Trusting the Cloud: The Advantages of Serverless Technology

Still wary of serverless? It’s time to trust the cloud for data management and computing. Not only is it a more cost-efficient approach, but it makes innovation and experimentation easier.

Understanding the differences

The first step in understanding why you can trust the cloud – and figuring out which method is right for you – is knowing the difference between the cloud and the physical server.

Both approaches come with pros and cons. A physical server is a larger upfront investment, and requires a dedicated IT team to oversee it. It’s your machine to manage, meaning no one else can access your server. You’re in charge of security and vulnerability scans, and while the server is reliable and efficient for consistent, predictable workloads, it’s more rigid. It can only be accessed in a specific location, and you must commit to a fixed contract up front. There are also limitations to scale: your server can only handle a certain amount of data and memory without more hardware investments down the line.

The cloud transfers management over to a third-party server provider. Take Amazon Web Services as a prime example. You don’t have to invest in hardware – though there are maintenance and storage costs that can end up costing you in the long run – AWS is responsible for security and risk management, meaning your team can be more lean and focused on other areas of the business. The cloud also makes experimentation and innovation more accessible: since it’s vastly more scalable, you can scale up and scale down new ideas as necessary.

Plus, many business integration and security tools today are made for cloud-based platforms, so building on your core functions can be made easier with a plug-and-play cloud approach. Cloud systems are also more flexible: you only pay for what you use, and they require less commitment with more cost savings – up to 40% the cost of a server. And if your partners are saving money, those savings show up in pricing for services.

Mitigating risks

A significant benefit of the cloud is the disaster response and data recovery guarantees that cloud computing platforms offer. When using a physical server, recovery times can span up to four hours to restore service and infrastructure. Your IT team is also responsible for patching the server and managing risks, making maintenance and recovery more expensive on a server. 

The cloud’s disaster recovery is less expensive – with cost savings up to 80% – and relies on backups, meaning outages and a loss in service from a weather event or security breach is likely to be less detrimental on the business. 

Data analytics are also all done in memory in the cloud, meaning there’s less opportunity for mistakes and security breaches.

Data sharing made easy

The cloud has changed the game when it comes to sharing data quickly and at scale. Using a cloud platform like Snowflake – which brought data management and collaboration to the cloud in a major way when it launched in 2012 – makes onboarding and ramping up data strategies faster and more seamless. At Acadia, that means we can receive, digest and share data with clients in real time. This opens up more space for innovation and experimentation. 

Applying tools like natural language processing to data that’s in the cloud also means that we can more easily understand trends and action points based on the data. Acadia uses a service called Thoughtspot, which connects to the cloud in order to answer questions about the dataset and automatically create data dashboards in real time and draw out household-level attributes quickly. That speed, efficiency and data literacy is then passed onto our clients, and we can test theories, change tact and iterate on strategy much faster than we could with a physical server. Legacy servers not only don’t have the plug-in capability for language tools, but housing the data in one physical location made it less accessible for security purposes. 

The key takeaway

Going serverless is an evolution of data infrastructure that lays the groundwork for a more connected business. With more tools than ever that can plug into the cloud, there are advantages to working in the cloud that a legacy server can’t match. From better-managed security systems to a far more scalable workload and capacity for experimentation and innovation, the cloud is a systems change switch that you won’t look back from. 

Carol Davis is the Head of Technology at Acadia.

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Carol Davis