How the Cloud Works
With the right approach, the cloud can work for any size organisation. The industry has seen the highest uptake from start-ups and tech savvy developers where there are smaller numbers of decision makers. More and more, however, enterprises are starting to adopt the cloud for different use cases. Examples of this include pharmaceutical companies who are using the Cloud Files to store drug research data, and also online retailers, who are using the Cloud Servers to provide an overflow system when traffic to applications running on dedicated maxes out.
As it is with any technology investment, to ensure maximum ROI it is imperative to carefully plan implementation of cloud technology carefully. Simple guidelines to follow when planning a transition to the cloud are included below.
STEPS TO IMPLEMENTING A SUCCESSFUL CLOUD
The most important first step when implementing a cloud is to establish a clear and realistic set of goals, as well as a timeline for the project. It is wise to approach the planning process with patience – don’t try to do too much too soon.
Once the objectives have been outlined, consider the applications to be moved to the cloud, as well as the in-house expertise available to support the migration. Key internal stakeholders must be consulted at the outset of any cloud implementation. This includes legal advisors and indemnity insurers to ensure full protection if a data breach occurs. Other internal stakeholders including those who sign off technology purchases, e.g. the CEO in a small or medium business and the IT Director in a larger organisation must also be consulted.
Choosing the right cloud partner is another key component for ensuring a successful and long-term partnership. Ensure that the cloud provider is open and transparent and won’t lock you in to proprietary systems that could end up costing more over time. Other key questions to ask a cloud provider during the selection process include:
- How long has the company been offering cloud services? Is the company profitable? If so, for long has the company been profitable?
- Does the company provide a reliable and secure service? What compliance and controls are in place for the service?
- Does the company provide 24/7 technical support? Are there additional costs associated with the support provided? What is included in the company’s technical support? How many support techs are on the support team?
- What technologies does the company’s cloud service support?
- Does the company have a product roadmap they can share?
- What is the service level agreement associated with the service?
- Does the company require a long-term contract to sign up for the service? Are there any set up costs associated with sign up?
- Are discounts available for high volume usage? If so, at what volume levels?
- Does the company require a minimum monthly spend?
- Is there a free trial period offered with the service?
- Does the service enable mobile access?
ASSESS FOR SUCCESS
A thorough assessment of the applications to be migrated to the cloud is crucial ahead of any investment, with consideration for which applications are most suited for the cloud and why. This assessment should be conducted in line with the clear business goals outlined in the planning phase.
It usually makes sense to migrate less ‘risky’ applications first i.e. those that are not core to the business or customer facing. You may want to start testing the cloud with low risk or legacy applications that need to be refreshed. This will give your team time to move up the learning curve.
Implementing cloud does not have to be a complex project. Complexity, or simplicity for that matter, will be dictated by the planning that goes into the project prior to start, the chosen cloud provider’s approach to migration and setup, the type applications to be migrated, as well as the technology already in place.
As with all technology purchases, significant testing must be done to review performance and scalability capabilities, mimicking workloads that will be encountered in the real working environment.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT CLOUD FOR YOU
All clouds are not created equal - there are many cloud types with different parameters to consider which may not have presented themselves before. Consideration for whether a public cloud or private cloud is needed is also critical. The difference between the two is really just geography. A public cloud is offered as a service over the internet, whereas a private cloud is deployed inside the corporate perimeter and managed by the user organisation, so this decision depends on how much access and control the user requires.
What is important is to remember that the cloud is not an all-or-nothing solution; it is something that should be adopted over time with careful consideration and planning.
THE TIME IS NOW
The time has never been better to start experimenting with the cloud. The tightening economy means businesses have a greater need to get value for money and this is one of the primary benefits of cloud computing. It enables businesses to match costs directly to revenues to scale up and down very quickly, and can also save money on annual software licenses if headcount is reduced. Experimenting now with the cloud will put businesses in the best possible position to not only survive, but flourish when the recession ends.