“What are the challenges with migrating from an on-premise solution to a cloud-based solution?”
We’ve seen quite a few applications over the years migrate from an on-premise solution to a cloud-based solution, and digital signage is no different. While there are many benefits including no longer having to maintain versions of software, and allowing the cloud-host to do so, there are a lot of issues at play. These include the concern that your data is not accessible if you have no Internet connection. Despite our best attempts, there are always going to be some times where access to the cloud is just not possible. Other issues are the potential risks to privacy. You are no longer in full control of your data, and instead, there is someone else managing your security.
From a Canadian perspective, rules on data and privacy of personal information change as they cross the US-Canada border as well. We’d prefer to have all of our cloud solutions hosted on a Canadian site due to those rules, so while a large solution like Amazon may work for many people, most times, they cannot guarantee our data sits only in a Canadian location, creating potential issues due to PIPEDA laws, which protects consumer data across Canada. There are guidelines and sets of rules the cloud-based solution must be able to follow before any Canadian data is stored there. Trust in the solution provider as well matters – you have to ask who has access to your data, and how sensitive is the information?
Then there are the recurring costs – bearing in mind that those costs must also include the administration, backup, and management of those servers on premise, v. a ‘no worry’ solution on the cloud. The recurring costs never end, and the payback period may not be worth it overall when considering how much it costs to run a small application on premise. That will depend as well on if you have your own IT staff and infrastructure already, or not. You may also be stuck with cost increases that were not foreseen due to the cloud solution raising their prices. These prices for the major providers may be too high, and the affordable ones may also come with difficulties dealing with delivery consistency, downtime, and uninterrupted connections. Specifically with digital signage – what happens to your signs if they cannot reach the cloud solution? How do you manage your signs if connectivity fails?
Where cloud solutions shine is when your locations are highly distributed, making a single on-premise solution hard to reach. As long as each location has Internet access, you can generally access the cloud based solution, which is a far lower cost than having multiple sites host multiple on-premise solutions. You no longer have to worry about the logistics of multi-site connectivity either, which can really rack up in costs.
In the end, the migration may be a good solution for some, but not for others. I’d recommend ensuring all angles are reviewed when deciding to move to the cloud, and ROI calculated over at least a five-year period before moving.