Cloud computing is no longer a just a buzzword, rather a norm in the world of enterprise IT. Recent surveys indicate over ninety percent of responding IT pros are cloud users. This statistic highlights the prevalence of cloud-based implementations and the importance of a well-defined cloud strategy.
While developing a plan from scratch can seem like a daunting task on the surface, the reality is taking the time to define a cloud strategy upfront will help you leverage the economies of scale found in the myriad of cloud solutions available today to ensure your business doesn’t fall behind the curve in an ever-evolving global market. Following a few rules of thumb can go a long way in assuring your strategy is one that allows you to benefit.
Getting Started With Cloud Strategy
As with most projects, defining the reasons why your business needs the cloud is a key component to understanding how you should craft a cloud strategy. Almost without exception, every organization can benefit from cloud computing, but the needs of a tech startup with their eyes on exponential growth in the next year are different from those of a multi-national conglomerate. The former will need to minimize deployment times and employee-hours dedicated to non-core services, whereas the latter may need to support custom legacy apps and assure they meet PCI and HIPPA requirements.
In any circumstance, when implemented properly, using the cloud can increase the flexibility of your IT infrastructure, allow you to reap the benefits of economies of scale, reduce TCO, and increase ROI. The takeaway here is to make sure your goals with the cloud are in line with your goals as an organization. Determine what you’re looking to achieve at a high level, and build your cloud strategy around these objectives.
Identify Opportunities and Build Your Plan Around Your Needs
With your business needs clearly defined, it’s now time to get to work defining what tangible actions can be taken. Inventorying your IT landscape with quantification of the security and compliance requirements and growth projections as suggested in this RackSpace whitepaper is a great place to start. Generally, apps with low security and compliance requirements and high growth and variability usage projections are great candidates for cloud migration whereas legacy apps and stringent security requirements require a bit more consideration.
As mentioned in this Tech Target article the realities of your current IT infrastructure and the costs associated with resource consumption fees when using IaaS solutions AWS or Microsoft Azure cannot be ignored. For example, moving an onsite Oracle database to a public cloud in an environment where LAN speed is significantly greater than WAN speed could negatively impact performance. This isn’t to say the migration of said database should be nixed, rather that it’s important to consider all facets of any solution.
Always Have a Backup
Have a backup and disaster recovery plan. Period. The cloud is amazing, there is an “aaS” for pretty much anything you can imagine, the competitive conditions cloud vendors are in have made things significantly easier for IT groups the world over. You’ve outsourced your security and maintenance and don’t have a care in the world, right? Wrong. Despite the diligent efforts of cloud vendors, hacks happen, catastrophic failures occur, and service interruptions are real. While a cloud vendor probably outperforms most onsite alternatives in terms of uptime and security, disaster recovery still needs to be considered.
Get Started, Learn, and Optimize
Start now and gain experience with what the cloud can do for you. According to a 2016 State of the Cloud Report, lack of resources and expertise is now the number one cloud challenge. This can create a catch-22 of sorts for many IT teams of not leveraging the cloud because they lack the experience. Don’t let that lack of familiarity stop your organization from modernizing. Take a lesson from Arthur Ashe, and start where you are and do what you can. Begin trials with some lower-risk applications and services so your team can learn through experience.
Invariably, as your organization gains experience, your comfort level with cloud computing, virtualization, and the alphabet soup of “aaSes” will increase allowing you to bridge skills gaps and further leverage the benefits of the cloud. Invariably, there will be some level of trial and error in this process and the need to migrate apps and services to and from public clouds, private clouds, hybrid clouds, and on-premise servers will arise.
To summarize, the key components to an effective cloud strategy are: understanding what you need the cloud to do for you, identifying pieces of your infrastructure that can be effectively migrated to the cloud, assuring backup and disaster recovery plans are in place, and learning from experience and optimizing once you get started.