The cloud gives businesses the potential to transform the way they manage their infrastructure and to reduce their ongoing storage and compute costs when compared to traditional physical infrastructure. With greater flexibility in terms of the amount of resource that is deployed, virtualisation can improve application performance and simplify technology management.
Since 2016, the number of businesses who use cloud resource in some way has increased to more than 95%. This ranges from selective storage of a small amount of archive data through to total virtualisation. Since the major public cloud platforms were made available, growth in adoption has accelerated – most notably with Microsoft Azure and its growing market share.
As more businesses have moved to the cloud, the key drivers of change have evolved including:
- Steadily reducing cost of entry – increased commoditization
- Growth in SaaS to become the dominant model for business software
Microsoft Azure’s additional benefit, which has contributed heavily to its increasing market share is the close integration that the platform has with Microsoft’s other productivity software including SharePoint.
There are various things that you should consider during the process of planning a migration to Azure which are similar whether this is your first step into virtualisation or whether you are transferring your applications and data from an alternative provider.
Where Data is Stored
In the case of Microsoft Azure, where there are restrictions on the location of data for compliance reasons, it is usually possible to choose a data centre in a particular territory. Similarly, your applications will normally be hosted in a geographically close region to ensure minimal latency, although this will always be backed up into other locations for increased resilience.
What is your budget?
While the cloud can offer cost savings over physical infrastructure, costs can still mount up – particularly if your deployment is not professionally managed.
With Azure, as with all cloud providers, you pay for the infrastructure that you have specified, your specification will involve a number of different virtual machines to handle different functions from database management through to web servers. Higher power machines cost more, and there will usually be a charge based on how much storage you use. As such, planning a budget and working toward achieving that through machine scaling and archiving over time is important.
igroup developed a software suite called Cloud Control which provides functionality to manage cloud usage. It works by switching resources on and off as needed. This helps control expenditure and can have a significant impact on monthly costs, but a serious migration to the cloud will still require investment.
What Service and Support Do You Need?
In most cases, an in-house IT team should have knowledge of the systems your business already uses, however, the skillset for the cloud is different. Where there is a shortfall in skills held internally, it is important to consider whether your provider will offer access to support or whether you will need to recruit specialist staff internally. The risk of not having access to experienced Azure specialists can be lower performance and a lack of control over costs.
Virtual Machines are often set up to match physical servers and run specific applications. Despite this there can be quirks in performance that may lead to software issues. It is important to ensure that your support team are fully trained in the technology or can work with a managed services provider who can fill the skill gap adequately.
Microsoft favour using public forums for support which can mean delays in getting resolution for any issues. As such outages in an unsupported cloud deployment can create significant downtime and associated business costs.
How Will You Manage Identity?
Virtual networks offer multiple possibilities for streamlining applications with a single sign-on. A properly configured system will allow users to access all required applications without logging in multiple times. This helps improve communication and collaboration across departments.
The way identities are managed in the cloud differs depending on your provider. Cloud solutions that do not use true, federation of identity technologies can result in users being unable to access certain information at the right time and may also present a security risk. As such, it is important to consider whether your cloud platform provides Active Directory functionality and whether it can be deployed correctly.
For more information about how Identity Management in the cloud can be handled, please contact a member of our qualified team.
What Security Do You Need?
Data is an increasingly valuable commodity for businesses and any loss of it, whether due to machine failure or unauthorised access can cause major issues.
Cloud security comes in two parts:
The way your data is stored and backed up creates resilience. Microsoft have multiple copies of your files which are synced together across multiple machines and datacentres if required. If one part of the data centre fails, you should not experience any actual data loss. As a result, even a total failure should have minimal impact on your data giving a secure back-up on demand that is a key reason to choose a major cloud provider like Microsoft over a smaller local provider.
Virtual machines require the same level of scrutiny and proactive security as traditional servers. Ensuring that you have up to date anti-virus and malware software installed on your VMs protects them from many threats, and user monitoring helps to prevent unauthorised access.
At igroup, our Cloud Control software handles security patches at an OS level which keeps servers extra secure. For peace of mind, we can also manage additional back-ups to protect essential information and application data in real time.