You’ve decided that you’ve waited long enough. This is the year you are moving into the cloud. Are you ready… really ready?
Some who have made the move to cloud computing have been disappointed with the results, and pulled back. It’s not what they expected. Was it because their expectations were unreasonable or ill-defined, or because the service provider failed to deliver on the promise? Either one, or a combination of the two, likely played a role.
Learn from the mistakes and incorrect assumptions that so many have already made moving applications and databases to a cloud services provider (CSP).
1. Don’t become enamored with the technology
Improving business results is the only reason to engage cloud services. Reducing costs is great, but not necessarily an end unto itself. View the cloud as a business enabler, a competitive advantage, an avenue to getting closer to your customers. Use it as a tool for achieving greater objectives.
2. Have a plan before vetting CSPs
Take a hard look at your existing infrastructure and its inherent dependencies. Understand who needs which applications and databases and how they use them; then prioritize in order of importance. Know what performance metrics are acceptable from the users’ point of view, as well as interdependencies between users and departments. Review and update security policies, data governance, compliance requirements, and data access controls; have them clearly documented. Decide which workloads you plan to migrate first and why they are the best candidates. Prepare users for how they may be effected and solicit their input.
3. It’s different in the cloud
Realize that many applications and databases were designed to run in a physical data center and not in the cloud. You may have to tweak or rewrite some code for them to run as well in a cloud environment. Virtualization changes network monitoring; the tools that worked well for physical data centers do not apply to cloud-based services. You will need to master the new tools and protocols for monitoring a virtual network before migrating applications and data to the cloud. Also, if you have an issue in your data center or network, migrating it to the cloud won’t fix it. In fact, it will probably make it worse, so address issues before migrating.
4. Size your network bandwidth properly
Once you actually move to the cloud, a great deal more data will be flowing from your data center on a regular basis. Are your network connections big enough to handle the increased load without detriment to current business operations? Undersized bandwidth can create slow connections, unacceptable latency, and user dissatisfaction. Furthermore, be sure that the CSP you choose has ample bandwidth and network redundancies.
5. Clouds come in all shapes and sizes
Okay, now you’re better prepared. The good news is that you have an abundance of choices when it comes to deciding which cloud computing model and services fit you best. The bad news is you have an abundance of choices, which makes the selection process complex, exacerbated by the fact that the landscape is changing practically daily. Whether it’s PaaS, IaaS, SaaS or some other as-a-service offering, don’t go it alone. Hook up with a CSP that provides more than take-it-or-leave-it services. There will come a point when cloud computing is no longer an option, but a business survival necessity. Seek out a CSP that will be your partner over the long term, take time to understand your business and your goals, offer strategic input and design solutions tailored specifically to your needs.
6. Start conservatively and build up cloud presence over time.
Begin with migrating a few applications and databases that are not critical to your business. Did that go smoothly? Check on how your own organization and users respond to the move and whether their expectations and yours are being met. Consult your CSP immediately if issues arise, and expect a timely response. When you are confident in the abilities of your provider and your own organization’s preparedness, migrate more workloads at a measured pace.
7. Double down on security
No provider on Earth will tell you that their infrastructure is not secure. Make them prove it to you. A security- and compliance-minded cloud service provider [We’ve used this all over the place already, no need for another definition.] submits to annual independent auditing under the SSAE 16 , ISAE 3402 and AT-101 audit standards. Ask to review these audit reports. Going a step further, compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA/HITECH) and Sarbanes-Oxley demonstrates that the CSP has taken steps necessary to serve customers that are subject to strict security standards.
8. Move cautiously, but move
A business decision as important as outsourcing to the cloud demands thorough due diligence and preparations. Indecisiveness is another matter. Employees and business managers want cloud services. If IT doesn’t make them available in a timely fashion, users will provision services themselves without giving much thought to security. Overdoing due diligence may only encourage them to purchase the less secure, non-enterprise versions of applications and services on [onto?] their credit cards.
Since 2000, Peak 10 has helped thousands of business and organizations make their move to managed infrastructures and cloud services. Let us know if we can help you, too.