of like pay as you go, almost.

Dave: Yeah, with the toll booth, here we go again.

Ensuring You Have Enough Bandwidth on the Cloud

Mike:  Yes, the toll booth, right. So, when you put everything in the cloud, obviously, you need more bandwidth, correct?

Lonnie: Absolutely, you're going to want to make sure you have, what is called . . . the right bandwidth.

Dave: Yeah, the right bandwidth.

Lonnie: Yeah, you want to make sure you do speed tests, verify that each application that you have can be put in the cloud and will be there. It's really important to have a great switching infrastructure.

Mike:  And what does that mean, actually, Lonnie? A good, safe infrastructure?

Lonnie: You want to make sure your bandwidth for your infrastructure is strong, you have a good firewall, you have solid wireless, so that you're not running into any bottlenecking at all when that . . . cloud.

Dave: . . . on the switch, and kind of — I look at the Zolo electrical panel in your house, that you got all your wires coming to one location, sometimes you fill up that patch panel right there. With the bandwidth Lonnie's talking about, you need to have adequate switching. Think of the highway, where we're riding on Route 1, jam packed we're riding on Route 95; I want more lanes for that data to go through so I can have better bandwidth.

Mike:  I like that analogy.

Dave: And a huge thing on that is you're going to rely everything on the cloud. If that line goes down, I can't do anything. No e-mail, no access to my application, I can't get to my client data. It's imperative that you have a secondary internet line, and Lonnie can talk about. Almost like a failover. So, I can have Comcast, or FirstLight; one goes down, the other one automatically kicks on, because you can't have your users down.

Mike:  So, it's kind of like a backup generator when the power goes down.

Dave: Bingo.

Lonnie: Yeah.

Dave: Right. Good job.

Companies Offering Cloud Services

Mike:  Sort of like that. Let's talk about the major cloud players here. The major cloud players are the platforms, the formats?

Lonnie: They're like the gold standards, yeah. Microsoft's Azure and then Amazon Web Services.

Mike:  And those are platforms that you folks offer, obviously. [crosstalk]

Dave: Yeah, those are the two big [ones]. There's plenty out there, and the field is getting busy, but they're two of the major players in the industry that people are putting their platform on. Microsoft's just a big gorilla, but Amazon was in the game a lot earlier, they've really got it going, but Microsoft, their steam is moving ahead right now.

Most people in a small business are using Microsoft products, and you're basically paying for what you use, they've made it a very, very nice model for businesses.

On-Premise vs. All-Cloud vs. Hybrid Cloud Options

Mike:  And how about the difference between on-premise, all cloud, or a hybrid environment, explain that to our listeners a little bit.

Lonnie: On-premise is just having the hardware at your office, your local office.

Mike:  So, it's right there.

Lonnie: It's right there for you. All-cloud is having it all in the internet, all your services are in the internet, e-mails, servers, switches, all that stuff. And then the hybrid approach is kind of like a mash of both. You have some servers on premise, you have some servers on the cloud, depending. We have a few clients who have e-mail in the cloud, but they have servers on premise, maybe for some legacy applications that they can't have down when the internet goes down [and] they need available to them for manufacturing purposes or whatever.

Dave: We do an analysis and the cloud is always more money. And the on premise, if the equipment's getting older, at that time let's evaluate it, is it "let's get new equipment," or "let's decide to move that to the cloud". Every time, it's an ROI, and we feel it's imperative to look at each time. And I'm a big believer of hybrid, some stuff on the premise, in the building, some in the cloud, it really depends the application. Like QuickBooks: very slow in the cloud, I prefer to have it on premise. It's like a hog, it doesn't run well.

Mike:  So, there are certain programs and software that work better in house than in the cloud.

Dave: Correct.

Mike:  And is that eventually going to change, eventually, once the technology gets even better.

Dave: Every program's a little bit different, so I think it's imperative that you look at each component of your business and determine is it worth going there, knowing the cost. Because we just had a client, Mike, it was amazing, we looked all cloud, it came at $150,000 over five years. We looked at a hybrid, it cost him $30,000 for on-premise and $20,000 on cloud, $50,000 total. $100,000 difference over five years in hybrid. So, you really need to look at each one.

Mike:  Alright, we'll make that the final word. Cloud 101, I really enjoyed it. Dave and Lonnie, thank you. It's Portsmouth Computer Group, check out their website, you can call them up as well. P-C-G-I-T dot com. Portsmouth office is at 603-431-4121. The Dover office is 603-750-0101. They can help you out, indeed.