The Cloud Migration Guide – Part 2: Risks and rewards of a cloud migration
November 13th, 2018
Choosing to migrate some or all your business systems to the cloud can provide a significant return on investment. However, as it is with all significant IT projects, cloud migration is not without its risks, whether moving into a private cloud or a public cloud, such as Microsoft Azure
But just because there are risks doesn’t mean that you should shun the idea of cloud migration. Gartner predicts that by 2020, businesses with a no cloud policy will be as rare as businesses with a no Internet policy. So avoiding the cloud will almost certainly leave you behind your competitors.
Instead of focusing solely on the risks, an equal amount of emphasis needs to be put on the benefits of cloud migration and the ways in which the risks can easily be mitigated.
Reward: Reduces upfront costs
The CapEx requirements for the infrastructure which supports standard IT – disaster recovery, live backup, central file, mail and web servers, not to mention security – can be significant.
As a result, growing businesses may find it difficult to make the investments required to compete in their field. The high costs can also lead to sweating assets beyond their usable life, causing productivity and potentially business continuity issues. Fortunately, though, the cloud has brought enterprise-class IT solutions to the masses.
Cloud is sold as a service, meaning instead of an uncompromising upfront fee, monthly usage fees are paid instead. A subscription is much more manageable for expanding businesses as it allows them to budget their IT requirements simply, as a monthly expense, rather than getting into chunky and changing investment cycles.
The scalability of the cloud also means that you simply pay for what you use, rather than over purchasing and having expensive resources sat idle. It also saves businesses from underinvesting now and having to catch up later. In essence, spending twice.
Risk: Reliant on a third party’s security
The most common and long-held fear about the cloud is security. When your data is under the protection of someone else, how do you ensure they uphold the strict security policies, frameworks and management policies as you?
This is a genuine concern and it’s unfortunate that there are cloud providers who don’t take security seriously. There are several ways to assess the security of a provider though. Ranging from inspecting the premises to asking them to provide certifications. You should expect ISO 27001 as a minimum.
Testimonials are another way of gauging how good a provider is. You’ll never be shown a negative testimonial though, so ask some further questions to find out more. Ask to what security standards they operate, what their SLA is and what backs it up, where their data centres are, what the exit policy is, who has access to the stored data and what happens in the event of a breach. If you’re unsure, ask. A good provider will give you a straight answer as it should be considered standard information.
If a provider can’t prove they will protect your data, even if they’re half the price of the competition, don’t risk it. The money you ‘save’ is likely to be outstripped by the financial and reputational damage incurred following a data breach.
Reward: Improved performance
The hardware which cloud providers use to power their cloud service tends to be high-performance. For example, using fast-access flash storage over much slower magnetic storage to increase file access speed and having modern generation processors to speed up nearly every operation done by the machine.
This means that switching to a cloud service, such as a hosted desktop setup, can deliver increased workstation performance without a hardware upgrade and should thus also enhance productivity.
Furthermore, the scalable nature of the cloud means that even when more load is added (for example, more users logging in as the morning progresses), performance will not decrease because resources will flex to accommodate this.
This lets systems constantly run at peak performance, whilst you are only paying for what you’re using.
Risk: Migration can be mismanaged
Choosing to undertake a cloud migration without fully understanding why you’re doing it causes all sorts of problems.
Firstly, you need to establish what the end goal for the project is. It’s important that you think long-term here and don’t let short-term factors, such as upfront costs, cloud your thoughts. Once you have your goals in mind, you can work out what needs to be done at each stage of the project to achieve it. Use this to map out a cloud strategy – a vital piece of documentation for navigating the complexity of migration.
Secondly, you need to make sure the whole business is on board. Cloud migrations will affect many areas, so it’s vital that you’re fully invested in the process and that you obtain buy-in for the initiative from department heads and the board. Drive, direction and support from the most senior level of the business will give those in charge of the project the necessary authority to make changes. Whilst keeping employees informed throughout the project will make them feel involved and give a much more positive outlook on any associated changes to processes.
Finally, once you have a clear vision and buy-in from across the business, the next step is engaging with the right cloud services provider. For a smooth transition, you’ll be looking for a provider with the required experience and capabilities to not only deliver the technical aspects of the solution but to help you achieve your desired business goals.
To achieve this, you’ll want to look for a cloud services provider with a significant and positive experience with cloud migrations. However, your business also has a responsibility to communicate clearly with the provider in terms of your end goals. Providing a clear brief and engaging in a two-way transparent conversation increases the chance of successful migration and one which runs as close to time and budget as possible.
Reward: Enables agile working
Agile working is dismissed by some as a passing trend and has been banned outright by some firms. But even if you aren’t keen on working from home, agile working is a much wider area and has the potential to deliver a greatly enhanced and productive working environment
Migrating applications and services to the cloud can help employees to remain productive whether they’re at a client site, travelling, attending a meeting or working from home. It’s particularly beneficial for multi-site businesses with remote workers, as cloud deployments can streamline access to applications and data, ensuring consistency across all channels.
For example, using cloud-based Office 365 you could have Sales and Procurement simultaneously working on a proposal and pricing document together or you could use Microsoft Teams to host a virtual meeting with the Heads of Departments from each office.
Risk: Added latency
Have you ever had trouble loading a web-based application? Or found aeons passing as you waited for a file to upload to storage? Perhaps your screen has frozen for a few seconds when working on an application? These problems can arise because the back-end IT cloud platform doesn’t have enough grunt, resources in essence. It can also be caused by not having enough bandwidth on your local Internet connection. These delays (also known as latency) causes frustration for end-users and ultimately costs the enterprise.
Latency, when it’s severe and persistent, dramatically reduces productivity and can quite quickly destroy morale. If you’re pressing a key, then waiting for several seconds for that keystroke to register (the result of high latency) then that’s a lot of time being lost over the course of a day.
The solution to this problem is to ensure that the cloud platform has been designed and built correctly before you perform a full migration to the cloud. Your new environment should be rigorously tested under load to ensure it can and will perform when things get busy, both now and in the future. Also, make sure you have sufficient and reliable Internet connections in place prior to a move.
Reward: Enables business continuity
Business Continuity and Disaster recovery were once significant investments for any firm, in terms of time as well as money. The ongoing management of the system was heavy and expensive, continually updating policies and procedures was a nightmare and soon led to the whole DR and/or Business Recovery Plan becoming redundant.
Cloud-based disaster recovery and continuity have slashed the cost and past hassles of ensuring a business can respond to incidents or complete disasters. It’s also brought down the time-to-recover from days down to minutes. This is possible through creating a cloud-hosted copy of all or core parts of a business’s IT environment, which is always up-to-date and can be failed over and back with ease.
The true beauty of cloud-based solutions to continuity and disaster recovery is that they are always available and can be isolated and tested at any time. You can also automate testing, daily if you like, to ensure you are protected.
Reward: Reduced operating costs
Not only are the upfront costs reduced when undertaking a cloud migration but so are operating costs. It’s estimated that a single server uses 500 – 1,200 watts per hour to run. Extrapolated over a day, a month, a year, these basic running costs grow rapidly. But they are a cost that can be transferred to increase the ROI of moving to a cloud environment.
By hosting server environments in the cloud instead, the cloud provider will be the one covering all the costs of power, cooling, security and other areas. Whilst that is incorporated into the monthly fee, it will be just a fraction of the cost of delivering the same function internally. You are gaining the benefit of economies of scale, shared between you, others and the cloud provider.
Furthermore, with the cloud, there’s no need to have the IT team focus on just ‘keeping the lights on’. They can focus back on the business, working on enhancement projects, rather than being concerned about the day to day of running the back-end of an IT environment.
Are you ready to begin your cloud migration?
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Part 3 of the Cloud Migration Guide goes into depth on the main factors determining if your business is ready for the cloud. As well as how your business objectives influence what type of cloud migration you should undertake. Read part 3 here.
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