Insights: Article

Custom vs off-the-shelf cloud solutions: The pros and cons

With 97% of enterprises globally using cloud, including public, private and hybrid cloud solutions, it’s clear cloud technology has become indispensable for businesses striving to maintain their competitive advantage. But when it comes to choosing a cloud solution, should you go for a custom-built solution tailored for your business’ specific needs or opt for the hyperscale cloud provider’s readily available off-the-shelf solutions? We dive into all the pros and cons of custom and off-the-shelf cloud solutions and how you can make the right choice for your business.

Custom cloud solutions

Pros

  1. Tailored to your needs: Custom cloud solutions are designed with your specific requirements in mind, ensuring that every feature aligns with your business operations.
  2. Scalability: As your business evolves, a custom solution can be easily adapted to meet new challenges or scale with your operations.
  3. Competitive advantage: A solution built specifically for your business can give you an edge over competitors using generic products.
  4. Integration with existing systems: Custom solutions can be built to seamlessly integrate with your current software and systems.

Cons

  1. Higher initial costs: The development of a custom solution requires more time and resources, leading to higher initial expenses.
  2. Longer deployment time: Custom solutions require a development period before they can be deployed.
  3. Maintenance responsibility: You are responsible for updates, bug fixes, and maintenance unless you have an ongoing contract with the developers.

RELATED CONTENT: The secret to cloud migration success isn’t technical

The case for custom cloud solutions

Off-the-shelf cloud solutions might seem simpler on the surface, but they’re not optimal for every organisation. What commercial solutions offer in deployment speed, shifting the burden of maintenance, and cheaper initial costs, they lack in flexibility, control, and business alignment.

Kinetic IT works with many organisations with large, complex environments and legacy business-critical systems, and we’ve seen how the intricacies and unique requirements of these organisations can’t always be met by off-the-shelf cloud offerings. Cloud providers offer countless products and services, blueprints, and frameworks to meet a vast array of needs, but they don’t consider an organisation’s unique business context and can’t account for every potential complexity. Organisations need to ensure they consider whether an off-the-shelf or customised approach is better suited to solving their business challenges, especially when they have legacy data, systems and applications that are critical for operating their business.

Kinetic IT Enterprise Architect John Jamieson says overlooking data dependencies, system integrations and business processes can be a costly mistake, and it’s easy to see why. McKinsey’s 2021 report revealed that missteps in coordinating a migration are inflating migrations costs by 14% and delaying migrations for 38% of companies, and IT research and advisory firm ADAPT claims that deeply ingrained legacy systems and applications are holding Australian organisations back, with 55% of organisations surveyed citing this as their main obstacle.

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The desire to unlock efficiencies is competing with the fear of getting it wrong – getting it right can mean better performance, availability, and security, but getting it wrong can lead to disruptions across the organisation, and rollbacks that cost time and money.

This goes beyond making decisions about moving to the cloud, which provider to go with, and whether to use their pre-existing solutions or adopt a customisable architecture but extends to individual applications and workloads. One size doesn’t fit all – for organisations, or for their data.

Kinetic IT Enterprise Architect Janesh Raghwani says it’s important for organisations to ensure they’re using the best solution for each workload or application, and that they have the flexibility to move between solutions as “what’s best” fluctuates due to changing business needs and emerging technology. And he’s not alone in thinking this.

In its 5th Annual Enterprise Cloud Index, cloud computing company Nutanix found that organisations are moving away from reliance on a single cloud provider. In fact, 60% of organisations are using more than one type of IT infrastructure – whether it’s hybrid cloud, multi-cloud, or a mixture of public and private cloud – and this number is only expected to rise.

While this gives rise to new challenges, one thing is clear: A single approach to IT infrastructure, be it an entirely on-premises data centre or relying on the solutions of a single cloud provider, is not meeting the needs of modern businesses, and organisations need to be selective about their cloud investments to ensure they get the most business value for their spend.

READ MORE: Discover the critical factors for cloud migration success in our new report Cracking the Code to Cloud Migration Success: 5 Key Insights from Australian Organisations.

Off-the-shelf cloud solutions

Pros

  1. Quick deployment: One of the most significant advantages of off-the-shelf cloud solutions is that they can be deployed immediately, allowing businesses to benefit from them without delays.
  2. Cost-effective: Generally, ready-made solutions are less expensive in the short term since there are no development costs involved.
  3. Standardised features: These solutions often come with a set of standard features which have been developed based on industry best practices.
  4. Community support: Popular off-the-shelf solutions tend to have a large user base, meaning there’s a good chance you can find community support, tutorials, and resources.

Cons

  1. Limited customisation: One size does not fit all. There might be features you need that aren’t included or functionalities you don’t need but can’t remove.
  2. Potential redundancy: You might end up paying for features you don’t need.
  3. Scalability concerns: As your business grows, you might outgrow the capabilities of the solution and need to switch or upgrade.

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The case for off-the-shelf cloud solutions

Organisations might be swayed to go down the route of building custom cloud infrastructure due to concerns over data sovereignty and security, particularly if they believe their homegrown infrastructure is more secure. They may also believe their infrastructure is more cost-effective in the long run than cloud providers or simply want full control over their infrastructure and develop solutions tailored to their specific needs.

However, attempting to build cloud solutions or infrastructure from scratch, instead of leveraging the platforms and tools of the hyperscale cloud providers (like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure), can create more cloud migration challenges than it’s worth. This route is often time-consuming, expensive, unreliable, and an all-round headache.

If you want to make the most of cloud provider services and infrastructure, you’ll need to:

  • Get to know the benefits: Look to those who have gone before and stand on the shoulders of giants. Work with cloud providers and their partners to understand their advantages, such as global infrastructure, scalability, flexibility, and access to advanced technologies and services.
  • Tailor existing services: You don’t need to build your own infrastructure to get a custom cloud solution. Hyperscale cloud providers have hundreds of services and tools that are constantly updated. When you work with a cloud provider partner, they can build tailored solutions using these services to meet your specific business needs.
  • Perform a cost-benefit analysis: Analyse the costs and benefits associated with using cloud providers versus building your own solution. Consider ongoing costs such as hosting, floor space, power, and cooling, rather than simply server and storage costs.
  • Focus on core competencies: Rather than investing time and resources in building and maintaining infrastructure, concentrate on your organisation’s core capabilities and let the cloud providers and their partners handle the infrastructure.

With these steps, your organisation can make an informed decision about using cloud service providers and saving time and resources.

READ MORE: 7 common cloud migration challenges and how to avoid them

What’s right for your business?

The choice between custom and off-the-shelf cloud solutions isn’t black and white. When making the decision, consider these key factors:

  • Budget: If you’re operating on a tight budget and need a solution immediately, off-the-shelf might be the way to go.
  • Unique requirements: If your business has specific needs that generic software doesn’t address, custom could be worth the investment.
  • Long-term vision: Think about where your business is headed. If rapid scaling or pivoting is on the horizon, a flexible custom solution might be beneficial.
  • Technical expertise: If you have an in-house IT team capable of maintaining and tweaking a custom solution, it can be a viable option. If not, the simplicity of an off-the-shelf product could be preferable.

Understanding the specific needs, budget, and long-term vision of your business is crucial in making the right choice. Before you move to the cloud, it’s essential to assess your organisation’s specific needs, budget, resources, and long-term vision to ensure your cloud environment aligns with your company’s goals and facilitates growth and efficiency.

Want to find out more? Contact us to speak about your cloud requirements.

Get started with our 5-minute Cloud Readiness Assessment. In just 17 essential questions, you’ll gain a clear understanding of your organisation’s readiness to move to the cloud, including any potential gaps in your cloud migration plan and your recommended next steps.