Chances are you’ve heard something about the Cloud – whether it’s positive or negative, the discussions are happening everywhere. Originally, it was about being able to access things like email or certain applications from anywhere, but now it’s a much bigger opportunity. There are some definitive perks to moving your data to the cloud (and you may have started already), but nothing is a one-size-fits-all solution.
So, where do you start? Here are the most important questions you should consider when evaluating a move to the Cloud:
1) What data is most important for your daily operations?
I think most businesses can agree that their data is their most important asset. So why is it that many of the same businesses have not been through an exercise of determining how their data needs to be classified? For example, are you making the same effort to protect archived data as you do production data that is necessary for your day-to-day operations? The underlying principle and approach need to be sound in how you classify data, but it may require different technical approaches in order to sustain it. Do you have the equipment necessary and the deliberate operational practices in place to really understand your data and its value?
2) How much downtime can you afford?
This question is closely tied to your data classification. Think of this as insuring against losses; loss of resources, loss of availability and potential loss of data. How fast can you get everything back if there is an outage or emergency? We’ve established that protecting different types of data may involve different technical solutions. To choose the path that aligns with your organizations’ needs, you will need to know what you are protecting, why you are protecting it and how quickly you may need it again. Sounds simple enough right? The truth of the matter is, protecting everything without a tiered approach can cause costs to quickly spiral out of control, not to mention the risk of unplanned downtime if a security incident occurs.
3) Do you have any compliance obligations or regulations that apply to your data?
Maintaining compliance not only requires an understanding of what compliant data is, but that the appropriate operations and technical controls are in place to fulfill your compliance obligations. You must maintain those controls over time, as circumstances change, even if those changes are weekly. Does your organization have the operational diligence and technical capacity to support a DLP (Data Loss Prevention) strategy? Can you be sure that your intellectual property, or more importantly – your clients’ intellectual property – is protected from theft? Do you know what to do if an employee inadvertently shares sensitive HIPAA data with the outside world? Protecting compliant data is not a “set it and forget it” task, and making sure the appropriate data is available if you have downtime or suffer a loss is a critical part of ensuring your organization doesn’t breach its compliance obligations.
4) Is your organization prepared for a different cost management strategy?
When considering ROI (return on investment) an organization must prepare for the inevitable conversations sparked by the mere mention of moving resources to the cloud: CAPEX vs OPEX. The conversation should be less about the actual mechanics of “should we stay, or should we go” and more about the realization of IT value – not value in terms of cost, but the actual value that can be achieved by correctly designing the solution.
Most organizations in the traditional CAPEX model usually fall into the first or second category, over-investing or under-investing in servers, switches, circuits and infrastructure. For those that over-invested, the key metrics are keeping pace with anticipated growth and making sure demand for peak capacity is met. In actuality, peak demand rarely happens 100% of the time, it might be only 10-30% percent of the time, and growth as it relates to capacity can be hard to predict. For those that under-invested, the key metrics seem to be cost savings and doing more with less.
Are you really saving all that much when you have a critical outage and it affects your reputation? What about the effect on employees unable to work efficiently because they‘re held back by under-specced technology? In some cases, the old CAPEX model with all of the resources onsite might be perfect, but the cloud allows you to expand and contract resources as needs arise.
5) Which makes more sense for your data, a single cloud or a multi-cloud environment?
Which cloud should you choose – Microsoft, (learn more about Azure here) Amazon, IBM, Google or other? Should you put all of your eggs in one basket? That depends on the needs of your organization. The needs vary as much as the options available to address them. While most cloud offerings come with service level agreements unattainable to most on-premise solutions, and availability of platforms that once only Fortune 500 companies had access to, the choices can be downright daunting. There needs to be advanced planning regarding why you are considering the cloud, which cloud to choose and what tools you’ll use to manage and monitor your cloud environment. Most organizations choose to have solutions in multiple cloud environments. The best metaphor I can offer is it’s like choosing between Amazon Video, Netflix, or Hulu; all offer video on-demand, and all are just a bit different. The choice is built around the needs of an audience, and the best choice may be more than one solution.
6) What are you risking by not hosting your data in a cloud environment?
If you aren’t giving serious consideration to what the cloud can do for your business, you aren’t doing your organization any favors. Maintaining IT onsite is expensive due to hardware, software, labor, power and cooling and real estate. You’re also locked into a framework that makes you less nimble, especially if you get blinded by the investments in place. Passing up opportunities to be more efficient because you want to squeeze every dollar out of a technology investment is human nature, but it’s also irrational.
In fact, the cost of not going to cloud – not actual cost, but opportunity cost – is driving adoption. Sure, you have fixed assets that depreciate over time; but what is the lost cost of technology employees continuing to perform the same tasks they did 10 years ago? They are expected to do all the tasks they previously did as well as spending their time supporting frameworks that drive measurable outcomes like improved customer experience. Most IT employees are expected to do twice the work, and the sad truth is there’s a high probability that somewhere, quality is suffering, potentially affecting your brand.
7) Do you have the resources in-house to manage cloud services or do you need to work with a partner?
As you can tell, it’s not a simple exercise to move to the cloud, but it doesn’t have to be difficult either, at least not if you plan correctly. Like many aspects of IT and life, the failure to plan often yields mixed outcomes and mismatched expectations. It takes focused technical planning, fundamental understanding, proper execution and diligent oversight. Will you use a pure cloud solution, hybrid, SaaS (Software as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service) or a multi-cloud architecture? Perhaps a combination of all of those services? To achieve efficiency, your services need to be monitored and maintained, and if the cost warrants it, moved from one cloud to another because it offers a more cost-effective solution.
Interested in exploring the options but feel you don’t have the right expertise in-house? Let’s have a conversation, we’re here to help!