The world of cloud is an extremely tempting one. Like many other technologies before it, businesses of all shapes and sizes are scrambling to adopt cloud-based IT solutions as quickly as possible to reap the numerous benefits associated with them. However, before jumping in and simply hoping for the best, businesses must consider the potential knock-on effects of making this decision.
Time and time again, we have seen businesses embark upon their own cloud journey without determining whether they are ready — from a technical, financial and logistical point of view — to successfully make the leap to a cloud-based IT solution. Businesses are, of course, not wrong to believe that adopting cloud technology can help them simplify their IT infrastructure and make significant cost savings in the process. However, these perks cannot be redeemed immediately: cloud readiness must be considered beforehand.
Before steaming ahead and implementing a cloud-based solution, every business — no matter what size or sector — should come up with their overriding aspirational goal. This is the ideal starting point to work from, and the goal will be different for each business: some might want to undergo a total migration, while others might want to simply adopt a strong company-wide and cloud-first mentality.
Once this is defined, businesses can complete a ‘cloud readiness assessment’. This involves working backwards from the overriding goal to identify any necessary changes as part of the journey, and the impact that these changes might have across all aspects of the business. Once complete, you will be left with an accurate idea of just how prepared you are for your migration to the cloud.
As effective as cloud readiness assessments can be, they can also be incredibly daunting to undertake, especially for those who might lack the technical knowledge required for a smooth migration. To simplify the process, however, it is beneficial to break it down into the following three different categories and work your way through each one.
This is the first — and most important — aspect that all businesses must consider. Firstly, you must take the time to carefully analyse the applications, workflows and infrastructure in place throughout your business, which will in turn help you to understand the benefits that cloud can deliver.
At this point, the business should look to gather insightful data on how these components within the larger network are used and when they’re used, as well as how frequently. By doing this, you can develop a far more accurate and transparent cost model than would’ve been possible otherwise, helping the entire business understand what can be moved and where it can be moved to, as well as anything that should not be moved at all.
Of course, this is just a general overview of this step. For a better idea of how to work through it, consider the applications that are commonly used by a typical business. If most these applications in place are too outdated, for example, this will cause problems during the migration process. For a successful move, these applications in question would need to be redeveloped or updated, and this can involve a significant time, effort and cost.
At this point, a decision must be made: where should these applications be located? Either they could remain locally, or, better yet, they could sit on a server that runs these applications to the cloud. By going for the latter option, the applications will sit on cloud-hosted infrastructure, but users will not be able to notice any discernible difference.
The point of this example, and something that cannot be emphasised enough, is that a successful cloud migration is not as straightforward as simply moving everything to the cloud and waiting for the benefits to appear. The process is complex and requires serious consideration, and sometimes it is not actually worth the hassle. By pushing too hard for migration or by trying to impatiently rush it through, something is naturally bound to break. Sometimes this might be the technology, and other times it might be the people behind the technology.
A cloud migration isn’t all about an evolution of IT infrastructure; it also demands a change to the way staff do business. Despite the fact the results of a successful cloud infrastructure are overwhelmingly positive, the decision to undergo a migration can be met with scepticism by staff members. As a result, businesses require strong, positive leadership that can convince all members of staff that the migration process is one well worth undergoing.
These migrations often involve moving functions like service, support and operations into the cloud, and this in turn means that the technology in place will be built, managed and maintained in different ways. Those who might lack the necessary technical skills to support this new technology might understandably feel insecure, but the cloud readiness assessment will be able to clearly highlight the areas in which training should be offered.
To help visualise the scenario, imagine that you work for a cloud service provider. If the staff lack the technical understanding of how its customers’ businesses operate, or they simply aren’t familiar with the people in charge of these operational processes, then it’s very likely to either slow down the migration process or halt it altogether. To prevent this, the business must support its staff all the way through the journey, guiding them from one step to the next while they become accustomed to the changes.
Finally, businesses must understand that any migration journey will involve plenty of process change. Cloud-based IT solutions are extremely popular because they are less technically complex than its previous infrastructure counterparts, but what many fail to understand is that the operations and processes behind it all are often more complicated. If you’re looking to adopt a hybrid cloud solution then you’ll find this to be especially true, as it involves looking over both tangible, on-premises assets as well as remote assets that are harder to manage.
A cloud readiness assessment can help quantify the processes that need to be considered by poring over every single one, which eventually helps to determine your businesses’ willingness to change. Things like access, security and the change process should also be considered as part of a thorough migration assessment.
As the number of different cloud services and products to choose from continues to increase, and businesses’ financial focus shifts from capital expenditure to operating expenditure, organisations are faced with the challenge of building the right cloud strategy in line with changing business demand and requirements. The benefits of a flexible, highly skilled and effective cloud-based solution are plentiful — delivering change in a controlled way while maintaining and enhancing productivity and competitive advantage — but they can only be enjoyed in the right circumstances.
A cloud readiness assessment is therefore vital. It enables your business to make informed decisions surrounding cloud adoption, and it provides you with the building blocks to develop a technology strategy that supports your business goals.
Stuart Nielsen-Marsh, Director of Microsoft Cloud Strategy, Pulsant
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