August 15, 2011, 10:31 AM — At a cloud computing conference in New York in June, a number of speakers pointed out that the cloud is moving past the hype stage and is beginning to deliver tangible benefits to organizations. These improvements include increased flexibility and agility.
But moving to the cloud can also mean added costs, some of which might be unexpected, according to IT executives whose organizations have implemented cloud services or are considering them.
While these types of costs don't necessarily prevent companies from getting real business value out of cloud computing initiatives, they will have an impact on the overall cost-benefit analysis of cloud services.
Moving and storing data
It can cost tens of thousands of dollars a year to move large volumes of data onto public cloud services and to store that data over long periods of time. Many companies might not realize the expenses involved.
"A one-time move can [cost] thousands of dollars," says Hernan Alvarez, senior director of IT and operations at WhitePages Inc., a Seattle-based company that provides online contact information for more than 200 million people and 15 million businesses.
Much of the unexpected cost of moving data is for network bandwidth -- cloud providers might charge upload and download fees -- and other costs, including internal labor. "People think there are no labor costs [with the cloud], but as you scale up [to] handle workload, there's a complexity with managing large numbers of cloud instances, just like managing a large number of servers," Alvarez says. Another big cost is for long-term storage of data on the cloud. "When you consider the data growth rates, over the next three years the life-cycle cost of data can be really high," Alvarez says. "You continue to pay for that every month" when data is stored in the cloud.
But the cost of using the cloud "is only an unexpected cost if you don't fully comprehend the cloud model," he says. "If you think about CPUs, capacity and storage [needs] and chart that over time, you can get a pretty good handle on what the costs are and if you can do it more cost-effectively internally."