The latest cloud computing trends in 2019

It’s 2019, and the Cloud is everywhere—from the apps we use every day to the infrastructure of global tech giants.

According to researchers at Gartner, revenue generated from public cloud services is projected to grow 17.5 percent in 2019. This amounts to a total of $214.3 billion, up from $182.4 billion in 2018.

More than a third of organizations surveyed by Gartner saw cloud investments as a top three investment priority. With this kind of growth, tech organizations are racing to get onboard with cloud-only software and platforms. Here are some of the trends to look out for this year:

Hybrid Cloud, Multi-Cloud and Mergers

IBM announced its purchase of Red Hat last October, calling it the “most significant tech acquisition of 2018.” This combined Red Hat’s extensive network of open-source clouds with IBM’s Hybrid Cloud team.

Mergers like these are likely to become a trend this year, as companies see the vast benefit of using multiple clouds across all sectors of their organization. Furthermore, this system will dominate in the future, as businesses find public clouds inadequate to meet every one of their requirements.

As a more flexible and functional solution, many organizations will shift to a network of multiple private, public and hybrid clouds in the coming years.

Serverless Cloud

Serverless computing is a young market in technology, but it will continue growing in 2019. Serverless computing isn’t actually “serverless.” Instead, it is a cloud-computing model in which the cloud provider itself runs the server on a dynamic, as-used basis (FaaS).

Rather than buying server space, developers can simply use a back-end cloud service to code, only paying for the server space they actually use.

As this relatively new technology develops, we can expect to see more companies providing and expanding their “serverless” offerings.

Artificial Intelligence

Although cloud technologies are growing exponentially, artificial intelligence (AI) could prove an even greater economic driving force. This is because according to Accenture, the impact of AI could double economic growth rates by 2035 in developed countries. 

Around 80 percent of large companies have adopted some form of AI, according to the Harvard Business Review.

Amazon, Twilio and Nvidia, to name a few, are thus, incorporating AI with cloud computing, next-gen GPUs and the Internet of Things (IoT). This has led to the developing of applications with “smart assistants,” and voice-to-text technologies.

Such a combination of AI and the cloud provides an extremely powerful and unconstrained computing network.

Security

Digital transformation is already underway, with Gartner also projecting that 83 percent of all workloads will shift to the cloud by 2020. However, this movement presents issues of cybersecurity.

Many businesses have not properly secured their cloud-stored data. For example, marketing and data aggregation firm Exactis left around 340 million records exposed on its cloud servers. This was uncovered in a data breach last year.

Mitigating factors

The implementation of the General Data Practice Regulations (GDPR) makes this even trickier. The GDPR affects cloud security, and IT companies will likely struggle to comply with these new laws while protecting sensitive information.

Cloud computing services are progressing exponentially, as are their new developments. As a result, 2019 will surely be filled with businesses pouring investment into enterprise solutions. This while expanding, securing and implementing cloud technologies to their fullest extent.

Bridget is a freelance writer and editor, and the founder of Lost Bridge Blog, where she writes about traveling as a Millennial woman on a budget. When not writing, you can find her traveling, drinking inhuman amounts of caffeine and scrolling through the latest tech & political news.
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Vocations of the Future

There is a lot of banter, which is backed up by well-research papers on how Automation and Robotics (powered by machine-learning systems) will replace jobs in the manufacturing and labour-intensive industries.

Blue-collar jobs are not the only ones however, that face imminent and progressive extinction.

A recently survey report conducted by the World Economic Forum predicts futuristic trends affecting certain jobs in the modern workplace.

Robert Solow predicted decades ago, in his Solow-Swan model, a massive driving force of global growth: technology.

And the evidence is prevalent with the likes of Apple, Microsoft, Google and Amazon championing stock markets with Billion-dollar market capitalizations and in the process creating an abundance of jobs globally.

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Disruptive technological advances such as AI (Artificial Intelligence); the ubiquitous high-speed mobile Internet (5G); widespread adoption of big data analytics; cloud technology; and the recent Blockchain technology will be the drivers of this job evolution.

Based on the report, by 2022, this job evolution will be firmly in place as it has already.

In a matter of just 4 years, we could have a situation where jobs such as postal service clerks, data entry clerks, and bean-counters (accountants and auditors) would be made redundant.

Impact on services

Software like Microsoft’s Dynamics 365, aims to remove ‘silos’ within customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) processes.

The latter takes over (fully automates) back-office operations such as stock-taking and supply chain management.

Such tasks will be performed via software, reducing the need for more human supervision. Consequently, the focus would be more on managerial roles.

In the sales and customer service realm, technologies like Microsoft’s AI will provide automated insights to guide employees on improving customer experiences.

Furthermore, it may lower support costs by using virtual agents or Chatbots to eliminate in-house AI experts and those writing code. This will  result in more redundancies!

World's jobs

On a positive note, newer and more exciting jobs such as data analysts, machine learning and AI specialists, digital transformation experts and in general information system services will be on the rise – up to 135 million globally, according to the Report.

The fields to benefit directly from new technologies would be information technology; information security; innovation; customer services and risk management (financial services).

Impact on finance

Another group of professionals whose nature of work will be affected due to the advent of ‘disruptive technology‘ are financial middlemen. Likewise, smaller banks and money transfer institutions.

Decentralised systems were primarily put in place to eradicate extra fees associated with transferring money across borders, and from one account to another. This because fees increase due to such intermediaries (financial middlemen).

Cutting them out completely undoubtedly renders them redundant. It is therefore pertinent for them to innovate their products in order to open up sufficient job position.

Read more about the effect of Cryptocurrencies on the banking sector here

Recently, Malta’s finance minister whilst in a private interview during a Blockchain Conference, echoed this. He said that the advent of cryptocurrency has changed financial middlemen into traditional “photo developers”.

“I can see this, just like in photography when you could tell that […] those who process the photos will lose their jobs; a lot of financial intermediaries will be facing the chop in the not too distant future,” says Edward Scicluna.

The good news for governments will be that the trend shows that the jobs created will surpass those lost.

Be proactive and skill yourself accordingly or get the right personnel who can quickly adopt some of the mentioned skills so that you do not fall behind!

Cloud (Storage) Wars!

The term “storage wars” has taken on a new meaning. It has shifted literally from the ability to keep one’s belongings in physical containers to having one’s data stored and managed in the digital realm.

A question often asked is whether the (Internet) cloud is infinite. The answer is both a yes and no.

The top four cloud tech companies are endlessly engaged in a silent market share war. It is a tough choice as they all offer millions of gigabytes in storage. It is therefore fair to interrogate to what extent is there an abundance of storage after which storage space will run out.

The “Cloud” as explained in our previous blog, is a series of backed up servers scattered across the globe.

Consequently,  in terms of availability of storage, it is just a matter of where a datacenter can be run on super-servers and at what maintenance costs.

The answer to how infinite is the cloud, therefore, boils down to primarily a cost, rather than a capacity issue for the respective cloud-storage providers (CSPs).

The main providers/participants vying for a market share in the paid cloud storage subscriptions are namely Google, Microsoft (Azure), Amazon and IBM.

There are also smaller yet significant players such as Box, Dropbox, Tresorit, and Barracuda.  A quick online search will reveal what is on offer by these individual players.

Similarly, the pages of any one of the smaller companies will give some comparisons on individual cloud storage offers.

We will, however, look at the top for major players and summarize their offerings based on a focus on both individuals and small to large enterprises.

What to look out for

Some of the key features to look for when storing data in the cloud   include: Encryption at rest and in transit, as well as end-to-end encryption; 2-Step Verification, HIPAA Compliance.

Other factors to consider is the actual server location, ability to sync any folders and perform selective Synchronization.

There are also key offerings such as offering the ability to edit files on mobile devices. For businesses, the ability to remotely wipe mobile devices, perform file-versioning, and other useful features for data management.

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As a business, if the above-mentioned features are not  in your cloud solution, you better look into switching away.

While you can technically run your own cloud, it would require a full-on IT team. That or a very good support system to assist in its maintenance and administration.

It is for this very reason that a SaaS(and Hybrid)-approach  to storage is preferred by many medium to large enterprises.

Here are 4 of the most popular CSPs 


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Weaponry: 

A standard (personal) GoogleDrive starts from 15 GB in size and comes when you open a Google email account. This is a standard with most Android-powered mobile phones which require a Gmail account to register the phone. It is a convenient way to store and access your pics, videos, and files across multiple devices or back them up in case of a hard drive crash.

If you do not mind the inconvenience of having several logins, you could get away with multiple drives giving you 15 GBs each.

There is, however, a drawback as there is no such a thing as a free lunch – the level of security and compliance features naturally are little to almost none.  Additional storage can also be purchased with different upgrade plans, which may come with more  add=ons such as extra file encryption.

When it comes to their business offering, their Team Drive is available with the G-Suite bundle. One can upload 750 GB of data per day and up to a total 5 TB in size.  Team Drive can contain a maximum of 100,000 files and folders, however, this limit can be increased upon request.

The basic package including the more advanced security costs $5 per user per month and gives you 30 GB for storage and collaboration.

A full comparison of available storage plans 
Tactical strengths:

The ease of accessing and using the drives via strategic partnerships such as the one with Android provides them with growing market share.   As it is cloud-based and not linked to physical devices,  you can access your GoogleDrive using a Mac computer as well.

There are growing talks of incorporating Artificial Intelligence <AI> into the data management systems and currently building a full AI Center in Accra, Ghana. This will help bigger companies manage, access and organize their stored information faster and with more purpose.

They have recently launched a set of new cloud storage tiers under the branding Google One.

This comes with revised pricing and storage options: 15 GB: remains Free; 100 GB costs $1.99/month; 200 GB $2.99/month  and 2 TB $9.99/month.

Potential weakness/es:

Google is a latecomer when it comes to offering business solutions and still battles with the stigma of being a free service and thus associated with inferior quality.

The integration with Office applications is still something they struggle to get right. Not many are fans of their free word processing software included in Googlesheets.

Most non-Microsoft platforms will have this compatibility problem.

They also run into a few data syncing problems ever so often, especially with the free storage. They offer full 24/7 customer and technical support with their products. More aggressive advertising and pricing of their business offerings now serves to hopefully alleviate this issue for them.

How Google bounces back from a hefty  EUR 4,34 billion fine for the mentioned collusion with Android will determine if they survive the storage war. This especially if they will be now forced to allow other CSPs to offer services on mobile devices.


AmazonWeaponry:

One of the first cloud solution provider to offer eCommerce and Business-to-Business (B2B) offerings. Amazon and its Amazon Web Services (AWS) has come a long and calculated way from just offering/selling books online.

They are actually seen as a formal threat and direct (more superior) competitor to Microsoft’s cloud (equivalent) offering –  which we touch on next.

Most of this comes from a robust and apparently the world’s largest global cloud infrastructure.

Based on this, its cloud storage, dubbed Amazon S3, works on a “pay as you use” basis while its free tier starts you off on 5GB of storage. Thereafter you pay in increments based on the storage class you fall under.

So the first 50 TB will cost  $0.023 per GB per month and then the next 450 TB will cost $0.022 per GB per month and so on.

This is practical for businesses that do not have a limit to storage space but scale up and down very quickly based on their operations.

Tactical strengths:

Amazon’s storage platform gives users and businesses alike the ability to geographically store and move data with the highest levels of encryption. In addition, one can use data analytics on your data without moving the data into a separate analytics system.

Amazon Athena additionally provides anyone who knows SQL on-demand query access to vast amounts of unstructured data. As with Google, AI incorporation along with Alexa would facilitate this even further.

Other notable benefits offered include open workflows, Hybrid-cloud storage capability, powerful APIs and easy and reliable access to many Third-Party vendors & Partners.

Naturally, you get access to its AWS Marketplaces. It also has a strong compliance adherence including HIPAA/HITECH, EU Data Protection Directive, and FISMA.

Comparison of the various storage classes available.

Potential weakness/es:

Its primary offering of consumer goods and online delivery will make it prone to any bad press received if that arm of operations does not work well.

Further expansion into areas like streaming TV with Amazon Prime and cashless stores might result in a jack of all trades expert in none phenomenon. They are, nevertheless, handling all well so far.


mslogoWeaponry:

The “go-to” tech company for word-processing software as well as operating systems. This software giant like Amazon, is branching into many products.

They now offer games, server hosting software, applications, an online store for all its devices, software and services and of course, storage.

Its Azure platform powers certain parts of Nasa and utility giant Schneider Electric to mention a few. It purchase works similarly to Amazon via ‘pay-as-you use’ terms.

Storage users need to have a .Net Framework and SQL installed to use the storage. For those looking for quick storing solutions without building heavy infrastructure, they can adopt the cloud completely.

With the launch of its online services (Microsoft 365,), it has had to repackage a portion of its Azure platform to cater for small to mid-sized businesses.

These include functional/specific bundles such as OneDrive (personal), OneDrive for Business and Sharepoint (a powerful storage and content management tool).

The online version of the Sharepoint starts at $5.00 per user per month for a rather limited 1 TB per organization. Thereafter, users can purchase more in 1 GB increments of 12 to 16 (US) cents depending on the total (storage space) size ordered.

Tactical strengths

Also early adopters of AI (Machine Learning) and recently, the Blockchain (Blockchain Workbench), Microsoft is providing its developers with more and better reasons to use its storage space for practicality.

Like their online storage offers on Office 365, Azure storage packages are also quite structured and well categorised.

There are specific functions such as a database server-data management system. Then there is one for application running services, and others to handle rest-based object storage (Blob Storage).

Lastly, they offer storage to help perform computations and process events (Functions).

These bundles are all provided free for the first 12 months and then range from $0.002 per GB to about US 0.20c per million executions.

They have a good Partner system to help distinguish and provide support for the best storage package based on one’s immediate needs.

To bolster their growing Marketplace, they recently also purchased the business that deals with OpenSource (GitHub).  This enables more freedom for developers to manipulate software on its platform.

For a comparison of the storage types via Azure and pricing for each, click here.

Potential weakness/es:

People have found its pricing a little to steep on the storage side and so keeping market share will be tough.  Many new smaller CSPs offering cheaper per GB rates.

They can only counter this by offering more products that require their storage (compatibility-wise).

Some other cumbersome restrictions like users being only able to upload 20 000 files at once or the actual file-size limit might not bode too well with heavy cloud data users.

They also don’t have as many APIs as Google or Amazon does, but these are growing by the day.


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Weaponry:

Probably the first of the CSP batch that provided cloud computing. It therefore has had the experience of honing ways of storing and retrieving data for larger businesses. International Business Machines (or IBM) can be considered as the grandfather of data storage.

As with the other CSPs, there is a free offering called the “Lite plan” consisting of a single IBM Cloud service instance with storage up to 25 GB/month.

Paid storage is staggered, per consumption and based on complex costing tiers based on location, storage class, and resiliency choice.

Storage charges start from $0.09 for up to 50 GB down to $0.014 for 500+ TB on what they call the Cross Region Flex plan.

For more insight into the complex costing table, visit the IBM storage pricing page here.

Tactical strengths:

Their security is their biggest pride and strength and makes them a firm favourite for large companies and potentially governmental institutions.

The fact that they do not actively advertise as much as Google or Microsoft is telling. They clearly need to provide high secrecy and protection for their existing clients.

One such feature unique to the way data is stored on their cloud servers is using Information Dispersal Algorithms (IDAs). This helps to separate data in unrecognizable “slices” that are distributed across datacenters.

So basically the complete copy of the data resides in any single storage node, and only a subset of nodes are available in order to fully retrieve the data on the network. This is similar to how peer-to-peer sharing or data encryption works.

And speak of heavy encryption, they have allegedly recently also started on the Blockchain and are experimenting with a particular Cryptocurrency to enable ease of payments. This in the light of IBM with its Watson platform looking to become more of a cloud-based data operating system.

Potential weakness/es:

IBM relies too much on its reputation as a forerunner for tech and cloud-based computing. It has earned that title for several decades before the likes of Google and Amazon barged in.

They might lose out on market share once the newer CSPs start to offer more robust products and compliance services like theirs.

Their high security and complex system come at a premium so designed for or rather restricted to wealthy companies essentially. The hosting option (main server locations) looks limited and restricted to geographical areas primarily within the US and EU.


250x250Be wary of clandestine terminology such as ‘unlimited archiving/storage’ even with a paid subscription. This usually refers to storing data at rest and not the ability to constantly and unlimitedly sync files.

Another salient factor to compare would be the number of files that you can upload or sync at the same time.

This will be relevant for larger companies that need to upload large files and by large, we mean 10 GB files (2 and a half HD DVDs’ worth of content) and upwards.

Making a choice

At the end of the day, your decision to take on a faction in the storage war should be based on your priorities. You simply match it to what each of the companies is offering taking your budget into consideration of course.

You may need to consider running a combination of two or more of them.

Some larger companies offer storage as a “must have” with  hosted email or along with something as basic as purchasing a new smartphone.

You will, however, have to ask yourself a few more pressing questions around functionality, data security and compliance before taking it up.

Or you can simply not accept the offer or disable it in cases where it is presented as a freebie!

How would you like to be served?

The thought of “servers” and “hosting” are rarely things you consider on a daily basis. If you are not an IT or a software architect, then probably not at all.

For the mentioned professionals, however, these decisions are critical to the operations of a business however large or small.

There is a fine line between how and where software systems are used. This line has become thinner because of evolving cloud technology and automation.

Sourcing and deploying the right IT architecture could therefore help your business stay afloat, or sink without.

Communication is key

The most effective mode of communication in any business (other than verbally or telephonically) is still the electronic mail or E-mail.

It is effective because it helps you to form a time-stamp and a reference point when it comes to documentation. This is an important aspect when it comes to legal obligations and commitment. Emails are, therefore, something that should not be taken for granted!

We consequently send, receive emails with attachments and receive them through various devices. All  without a second thought as to how this happens.

After all, this is the job of the IT-guys, right?

Well quite rightly so. They often must battle with their respective management and board of directors for funds to keep this going without compromising operations. And this from not only a daily functional point of view, but from a security and software compliance facet.

Defining servers

Your company’s IT infrastructure: Emails; File-servers; Databases (CRMs and ERPs) and other communications tools are commonly hosted (managed) on-site on systems referred to as ‘on-premise’ solutions.

These are managed by computer-like CPUs  that look like the standard boxes that you plug your monitor and keyboards to. They however, have a lot more processing power and storage and are called Servers.

Servers naturally must be kept cool because of the heat they generate from being on all the time. As you can imagine, built-in fans are far from being enough to cool them off!

If you didn’t know, there is likely a (highly) protected server room in your building that is kept as cold as the cold storage for meat factories.

Now there an array of servers types. Each of them is designed to run the tasks of mail exchanges, file-storage, and sharing, the storing and deploying of remote PC operating systems. Others handle databases and many more dedicated functions.

You would need to have the licensed software to operate each server providing unique services. This makes it quite an expensive outlay if you have all of the abovementioned requirements!

Servers are not irreplaceable and can overheat, get corrupted or crash like a hard-drive (or a NAS server system). They therefore need to be maintained at a cost to the company via your IT department.

Depending on the amount of data and complexity, maintenance is sometimes outsourced to specialised IT companies or the software license providers.

Cloud-computing

In the early 2000s  ‘the cloud’ or ‘cloud computing’ became a new concept. Cloud-computing is basically a very large set of high-end servers equipped with software to manage all the tasks mentioned above. It is usually offered as a service under a single (monthly or annual) subscription.

So basically, you are renting the service of a server as opposed to owning it. Renting, just like with property or cars, relieves the user of all the costs of maintaining the product in question.

This sort of rental service offered by cloud service providers is now known as Software as a Service (SaaS). This also saves you from purchasing any hardware let alone paying for the extra electricity bill to cool a server room.

According to Quora.com, the main difference between a cloud and a datacenter is that a cloud is an off-premise form of computing that stores data on the Internet.

A datacenter, on the other hand, is an on-premise set of hardware that stores data within an organization’s local network.

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As an IT professionals you would face the burning question of whether to go for a solution that will  relieve them of mundane tasks such as server maintenance. Naturally, you would also want one that facilitates the daily administering of user profiles, mail/data archiving and backups.  But to what costs then?

Deciding on which to go for

There are many pros and cons when it comes to the hosting of a company’s data on a server as opposed to having it run via the cloud.  There is also a massive array of choices and bundles between the top cloud-service providers.

This makes the decision-making process a little harder for directors – who often don’t have the time for such tasks.

Cloud service providers for starters, have several data centers used as backups. So a service like email hosting, will have several servers in different locations to serve that function alone.  This curbs the risk of your data getting lost, unavailable or even hacked.

Naturally, Datacenters are kept highly secure  in undisclosed locations globally. Google is known to have one of its datacenters floating on a massive container ship somewhere over the Atlantic ocean.

Maintenance

Maintaining a server is expensive as they (as mentioned) require massive cooling systems. Some smarter companies like Microsoft, are now taking to the deep oceans for that function.

When it comes to email hosting or the storage of files in the cloud nowadays only five large multinational corporations’ names come to mind: Microsoft, Oracle, Google, IBM and Amazon.

These companies however bear the burden of maintenance, while providing just the service you require on a subscription basis.

Setting up an on-premise solution, in contrast, can be a tedious exercise and an expensive one. This especially for individual companies who do not have large IT budgets.

In addition, the argument of “once-off” payment to own the server is rendered obsolete. This is because the actual hardware and license models change very quickly nowadays.

Licensing a server is no child’s play either. Having to decide on costs and functionality will determine how to license. This would be either per server, per virtual machine needed, or per processor core and then you need CALs).

If you don’t believe it, just have a look at this licensing guide!

An example

To illustrate the difference, an outlay of a hundred thousand dollars just for the software licenses for three years. This compared to a cloud-hosted solution/package that performs the same function over the same timeframe.

You can literally piggy-back off companies like Amazon and Microsoft’s security services, which then costs 8 thousand dollars monthly (96k annually).

So, within three years of using the cloud, you would have reached the $100K cap that would be spent only for licenses. You would have also saved with an extra $188K in additional services.

This is a portion of what would have been spent on maintenance, technical support, security, upgrades and updates.

These figures are rudimentary, but the long-term savings are noticeable as cloud service providers tend to provide value-add solutions when pricing their bundles.

Microsoft has for one, recently launched its Microsoft 365 package which includes an upgrade to the latest operating system (Windows 10 Professional or Enterprise). This is something IT professionals would have had to source separately.

Stress relievers

Software deployment and the administration of user accounts is cloud-based. This means you now be perform this conveniently and remotely from a PC, Laptop, Tablet or even Smartphone!

This means as an IT professional, you will now have more time to oversee more important issues like data security and overall IT policies. Better yet, you can now look into ways to automate and improve systems further.

This is possible without the inconvenience of running from PC-to-PC to install operating systems, Office software or manage mailboxes.

The remote desktop services of an on-premise server were a step in this direction but are a pain to set up. So, you can view the cloud as an evolution of remote-desktop services.

Infrastructural setbacks

The only (and potential) hindrance to using cloud services naturally would be the availability of good and cheap broadband (Internet connectivity).

Without both, the justification for running your business fully on the cloud would not stick. Some businesses, especially in developing countries, are, in a desperate attempt to adopt the cloud in the future. They use what is known as hybrid-systems: a combination of cloud and on-premise solutions.

120x600If you operate in a country without forward-thinking government officials that facilitate broadband availability, you will suffer the most.

Like an old, car, outdated hardware and software can lead to costly services (especially for out-of-date and warranty solutions). This means heftier maintenance fees and support costs from third-party IT professionals who bill you by the hour.

The common old rhetoric of not trusting the cloud is also one of the past. Cloud services often outperform on-premise solutions when it comes to high-end security software and data protection. This is because of the obvious economies of scale involved setting up expensive security software.

The level of security would naturally have to be the digital equivalent of Fort Knox. This has to be the case especially if you are dealing with sensitive data such as financial, legal services, healthcare and educational institutions.

Your company would need a system that will keep such data secure and compliant.

So, rest assured the cloud-providers go all out to keep the trust of their clients though highly stringent and compliant online security systems.

With data now being treated as a commodity and the subsequent need to trade and value it, we now have Blockchain and digital currencies like IOTA and Dogecoin being used to facilitate payments. This while keeping data encrypted, decentralized and safe.

Lastly, in the advent of the new GDPR laws, some companies will still opt to keep and maintain their servers internally.  By doing this however, they might lack transparency and tools needed to show their consumers how their data is being handled.

Such companies must source out third-party solutions to keep their data management systems compliant. This adds further costs to a problem that could easily address by subscribing to a SaaS solution.