Three Essential Questions for a Successful Cloud Strategy

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From increased agility to enhanced security capabilities, the benefits of a cloud-first strategy are becoming increasingly clear. But what may be less obvious is how to tap into those cloud advantages in the best way possible. After all, while cloud usage has grown rapidly in recent years, optimizing use of the cloud is still a new frontier of sorts for many organizations.

As adoption rates rise, and more operations shift to the cloud, new questions are cropping up around management strategy. Which operations should be migrated—and how? How will data be safeguarded from the get-go, and into the future? What are best practices for cloud management and governance?

3 essential questions for your cloud strategy:

Often, the mandate for cloud-first comes from the C-suite, on the assumption that a cloud first strategy will reduce IT spend. The reality is not so straightforward. While replacing CAPEX with OPEX funding processes reduces the amount of initial capital expenditures, longer term costs of operating cloud services depend on the specifics of the infrastructure that is provisioned. Some applications, data, and/or infrastructure may be more secure, less expensive, and easier to manage through the cloud, others less so. A better reason to consider the cloud is business agility that enables users to provision business applications, tools, and infrastructure in minutes.

Self-service and orchestration automation enable end users to deploy systems and applications without direct involvement of IT personnel. The cloud’s ability to scale up or scale down applications, data, and infrastructure, or experiment with new applications without long-term infrastructure investments, also help make a business more flexible and competitive. It is therefore not surprising that a growing number of enterprises are using cloud infrastructure for testing and development and are now expanding it for use in production environments.

So, when you are developing your plans for the cloud, you will need to think about your larger business strategy and the needs of your organization where IT is concerned. The following are three key considerations.

1. What should you migrate?

“Everything” is probably not the right answer. You will need to examine the different kinds of applications you use, including desktop, client server, Web, mobile, and legacy applications, taking into consideration their associated performance, security, scalability, integration, and portability concerns. Other considerations should include infrastructure design; the cloud services and pricing options available; bandwidth; and the tools you will need for cloud automation, orchestration, and management. Bear in mind that you may underestimate the number of applications used by your organization, the levels of integration among them, and the performance impacts of local and/or remote data access by these applications.

2. What will be the true cost of implementing your cloud strategy?

Cloud service costs include not just the subscription fees, but also the time and resources required to execute your strategy. Migration alone can be challenging, time-consuming, and costly. You will also need to maintain, monitor, and manage your cloud or hybrid cloud environment. A governance strategy is essential, and you may also need to invest in staff training to optimize your evolving environment.

Right-sizing is another issue—and one that's often overlooked. Just because your data center has ten servers for a particular business use, that does not mean you need ten servers with a cloud service. It is easier to scale out than in, so it’s important to assess your requirements carefully and start small. Furthermore, cloud services are constantly evolving. Without close management, you may miss opportunities to obtain greater value by changing providers.

3. How will you keep your data storage and transmissions secure?

As the major cloud service providers have improved their security frameworks, security has become less of a perceived concern. However, human error can undermine the built-in protections. Despite the availability of security toolsets provided by AWS, Microsoft Azure, and others, many organizations fail to fully enforce best practices such as using encryption or automated password policies. So, it is critical to build governance and monitoring into migration planning.

Depending on your industry, you may also need to ensure that your cloud security is compliant with HIPAA, PCI, SOX, and other data privacy regulations. Secure storage is not enough—consider how you will control the transmission of sensitive information across networks that you do not own. An advanced, comprehensive security approach will be required to secure authorized access, isolate data transmissions, and protect storage across your networks, devices, and various cloud services.

Leveraging expertise to optimize your cloud strategy.

Whatever your cloud strategy becomes, the intricacies of each step run deep. To keep in-house teams focused on the big picture, many organizations are finding value in partnering with a cloud services and operations provider. From streamlining migration and keeping costs in check, to providing ongoing governance and security, the right service provider can provide with appropriate advice, reduce your risks, and ensure that your cloud strategy achieves your objectives.


 

April 30, 2018