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Multi-cloud - supporting digital transformation for business success

(Image credit: Image Credit: Rawpixel / Shutterstock)

Multi-cloud is one of the most pervasive trends in technology today. Gartner’s report ‘The future of the Data Centre in the Cloud Era’ suggests that by next year multi-cloud will be the common strategy for 70 per cent of enterprises.

But it’s not just large multi-national enterprises that should embrace multi-cloud. Organisations of all sizes and industry verticals can utilise multi-cloud to drive their digital transformation strategies.

The benefits of multi-cloud architectures are compelling; distributing workloads across multiple cloud environments allows organisations to optimise ROI, enhance security, maximise uptime and achieve true cloud autonomy.

So how can your organisation begin its multi-cloud journey, and what are the considerations you should take in order to minimise risk? In this article I take multi-cloud from concept to reality, offering practical steps that your organisation should take in order to leverage the benefits of a multi-cloud architecture.

Bringing multi-cloud to the mid-market

Until recently only enterprises could access the most advanced IT capabilities, thanks to their scale and access to the expertise needed to design, build and run the latest technology in house. The advent of cloud and hyperscale public cloud providers has reduced the barriers to entry both in terms of skillsets and commercial price points, levelling the playing field and unlocking these capabilities for smaller players.

However, whilst this new technology has become affordable, SMBs still need technical help. This is where in my view managed service providers can come in, bridging the gap by supporting SMBs through design, migration, adoption and support. Managed service providers are evolving not only to enable this for their own proprietary cloud capabilities, but also by creating skills and tools to help SMBs adopt multi-cloud services.

The managed service provider has evolved from the days when they offered specific proprietary services. Today’s forward thinking managed service providers are becoming cloud and technology agnostic, embracing the technology offered by the global hyperscale cloud providers and helping SMB customers understand, navigate and get the most out of all the technologies that are out there.

The stage is set for a multi-cloud revolution, but the truth is that we’ve yet to see SMBs engage with managed service providers to fill the gaps that prevent them from unlocking the latest technologies. A recent article in ITProPortal suggested that SMBs are being short-changed by their IT, and yet are largely satisfied with their current IT solutions.

The article promoted the concept of an “all-in-one IT system that seamlessly integrates hardware, software and services into a multi-vendor, one-stop solution” – exactly what a managed service provider-enabled multi-cloud architecture can deliver for SMBs.

But where to start?

Practical steps to begin your multi-cloud journey

If you’re an IT Manager at an SMB and you’re looking at best of breed technology and how to adopt it, there are some repeatable steps that you should take in order to maximise ROI and minimise risk.

It sounds obvious, but you need to understand the problem you’re trying to use technology to solve. If you don’t really understand the problem, you’re never going to realise the benefits, because you won’t know whether you’ve achieved them or not.

For example, if your staff aren’t talking to each other, aren’t able to work remotely effectively, and are losing a lot of productivity, then you know that you will see improvements in those areas if the technology you choose today will address that problem for you.

When you’re considering technology solutions, leverage your managed service provider to support you. They often service multiple clients in similar verticals, and will have a good view of what is working and what isn’t. You should also be looking at trends in what similar organisations to yourself who are growing or being progressive are using – seeing the trends amongst your peers. And finally, seek information that is provided by analysts or the market in terms of which technologies are leading the way in solving problems for you.

Once you’ve got an idea of the problems you’re solving and the technology that’s going to fulfil that, you need to understand how you’re going to implement that technology in your organisation. This is typically where you’re going to need a trusted partner or managed service provider that can help you to implement the technology.

But how can you go about finding that trusted IT partner? Look for a partner that has credibility in the space you operate, and when you’re speaking to potential partners always think about the future as well as the here and now. Will this partner be able to grow with you? Do they have enough range of capability that they can help with a multi-cloud approach? It’s important that you don’t end up with the same old problems that come with adopting multiple services that require multiple service providers.

The fourth area that many people often miss is understanding the contractual, commercial, security and compliance obligations or commitments that you’re making with using a service. Being able to truly understand whether that’s going to cause you an issue or not becomes really relevant when you talk about multi-cloud.

The reality is that if you’re trying to manage across multiple areas, which most organisations are, you may well end up with technologies provided by a range of service providers, hence entering the world of multi-cloud. There are areas of expertise and capabilities across different areas that address different problems.

At this point, you need to understand not only how the different technologies will technically integrate and work together, but also whether you are creating more of an overhead by managing each one separately. Organisations can create risk, governance, commercial and legal overheads when different technologies marry together so that one can’t operate without the other, whilst each coming with different contractual and commercial terms.

Don’t worry about trying to be an expert in all these technologies, because you can’t be. If you’re an SMB focused in your specific line of business, you are not going to be able to understand the myriad of IT services that are out there, what they can do for you, and how they all play together, both technically and in contractual and commercial terms. Today’s technology is changing at such a pace that you really shouldn’t try to manage that complexity yourself. It would be a huge distraction to what you’re actually trying to achieve.

Embrace multi-cloud: The time is now

I’m seeing a change in mindset, capability and approach from managed service providers that are unlocking multi-cloud for SMBs. By implementing transformative technology that actively addresses business challenges, and partnering with a collaborative technology partner that will remove a lot of the management burden and contractual and commercial risk, your organisation can embrace multi-cloud as part of a targeted, structured and effective program of digital transformation.

James Henigan, Cloud and Managed Services Director, Six Degrees (opens in new tab)
Image Credit: Rawpixel / Shutterstock

James Henigan is Cloud and Managed Services Director at Six Degrees, a leading cloud-led managed service provider that works as a collaborative technology partner to businesses making a digital transition.