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How to Develop a Cloud Strategy

By: Kaylie Gyarmathy on July 5, 2019

More and more organizations today are turning to cloud computing solutions for their data and network computing needs. Given the substantial cost savings offered by cloud migration, it’s no wonder that the cloud is fast approaching the status of standard practice. Combined with the possibilities offered by colocation data centers and edge computing, shifting to a cloud architecture provides organizations with unprecedented IT flexibility.

But migrating IT operations to the cloud is not something that should be undertaken lightly or without forethought. Organizations need to develop a comprehensive cloud strategy that not only guides them through the migration process, but also provides a roadmap for future decisions. Having a firm cloud strategy in place makes it easier for companies to react to changing circumstances consistently and efficiently.

Questions Your Cloud Strategy Needs to Answer

Why Are You Migrating to the Cloud?

This might seem like an obvious question, but it’s worthwhile to ask whether or not adopting a cloud-based infrastructure is worthwhile. Migrating to the cloud is, in the end, a business decision rather than an IT decision. While IT personnel think of the cloud in terms of technical specifications, bandwidth, and security, the primary advantages of cloud migration come in the form of more “big picture” areas like increased productivity, cost-effectiveness, and scalability.

Migrating to the cloud allows companies to get more out of their own IT team, which will spend less time maintaining infrastructure and devote more energy to enhancing existing services and implementing new measures to integrate systems and enhance productivity. Freed from the costly burden of purchasing, maintaining, and upgrading expensive servers, companies can invest in a range of other areas to promote innovation and growth.

But cloud migration doesn’t make sense for everyone, and it could expose a company to some potential difficulties if they select the wrong cloud vendor. If the potential benefits of migrating to the cloud are outweighed by the risks, companies face a difficult choice. They can either keep their computing infrastructure in-house, or identify cloud vendors capable of providing Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that address potential concerns and implement best practices and tools capable of meeting the specific security needs.

Establishing why an organization wants to shift to the cloud is a critical question because the answer will dictate what it needs from a cloud computing strategy. It will also determine how the next question is answered…

What Kind of Cloud Deployment Do You Need?

When most people think about the cloud, they don’t put much thought into how it’s actually structured. In reality, any company looking to migrate to the cloud faces a major decision about what type of cloud deployment can be best adapted for their needs.

  • Private Cloud: This is the most secure option, but also the most expensive. As its name implies, a private cloud exists in a physically secure environment that’s cut off from outside, public access. It houses data and applications locally, allowing only authorized personnel to access them and usually only through strictly controlled devices. Since the company needs to invest in the servers to host these assets, building and maintaining a private cloud architecture is expensive, even if it’s being colocated in a data center. For organizations committed to keeping their computing “in-house,” the private cloud offers a great deal of security and optimization.
  • Public Cloud: Hosted by third-party providers like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services, the public cloud best matches the popular conception of the cloud. Easy to access and relatively inexpensive to maintain or scale, a public cloud business solution is ideal for small companies that can’t afford the expense of maintaining their own servers and processing resources. The public nature of the environment, however, makes it a greater security risk than other options. Companies storing sensitive data in a public cloud need to be aware that their data could be compromised far more easily, which has led many of them to turn away from purely public cloud business solutions.
  • Hybrid Cloud: A hybrid cloud combines the benefits of a public and a private cloud architecture by hosting critical processes and data in a secure private cloud while utilizing the public cloud for the majority of non-critical applications and data needs. While this arrangement still incurs a high cost due to the hardware requirements of a private cloud, it offers the flexibility and scalability of the public cloud.
  • Multi-Cloud: Although the term is often used interchangeably with hybrid cloud, a multi-cloud is actually a distinct deployment that incorporates several different public clouds under one architecture in order to disperse data and applications across multiple specialized platforms. While it is subject to many of the same concerns as a public cloud, it can leverage the strengths and weaknesses of multiple platforms to determine where critical processes and assets should be hosted.

What Are You Migrating?

Just because an organization makes a decision to move to the cloud, it doesn’t have to migrate all of its data and processes in one fell swoop. Depending upon the organization’s needs, it often makes sense to move certain departments, or only specific areas of those departments, to the cloud while keeping sensitive information related to data like payroll or internal email “in-house.”

Even in the event of a full shift to the cloud, a good cloud strategy should lay out a prioritization plan that determines which IT services should be migrated first. Making the transition over time can ease the process significantly by working out how to best maintain mission-critical activities while troubleshooting implementation challenges. For many systems, a simple lift and shift strategy will be sufficient to migrate them to the cloud. However, lift and shift isn’t a one size fits all remedy. In the case of older, but critical, legacy systems that must be preserved, the migration process could be more complex and may require a data center for proper implementation.

What Are the Risks?

Once an organization knows what assets will be migrated as part of its cloud computing strategy, it can work on identifying an appropriate cloud provider to help facilitate the transition. A few key issues take center stage during this section process:

  • Data Security: Cloud providers and data centers provide a wide range of security measures to protect their customers’ data and resources, but the nature of cloud architecture makes it challenging to guard against intrusions. Finding a partner committed to transparency and willing to work with their customers to provide the highest level of security is critical to any cloud migration process.
  • Regulatory Compliance: A number of federal laws place requirements on certain types of data, requiring that anyone storing, transmitting, or processing it adhere to very strict guidelines. Failure to comply with these laws can lead to substantial fines or even criminal charges. Organizations should make sure that any cloud migration complies with regulatory standards. Using a data center to facilitate cloud integration makes it easier for companies to comply with all relevant compliance requirements.
  • Vendor Lock-In: Some of the services cloud vendors offer are exclusive to their platform, making it difficult or impossible to transfer assets and data elsewhere. Organizations should determine whether or not their migration will lock them into certain platforms or services before they begin the process. If they decide to commit to a specific service, they should also understand the potential consequences of making a change in the future.

Making the transition to the cloud can be a daunting prospect for many organizations, but a well-considered cloud strategy can make that transition far less difficult in the long run. By identifying specific concerns early and planning for potential challenges in the future, organizations can get up and running on the cloud faster and with minimal difficulty.

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