Sarah Doherty, Product Marketing Manager at iland discusses how a cloud-based infrastructure can accelerate IT initiatives.

There’s no doubt about it, we are living in a cloud enhanced world. No matter what is happening in life, whether it’s uploading pictures of the family, keeping track of friends on social media, or working remotely, the fact remains that the cloud is a part of our everyday lives in one way or another.

So why are organisations so hesitant to adopt a cloud infrastructure? From speaking with customers, the reason extends across infrastructure, business as well as, let’s face it, an overall new way of thinking about what is the best way to mitigate risk.

When we talk to business leaders, the idea of moving from a CAPEX model to an OPEX model is appealing for pretty much everything but IT. They still look at IT assets and think about budget cycles and performance/capacity per the pound or dollar. This can put them into situations where they are purchasing hardware on three to five-year cycles, subsequently discovering after two years that the hardware they have invested in isn’t doing what it needs to do. However, at that point, the business is committed.

They may be locked into a certain vendor or platform and the pain of moving seems overwhelming or they may have concerns about moving to the cloud in general. In a nutshell, this approach is not compatible with the flexibility and scalability that many businesses need in their toolkit.

The tangible business benefits of using a cloud-based infrastructure have been heavily publicised of late, with the onset of COVID-19 necessitating a quick and efficient move to the cloud, in order to keep businesses moving. However, implementing a cloud strategy to future-proof an organisation can, not only have top-line operational benefits such as data security, business continuity, resilience, scalability, and accessibility – it can facilitate wider digital transformation strategies.

This will prove crucial to maximising business efficiency and time-to-market of these initiatives, in the event of another worldwide event where physical access to a building is not possible. After all, an organisation’s end users have become accustomed to receiving a faultless service – even during a global pandemic – and would have expected businesses to have learnt their lessons from COVID-19.

Organisations wanting to implement a range of IT initiatives have unarguably accelerated cloud adoption. However, when choosing a cloud partner, they normally express the following concerns around adaptability to the cloud, which cloud providers need to tackle head-on.

Security and Compliance

While it may not be the first thing that springs to mind for IT professionals looking to quickly enact digital transformation strategies, such as building applications that will streamline internal business processes, security practices must adapt as data moves to the cloud. While assets are normally well-locked down, it is easy to accidentally create vulnerabilities in the cloud since customers are responsible for setting many security controls around their apps and data.

All clouds have a different set of best practices and design principles. Therefore, knowing those practices up-front will help cloud admins avoid headaches later. Working with the right cloud partner to plan and then execute a cloud strategy will not only eliminate headaches now and later but will also help to grow the business for the future.

It goes without saying that vulnerabilities must also be addressed as soon as possible. Cybercriminals are currently stepping up their attacks to take advantage of remote employees. Phishing attacks are at an all-time high on small and large businesses, as well as public resources like hospitals and healthcare providers. Therefore, businesses must assign responsibility to an individual or group of individuals to look after the organisation’s data from the onset, especially during the migration period.

There is no time like the present to reinforce an organisation’s IT security and compliance guidelines, many of which include the relevance of when employees travel or occasionally work from home. This includes a refresher on password policies and how to identify and report phishing attempts. It’s important to help employees with securing their home networks, and all the other policies and guidelines they would typically follow at work to protect the company and customer data. This might also be an excellent time to train employees on document and data retention best practices. 

Cloud Expertise and Management

Most IT teams are running at full throttle as it is, and the idea of learning entirely new jobs, alongside current tasks, can be daunting. Furthermore, IT managers may be wondering how to firstly move their teams to the cloud, and subsequently get them up to speed quickly and manage projects in the long run, minimising business disruption as much as possible.

A good first step is to implement a robust cloud migration strategy. This will help communicate a clear vision and change management plans to all employees within the organisation, including IT teams at the coalface, demonstrating how the move to the cloud will really help the business, and prove ultimately beneficial in the long-run. For example, key drivers are the need for greater availability, the desire to move from CAPEX to OPEX and the need for greater scalability as the company grows.

Furthermore, the progression from traditional server-based infrastructure to virtualisation and then to cloud involves several mental leaps. The cloud requires an adjustment of mindset and an ability to accept ways of doing things differently. However, this is the only efficient way to take wider business and IT strategies forward. Organisations should start their move with non-mission-critical applications, which are typically the easiest to migrate. The transition of refactoring some applications to function as cloud-native or distributed applications can take more time.

It goes without saying that organisations choosing a managed service provider to manage their cloud migration and ongoing support should lean on their partner as much as possible, especially in the first few months, to help teams get up to speed with new processes and workflows.

It’s all about short term pain for long-term gain.

Cost Control

Understanding all the factors that contribute to billing before an organisation makes the move to the cloud is a must, since cost management changes can lead to problems if they are not understood. 

Cloud services are generally billed once a month or follow a pay-as-you-go pricing model. However, users must factor in hidden fees, such as data transfer costs, and additional support and training. These budget surprises can pose a challenge if not addressed proactively.

Organisations should choose the cloud partner that doesn’t spring any surprising extra fees; the best providers should have simple, easy-to-understand invoicing portals and support, where businesses have complete visibility of all costs in one place. This is increasingly crucial as businesses scale their cloud offering up and down – sometimes on a month-by-month basis – with differing costs to reflect this. When scaling in such a way, organisations need to be made aware of how these changes will be billed – i.e. immediately or on monthly terms. Not addressing the finer points of billing can unnerve an organisation who are not familiar with cloud models, or a SaaS approach.

It is important to look past the challenges and focus on the true advantages. The cloud provides a great opportunity to modernise IT infrastructure and gain operational efficiency through cloud-native design practices.

All clouds have a different set of best practices and design principles. Therefore, knowing those practices up-front will help cloud admins avoid headaches later. Working with the right cloud partner to plan and then execute cloud strategies will not only eliminate headaches now and later but will also help businesses to grow in the future through planned digital transformation initiatives that can be executed without the constraints of legacy hardware.

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