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Four ways the cloud can enable business success

cloud digital transformation
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Ekaphone maneechot)

Organizations continue to migrate to the cloud, much to their benefit. The cloud provides businesses with a variety of opportunities to innovate, increase productivity, and even reduce utility costs. But, experiencing these benefits does not come easy as many organizations struggle to gain full understanding of their cloud infrastructure, which is vital towards reaping the benefits of the cloud. Let’s take a look at the top four benefits of the cloud and what organizations need to keep in mind to ensure they achieve these benefits. 

Test and validate new ideas

The cloud empowers organizations to easily test out and validate new ideas, work with new, fully managed services that would otherwise take significant upfront investment of money and time to stand up and, more often than not, fail. By having almost no upfront costs, a developer can rapidly spin up a proof of concept or test out a new function, get validation, and immediately spin it back down, only paying for the usage cost along the way.

The cloud also gives organizations that may be hesitant about bringing newer or third-party

technologies into their environment by acting first as a demilitarized zone (DMZ). The cloud is inherently an environment that can be used for riskier or experimental applications as it provides an ability to host applications without having to expose internal infrastructure and corporate data, while still giving organizations control to manage the underlying hosts, network routing and connectivity.

Reduce overhead and associated costs

One perfect example of cost and overhead reduction is a common use case like a database cluster. Most organizations build applications that require databases to store the data that it uses. While these organizations still need employees who understand how to model and store the data, they can offload the undifferentiated heavy lifting of managing the underlying database cluster. The cloud can help by reducing the overhead and personnel needed to run these corporate infrastructures.

It also eliminates the costs of running an on-perm infrastructure, which include not just the actual compute, storage, networking and backup required, but the underlying overhead costs to secure, staff and most importantly, power and cool your data center(s). Then, when you bring in backup and disaster recovery scenarios or multi-site redundancy all of those costs double or triple.

Lessen your carbon footprint and advance innovation

Reducing your carbon footprint, beyond delivering benefits to our environment, also makes business sense. Leveraging a shared computing and facility model means organizations don’t need to maintain their own data centers. Rather, their workloads can run in fewer, centrally managed and controlled data centers hosted by the public cloud providers. This shared infrastructure allows organizations to better manage performance across multiple time zones and reduce their carbon footprint.

By utilizing managed services, a pay-as-you-go model, and the ability to not have to predict demand up front, the cloud can also assist organizations with advancing innovation. As your application grows in adoption, and your usage patterns become more predictable, you can then determine when to scale your application to ensure availability and performance while reducing costs. Similarly, if an application doesn’t work as expected (remembering that nearly 85 percent of projects fail), you can pivot quickly without losing a large investment.

Support onboarding and retention

Onboarding new employees can be difficult. This is especially true for new engineers and system administrators as they work to understand the interrelatedness of an organization’s tech stack, the tools and consoles they use and the ability to know how to authenticate into them. By standardizing on a platform like AWS, Azure, or Google, a skilled engineer can easily trace and understand the interconnected parts. For example, a new engineer joining an organization with on-prem infrastructure must work across several teams to navigate the mess of networking routing, physical infrastructure, proprietary management tools, and access to each individual system and function. Within the public cloud, an engineer can go into common services they are familiar with and quickly get up to speed.

Another benefit is the cloud’s ability to assist with retention and closing the cloud skills gap. Utilizing the cloud for production workloads and applications empowers organizations to keep engineers interested in their work, attract newer professionals who are learning to be cloud natives, and maintain a dynamic experience so employees feel challenged and current in their tech skills.

The importance of gaining a full understanding of your cloud infrastructure 

Even with the cloud’s numerous benefits, it is important to keep in mind that cloud resources cost money, often down to the minute or second, and these resources create a new, potentially public attack surface. Without understanding your infrastructure, it is incredibly easy to have runaway costs – after all, each cloud account you turn over to a developer is basically a key to the world’s most powerful data center with endless possibilities.

We’ve all heard the horror stories of a resource that was forgotten about or misconfigured racking up extremely large cloud bills that could put a company out of business overnight, or significantly tarnish its reputation. Additionally, every resource that gets stood up is a checkbox away from being a sitting duck on the public internet. Servers that may have connections to sensitive systems, store credentials or have trust relationships should be a security concern. The first step toward validating and ensuring your budget and security in the cloud is to understand, track and govern what is in the cloud. Then, you need to put tools in place to help you enforce policy and fiscal guardrails before issues arise. The risk is too large otherwise.

While it is imperative that organizations seek to manage risk with their cloud infrastructure, we should not lose sight of the numerous benefits the cloud provides. This month let’s give thanks to the cloud and how it will enable business success for years to come.

Randy Shore, VP Product Delivery & Support, Kion

Randy Shore, VP Product Delivery & Support, Kion.