What does it mean to move your business to the cloud? We talk, read, watch, and hear about the benefits to business and the rewards that will be yielded, but what does this actually mean? What are the potential pains you will feel and what should you be doing to make your journey as smooth as possible?
Historically, businesses have had to manage their own IT infrastructure for their company ERP systems, information storage systems, security systems, archives, and others. The complexities of doing this, together with managing environmental issues like electricity supply, recycling, and cooling, was seen as part of the cost of doing business. Invariably, these costs just seem to go up and up every year, often at a higher than expected rate. Things like new technologies, the insatiable demand for more storage, new demands on corporate accountability for reduction of carbon footprints, reducing energy usage, and increasing security levels are just some of the constantly changing rules of the game.
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Today, it is possible to shift much of this responsibility from your business to service providers who have the scale, experience, technology, and the intellectual property to meet these ever increasing demands. Combined with the maturing thinking around true pay-as-you-use services, these service providers are real alternatives to the old DIY IT mindset. Many business are also discovering some surprising (for them) and unexpected benefits in the cloud, like high availability, real-time fall-over, disaster recovery, and high-end performance… all at a fraction of the real cost of DIY IT.
In spite of these unquestionable and significant benefits, when faced with the idea of taking solutions and services into the cloud, many organisations are still hesitant. This hesitation can be attributed to several factors. For starters, it’s a big leap when all, or most of, your current systems are on premise. There remains many facets to this journey that are unknown and daunting.
What many organisations don’t yet realise is that there are several products and services that we use on a daily basis that are already in the cloud. Google Mail, Dropbox, Office365, and Online banking services are all services we use – and trust implicitly with our day-to-day functions. Why, then should your business products be any different?
Mountains or molehills?
The truth is that moving your business into the cloud could be filled with potholes and speedbumps. The benefits and potential positive impact on your business far outweighs these short-term challenges, though. That said, it’s important to go into this with your eyes wide open.
Some of the challenges that will have to be considered and managed are:
- Integration: Very few business systems run in complete isolation, in fact, most are integrated to multiple systems. Having one of those systems in the cloud will have an impact on your integration strategy. In extreme cases, you may have to invest in a decent integration tool.
- Security: Usually the first and biggest concern for companies centers on how secure the cloud is, how secure their data and connectivity is, and how secure the integration between on premise and cloud is. The reality is that the in-place security protocols are often far weaker than those in the cloud. Moving a system with its associated data into the cloud could highlight security weaknesses that existed before the move.
- Movement of data: The movement of large volumes of data between systems, where one of the systems is in the cloud, could result in increased costs and increased bandwidth requirements. This is because movement of data is often not optimised for the cloud. Moving a system to the cloud could be an opportunity to optimise and secure data movement between systems.
- Testing and development: Moving T&D environments into the cloud is often seen as a good first step, but the problem is that many businesses often do not secure their T&D data sufficiently. Moving these environments into the cloud requires a rethink on data security for non-production. It is important to remember that most organisations do not scrub their T&D data sufficiently, which could result in breaches and leaks. Again, moving these environments to the cloud could be an opportunity to review and tighten security on these data sets.
Taking the first step
The cloud is very different to DIY IT. It allows, or perhaps forces, a much faster system development lifecycle. It demands from IT professionals a conscious and honest assessment of their IT Roadmaps. Is it still relevant in a rapidly changing business environment? It is clearly not a journey to be undertaken without planning and forethought. It is the kind of journey which causes you to rethink the way you do business and how you design your systems.
So how do you do this? The first step is to have a reputable company perform a Cloud Readiness Assessment, which will assist in the development of a roadmap to the cloud.
Your roadmap should include:
- Find a suitable vendor that is flexible, offers what you need (either on premise, private, public, or a hybrid), and fits your business model and culture.
- Determine what software you may require or already have to ensure a smooth migration as there is almost always a software implication.
- Investigate which internal processes need to be established or changed to ensure a smooth transition. For instance, Data and Security processes will be affected and need to be considered.
- Ensure that you have a standardised integration process and toolset.
- Evaluate whether or not your internal IT strategy and Business strategy are aligned with your cloud journey. If not, you need to address that first before you continue.
Your journey into the cloud is not simply a budgetary issue. Your business stakeholders need to subscribe and buy into this journey. Like many things, it is a process and as such, you should expect a few speed bumps along the way. Your systems, data, and processes need to all be ready before you set out. You can also start off small with your non-critical or testing and development systems and leave the rest on premise, and once you feel safe move more into the cloud.
The key to embarking on your own journey is start slowly, experiment, and partner with your suppliers. But above all, you need to start and start now.