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Introducing Cloud Technology to Your Business and How to Make it as Stress-Free as Possible

Abstract

Many businesses are now choosing to move their software over to cloud services due to the ever-increasing benefits of having applications that can be accessed from anywhere, at any time.

Whilst the technology and capabilities of the cloud are constantly changing and improving, there can be a lack of understanding when it comes to how the process works and how it differs from previous on-site infrastructures available.

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What is cloud technology?

The cloud refers to on-demand servers that are accessed over the internet, allowing businesses to store and access data remotely. Cloud architecture is the way in which individual technologies are integrated to create clouds - in order to deliver an online platform where applications can run, different components and capabilities need to be connected together. Cloud architecture is almost like the blueprint of a house, whereas the cloud infrastructure are the materials used to build it.

There are a huge number of benefits when it comes to using cloud storage, including reduced IT costs and increased scalability. However, the processes involved in setup and day-to-day management can be very different to what businesses are used to.

The challenges of moving to a cloud-based system

When migrating to Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure, companies are usually looking to ensure that they have a robust, scalable solution which not only meets their current needs, but is capable of meeting their future objectives as well.

When IT has been managed in a particular way for such a long time, it’s easy for businesses to underestimate the planning and management that needs to go into a cloud migration, which can cause issues further down the line. Many businesses may start the process themselves, before realising that the complexities require them to seek additional external support to manage it through to completion.

One of the main misconceptions is that the security and back-up of the system happen automatically without any input, however this is an integral part of the setup which requires manual management and often an additional expense.

When first moving over to the cloud, many IT departments are tasked simply with listing out required software, hardware and services with the expectation that these can be sourced similarly to previous systems. However, with cloud, the building blocks used to create the desired infrastructure can change frequently. This can cause additional frustration as something which was previously quite straightforward can become incredibly variable and difficult to nail down, especially for those without previous experience in setting up cloud infrastructure.

 

Going back to the house metaphor, when it comes to cloud services, it’s very similar to renting a house as opposed to buying one. Whilst you can still create a space that is useful and fulfils the requirements that you need, you are more limited in personalisation. It is vitally important to understand the landscape of cloud technology and how it works before implementing and relying on a new storage system; familiarising yourself with how it works and how to access all the required features.

Completing this early on can also help to identify any potential issues and learn how to get the most out of your cloud infrastructure.

Cloud specific deployment models can also cause confusion, with four standard models to choose from:

  • Public clouds
  • Private clouds
  • Community clouds
  • Hybrid clouds

A cloud deployment model is usually defined based on where the infrastructure for the deployment will reside and who has control over it. Choosing which model to go with for your business is an incredibly important decision, as each one satisfies different organisational needs. For many businesses, the choice will come down to costs. However, being able to make an informed decision is vital to ensuring your required needs are met.

Whilst it can be tempting to rush migration to the cloud, the effects this can have on your costs and data security mean that this really is a process that needs to be planned thoroughly.

Preparing for cloud migration

Once your business has decided to migrate to the cloud, there are some key steps that you should undertake to ensure a swift and positive result. Even if you have already started the process of migrating and are now seeking additional advice on how to manage it properly, these steps will still be important for you.

There are five defined phases of cloud migration:

1.    Planning

This is the most important stage as it defines all of the prerequisites for the following phases and the procedures that need to take place. Any errors that are made during the planning stage can have disastrous effects on the rest of the migration and can cause it to fail.

It is important during the planning stage to have a detailed and complete understanding of what is needed from the cloud technology and how it should fit into your business needs.

2.    Contracts

As with most new business relationships, contracts have to be negotiated in order to develop a mutual agreement of what is and isn’t included in your service package. This can vary between different countries; however the contracts must be scrutinised to ensure that your business requirements are possible and included.

3.    Migration

This is the most complicated and time -consuming stage. During migration, scenarios are tested to make sure that the required needs can be met and that the system works as expected. This would usually be completed by employees with real applications, although not in a live environment. This can be especially complex for IT departments who have not managed a cloud migration previously.

4.    Operation

This stage enables the business to ensure that the service provided is sufficient and that the quality is as expected during the planning stage. Independent audits are expected to be carried out by the business.

5.    Termination

A termination stage should always be defined from the outset, allowing the business to return to previous security and backup settings should they need to.

Whilst each of these phases can be planned and managed entirely within a business, it is often a process which requires a certain level of knowledge and understanding of cloud-based technology, something which many IT departments simply don’t have.

How to build a pain-free cloud experience for your business

Despite the potentially confusing elements to developing and implementing cloud technology in your business, there are ways that you can do so in a relatively pain-free way.

The first thing you need to do is ensure that your planning stage is as well developed as it possibly can be before you get started. This includes a full understanding of your objectives, boundaries and the scope of the migration.

It is important to agree in advance which applications you want to run, what data you need to store and what the usage levels are going to be. Being prepared with this information in advance forms the foundation of your cloud migration plan, and is absolutely vital to make sure that the migration stays on track and control can be managed throughout each phase.

Working with an experienced consultant during this stage can be hugely beneficial when it comes to analysing your goals and determining how your expectations can be met. They may be able to advise on how goals can be prioritised and raise common considerations that you haven’t identified.

When it comes to planning, one of the key things to understand is the current situation that your business is in. Your consultant should be able to provide you with a full review of your existing technology and use this to inform the capacity requirements that you’ll have going forward. Any pre-existing bottlenecks can also be considered to see if these can be addressed during the migration to see if these can be resolved with higher capacities, allowing for future growth.

It’s important to try and avoid scaling down specifications as a money saving exercise, as this can cause much bigger issues further down the line.

Whilst going through your analysis period, it’s important to review the network and connectivity. Replacing physical hardware with cloud infrastructure can increase the volumes of data running through, therefore requiring you to upgrade your external internet connection.

Whilst going through the analysis of your infrastructure, this will also allow you to identify any potential data and resources that are no longer required but have been previously using up resource. Clearing up this unused legacy data will allow you to reduce costs and minimise the risk of incorrect information being accessed.

Being able to fully understand your data will allow you to host the most commonly accessed information on priority servers, giving much quicker access. Older and less frequently used data can then be hosted on lower specification machines to help reduce your overall costs.

From the outset, it’s a good idea to fully cost up your migration plans. In the majority of cases, migrating to the cloud will result in lower costs than the equivalent physical servers due to the change from a Capital Expenditure model (CAPEX), which can be more difficult to measure in terms of actual cost and value, to an Operational Expenditure model (OPEX). Setting an expected budget from the outset will help you manage this throughout the process and keep focus and control on any potential increases.

It’s worth bearing in mind that subscription costs can vary depending on your usage and volume of data, so having a good understanding of your current usage can be really helpful when planning out future requirements and to prevent costs from spiralling.

As with any business decision, the decision to start using cloud technology is not one that should be taken lightly, and providing your IT department with the knowledge, resources and time that they need will be vital to ensuring a smooth and successful migration.

Choosing to work with a third party for your cloud migration

Whilst many businesses choose to manage their cloud migration internally, it’s important to note that it’s not something that the majority of IT departments are able to manage without a pre-existing understanding of cloud technology. Working with a dedicated third party can make the process much easier, as well as cheaper.

Consultant support is important during any IT project, and this is especially prevalent when working with technology that your IT department does not have prior knowledge of. The earlier that you’re able to bring in the right support, the higher the likelihood of success.

Choosing a partner with previous experience of working with different cloud platforms is essential, as their knowledge can help you to make informed decisions about what service offerings best suit your needs and enable you to get through the planning stages sufficiently. This also helps to reduce your overall risk, as your consultant will be best placed to identify and mitigate any potential issues from the start.

Implementing your technology is by far the most stressful stage of any migration project and can be hugely time consuming. To allow your IT department to continue functioning to a reasonably normal level, outsourcing your migration to experts can help to free up internal resources and allow them additional time to undertake the required training to manage cloud services going forward.

Migrating to the cloud is just the beginning of an ongoing process which needs dedicated time and resource to ensure it is working to the best of its capabilities. Ensuring that you carry out the process correctly from the start will provide you with a more robust and stable IT strategy and working with a partner who understands your business’ organisation and commercial goals is vital to getting it right.

Working with igroup

At igroup, we have developed a fully managed and monitored cloud support solution which enables you to have full visibility of your cloud infrastructure and how it works for your business.

The CloudOps Active Management Solution (CAMS) provides ongoing support, maintenance, cost saving suggestions and protection, giving you peace of mind that your cloud resources are being utilised correctly and that any potential issues are understood and resolved before they become reality.

Our packages include:

  • Technology adoption manager
  • Templated best practise deployments
  • Always-on support; fault, find, and fix
  • Easy-to-use management, monitoring, and reporting dashboards
  • Proactive infrastructure optimisation
  • Tools and apps to enhance your cloud performance
  • Guaranteed cost savings

If you are planning a move to Azure or AWS or have already begun your migration and are looking for help or advice, please contact a member of our team to find out more about how we work.

igroup is Here to Help

If you’re experiencing any of the challenges explored here, or need to gain greater visibility and control of your cloud implementation, please do get in touch with us and a member of our team will be happy to talk through your needs.

Or, book a cloud assessment to review your cloud plans / migration and avoid the common pitfalls.

Steve Rastall - Head of Sales Steve Rastall

Get in touch: Steve.Rastall@igroupltd.co.uk

https://uk.linkedin.com/in/steverastall

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