Posted On: August 29, 2013

6 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Migrating to the Cloud

Cloud technology is on the horizon. From the ranks of the IT department to the C-suite, cloud concepts are vague and diverse enough to inspire, confuse and muddy the vision of even the most enthusiastic new adopter. The cloud is appropriately named.

question answer cloudThe major challenge of cloud computing is understanding both the opportunities and constraints that companies encounter when they operate using remote services. For example, freedom from owning and managing physical server assets can make a big budget difference. Storing data on remote systems, however, may introduce data security and privacy issues.

These six questions will help organize a cloud strategy which will provide immediate cost savings by adopting IT managed services in the cloud. They will also help create a cloud strategy that opens the doors to new technologies, company size and location changes, and new directions in company operations.

1. What problems do you want to solve through the adoption of a Cloud Computing model?

As with any technology, the cloud should be embraced for specific, practical reasons. Companies generally want to solve problems which include scaling computing infrastructure as the company grows, adding and removing new software packages as needed, and implementing multi-site and multi-platform operation.

They want to relinquish their ownership of infrastructure and related responsibilities, allowing them to face lower costs for system implementation and upgrades. They can then provide support for short-term projects without acquiring new equipment, and deal proactively and quickly with the lack of resources to implement a new project.

2. What type of Cloud architecture is required?

This question revolves around a company’s need for control, security and accountability. Some of the problems that can arise with off-site storage, for example, are not relevant if the company uses locally-based storage for privileged data, or if the off-site data is encrypted.

Cloud services can be obtained in a public model operating on shared resources, a private model, or a hybrid of the two. Private and hybrid architectures can make use of private storage and also use customized software configurations unique to a company’s needs.

3. When, and in what order should you migrate your data, applications, operations and workloads to the Cloud?

Interoperability of server-based and cloud-based software can allow companies to migrate data and operations without time-consuming conversion projects. Experienced consultants can specify adaptor software and other techniques to make the migration as seamless as possible.

4. How will your data be secured in the Cloud?

When company data, especially trade secrets or HIPAA-covered data, is located on servers at remote sites, several issues come into play. The vulnerability of the data requires evaluation of the physical security of the site, network security including local encryption, and legal security including defense of subpoenas or other electronic discovery by the providing company.

A live, local copy of the company’s data is needed in case of temporary or long-term unavailability of cloud resources if a cloud provider is unable to meet its obligations.

5. What succession plans should be implemented to overcome the unexpected?

Since the company’s systems and IT personnel are no longer on-site, there may be a small number of internal points of contact with the cloud provider which should be managed to ensure quick problem resolution.

In the case of switching providers, standards-based services can quickly transfer data in a common format so that any downtime of cloud services can be minimized as data is switched quickly to another provider.

A provider may offer its own way of implementing a succession or redundancy plan to protect customers in the event that the provider is unable to provide its usual services for any length of time.

6. Which provider is best suited to ensure service tailored to the needs and development of your organization?

Depending on internal competencies, a company might choose a provider which owns the hardware and infrastructure from which the services are provided, one which brokers the services and provides a complete cloud services package, or custom brokered services along with standard commercial ones. The cloud market allows “mix and match” of resources to best meet the customer’s needs.

Creating a Solution

An IT managed services provider with depth of experience in cloud computing can turn the answers to these questions into a balanced strategy which includes the best cloud opportunities and avoids known pitfalls.

Cloud computing is similar to the “agile” form of software development which is a more responsive, adaptable model than highly structured development methods, but has been misused as a way to allow excessive changes.

Even though infrastructure, platform and software services are more easily changed than with company-owned servers, a company should invest in overall computing strategies, training, and deployment models which remain fairly constant over time even if additional features and packages are added to the base system.

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