When a business begins its journey to the cloud, the road to implementation can seem long and full of obstacles. Migrating to the cloud is certainly no easy feat, but when decision-makers and key IT employees have a full understanding of their business's needs, its available options and best practices for implementation, many of the potholes along the way can be avoided.
There are several factors enterprise administrators and IT staff should take into consideration when selecting a cloud environment. These will not only help streamline the decision-making and roll-out processes, but will also help ensure that the company puts the best technology in place to meet its current and future needs.
Step 1: Understanding what the business needs from a hosting service
"While many administrators want to jump to the selection process right away, it is imperative that they first look internally."
While many administrators want to jump to the selection process right away, it is imperative that they first look internally and examine the requirements the organization has for its cloud solution.
For instance, decision-makers should first determine what information will be migrated to the cloud-based platform and what data will remain housed in on-premises equipment. Taking a look at the types of content that will be deployed in the cloud will help inform the type of cloud that is chosen. Specifically, administrators should decide if the data that will be sent to the cloud needs a high level of protection, or if this information is less confidential.
IT Business Edge also recommended factoring in the governance and oversight requirements the company has in its industry. Certain sectors have rules in place governing the locations data is allowed to be kept, i.e., inside or outside the country. Other industries have specific guidelines for the security and overall treatment of data in the cloud. It is imperative that stakeholders select the cloud that will help the business adhere to these rules.
Finally, administrators should consider whether or not the organization is poised for future growth. This will help managers decide on the amount of scalable space they will initially have available to them, and if they will need to expand the cloud platform in the future. For instance, if the company is in the process of completing a corporate merger, it will not only need space for its own data, but also for that of its new partner.
Step 2: Understanding the available cloud hosting service options
Currently, there are three main types of cloud environments: public, private and hybrid. Each of these offers different levels of security and cost points which should line up with the business's main needs.
A public cloud is traditionally the lowest cost cloud platform, but doesn't offer the robust security that a private cloud does. Inc. contributor and Tribridge CEO Tony DiBenedetto noted that in a public cloud environment, users share software, hardware, the operating system and other data center resources with other users. In the past, providers have offered public clouds to provide smaller companies with access to software that might have been out of their reach in the past.
A private cloud offers more in the way of security, flexibility and performance, as the only element being shared in this environment is the provider's infrastructure. In this way, the user has greater control and isolation for its software and overall operating system. A private cloud also ensures that an outage won't impact other users, as components are kept separately.
"A company's business applications and database are stored on its own virtual layer, essentially creating a protective bubble around your data," DiBenedetto wrote. "The virtual layer is software that allows the application to use shared hardware and still remain protected."
For those needing a mix of these two types of environments, there is the hybrid cloud model. This platform is a customized resource that combines elements of private and public structures, enabling applications and resources to reside in the environment that best suits the business's needs.
In recent years, hybrid clouds have become more popular. Last year, research firm Gartner recommended that "enterprises should design private cloud services with a hybrid future in mind and make sure future integration/interoperability is possible."
Step 3: Understanding implementation of cloud hosting
Once a specific environment has been chosen, administrators should closely examine the Service Level Agreement to ensure that they fully understand their hosting services. TechTarget pointed out that some SLAs can use vague terms to help make it easier for providers. Specifically, stakeholders should take a look at data availability, what constitutes an outage and how the vendor will respond in the event of downtime.
When it comes to the actual roll-out process, SmartDataCollective recommended leveraging the expertise of the provider to ensure the technology is implemented properly.
"The work done by the experts always come[s] out better than an amateur," SmartDataCollective noted. "Therefore, we recommend using experts...to make the change."
Finally, managers and supervisors must ensure that their employees understand how to utilize the new cloud-based system. In some cases, such as when an application is moved from on-premises equipment to the cloud, not much will change. Other instances, like when files or databases are migrated, will require users to take a new set of steps to access this information. In both cases, higher-ups should put training processes in place to guarantee that staff members will be able to make the most of the new cloud solution.