Selecting a cloud approach for your payroll – by Ian McAlister
With public, private, hybrid, and even hyper-scale cloud solutions available to decision-makers, it is easy to become confused by all the technical differences. Ian McAlister, General Manager of HR (human resources) and payroll specialists CRS Technologies South Africa, discusses the options relevant to HR and payroll departments.
“It is important to note the differences between these offerings to make sense of their ability to provide a compelling business case for the sensitive data driving HR and payroll departments irrespective of company size or industry sector.”
Microsoft defines the public cloud as computing services offered by third-party providers over the public internet. These are then made available to anyone who wants to use or purchase them. They may be free or sold on-demand, allowing customers to pay only per usage for the CPU cycles, storage, or bandwidth consumed.
“For HR and payroll departments this is the most problematic format of the cloud. Because the services are offered over the public internet, the sensitive nature of data stored in these critically important business divisions makes for a high degree of risk for compromise.”
The long-term risks far outweigh any immediate gains
The financial and reputational damage if this data is lost, compromised, or becomes unavailable due to the cloud provider going down are too significant. While going this route is tempting from a speed perspective, the long-term risks far outweigh any immediate gains.
“The antithesis to this is the private cloud. This particular model of cloud computing involves a secure cloud-based environment in which only a specific client can operate. In other words, it still provides the computing power and other benefits of a public cloud, but the resources are only accessible by a single organisation.”
This, McAlister believes, is the ideal approach for HR and payroll departments.
“Only one company can configure and manage the cloud environment which also means it can be completely customised to the specific requirements of the organisation. This is an inherently more secure solution while still providing the business benefits of going the cloud route.”
As the name suggests, the hybrid cloud provides a combination of both the public and private models. Without going into the technical details, a company receives the flexibility and computing power of the public cloud for non-sensitive tasks, but can keep business-critical applications and data on-premise.
“Many local organisations who are using productivity suites like Office 365 while still focusing on on-premise applications are essentially hybrid cloud adapters. I anticipate that with the recent launch of two Azure data centres in South Africa, an increasing number of organisations will consider going this route.”
Designed to accommodate an increasing demand
Finally, the hyper-scale cloud is a distributed architecture designed to accommodate an increasing demand for internet-facing and back-end computing resources. This is the kind of cloud computing run through the likes of Facebook, Google, and Amazon.
“While this might be of a bigger scale than is required for HR and payroll departments, it is good to be aware of the potential it brings to the cloud market in its entirety. Hyper-scale computing provides important insights into the trends shaping the cloud. From a practical standpoint, however, most organisations will either go the private or hybrid route.”
McAlister says that from an HR and payroll perspective, the public cloud is simply not a valid solution for organisations looking to migrate. The security and availability aspects alone should be enough to see the move to either private or hybrid options.
To read more about this topic, click here to download our free White Paper ‘Enhancing Payroll with the Cloud’.