As cloud adoption has become part and parcel of business IT strategy, questions still remain about the validity of cloud adoption in all cases. In fact, as the discussion about cloud migration has matured, the questions have multiplied.
There are few businesses today that are not, at the very least, considering cloud computing. The environment we now operate demands it: customers expect 24/7 service, uptime, self-service and the same level of sophistication and ease that they enjoy in their consumer experiences.
Here are some basic questions that need to be considered before adopting your cloud strategy.
Why are we doing this?
The first question that needs to be asked is “why?” The noise and sometimes surreptitious marketing drive surrounding cloud computing has been relentless in recent years. Additionally, IT managed service providers have become part of this picture, receiving incentives and sometimes coming under pressure from larger vendors to drive cloud adoption across their client bases.
A meaningful analysis of business goals should be undertaken prior to any engagement: Is the objective cost savings? If so, are the costs crystal clear up front and will the cloud service we are looking at really deliver? Is it up-time or efficiency? How is that going to be achieved or improved with the cloud service we are looking at? Or are we simply following a general sense that something-must-be-done?
Even if an organisation wants to reduce its reliance on on-premise IT, there are other options such as off-prem managed Data Centre infrastructure that should be considered. In some cases, this can deliver the required results in a more manageable or cost effective manner.
What is your migration strategy?
If you are determined to migrate to the cloud, you need to think about how you will get there. Moving from on-premise infrastructure to cloud should be as seamless as practical, but it won’t be as simple as flipping a switch. Cloud migration deserves serious consideration and must be architected, either by a migration architect brought on board or with your cloud services partner.
Applications may often need to be upgraded or retooled and, at the very least, data is going to have to be moved – and this is not the simple process that we might want it to be.
Working with someone who understands both your on-premise infrastructure, your application nuances and the target cloud environment mean that crucial technical decisions can be made and avoid potentially disastrous or expensive outcomes.
Additionally, do you go all-in, moving all of the operations that are going to be moved in one go; or undertake the process in more slowly and methodically, perhaps a single application or database at a time?
Both strategies have merit and come down to questions of company culture, risk, tolerance and policy. If you decide on the more drawn out approach, you can check that things are working as they should and capture gotchas relating to performance and cost before committing more resources. On the other hand, this approach can lead to an overly protracted process in delivery of your strategy.
Going back to our first question of ‘why’, this often links in with decisions about ‘who?’. Often in partner driven strategies, only one option is investigated thoroughly where other options including other cloud providers, multi-cloud solutions or hybrid deployments are more appropriate to attain your business needs.
Naturally enough, the public cloud ‘hyperscale’ giants get the lion’s share of attention when it comes to Public Cloud. Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS and Google dominate the IaaS and PaaS spaces, but don’t always make the best sense for end users. For example, headline entry costs can seem low and allow businesses to dip a toe in the water, but costs can be very unpredictable and can rocket as usage increases.
Beware of unseen cost traps such as data egress costs and transaction costs. Make sure you have a clear understanding of what cost will ultimately look like from the outset and avoid dreaded ‘bill shock’ that can be all too common with hyperscale products!
Also, it’s important to identify how easily you can create ‘hybrid cloud’ strategies that combine both public and private infrastructure if this suits your business needs. For example, you may have some legacy applications that will simply never move to the cloud. How do they interact you’re your cloud services and should they remain on-premise or ‘lift-and-shift’’ to a third party data centre for improved connectivity in hybrid scenarios?
Brand new businesses, ‘born-in-the-cloud’, typically find it easier to have a strategy focusing entirely on a single public cloud provider – and often do. After all, there are no legacy data or applications to worry about. Despite this, though, there are still reasons for them to consider a more nuanced approach, including compliance.
Where is your data?
With the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) now in force and applying to any business that has customers in the EU, the physical location of data is more important than ever. Both storage and processing of data outside the European Economic Area (EEA) now constitute a ‘data transfer’ and, as such, are subject to new and tighter rules that you may simply want to avoid dealing with. Also, questions remain about the Cloud Act and how this relates to global Public Cloud providers.
Have you considered back-up and business continuity?
Often, there is a tacit understanding that responsibility for data protection and integrity is being passed over to the third party in cloud scenarios. The reality is rather different. Legally, your data is always still your responsibility.
So does your cloud contract include back-up, business continuity and disaster recovery? Many cloud contracts, particularly with public cloud providers, only offer basic terms and conditions of service and back-up and disaster recovery must be contracted for separately. Make sure you decipher what the provider “can” provide and what they “are” providing and the distinctions are not lost in the mix.
Finally, make sure you have a way of easily and quickly restoring or migrating your data in the future. Remember the more you need to make changes to your workloads to migrate into a service, the trickier it can be to migrate from them.
Cloud is great. It’s here to stay and has already benefitted thousands of companies from Start-ups to multi-nationals the world over. Just make sure you ask the hard questions of why, what, who, where and how before you jump!