If you are considering moving to the cloud, you will be more than aware of the allure that it holds with many enticing benefits touted around the internet. However, the reality is, many organisations experience significant challenges when dealing with the complexity of cloud operations.
Cloud migration risks
Managing cloud operations competently requires specific skills and experience gained from provisioning, defining and maintaining such services; the skills and experience IT teams have gained from running internal technology solutions don’t directly translate to cloud services provision. In fact, there are entirely new ways to define, design and deliver infrastructure and application solutions. New entrant learnings can be time consuming, costly and disruptive to ongoing business operations.
It’s worth understanding what needs consideration prior to starting your cloud migration journey. With advanced planning, you will avoid most of the common pitfalls and ensure you choose the most appropriate workloads for the cloud, while retaining certain on premises functions until your organisation is ready.
Cost versus value
Firstly, by understanding the nature and purpose of the cloud services you are considering, you can properly match your needs with what what’s on offer. Some services may be more costly when provisioned in a cloud context, but may provide better scale, resilience, and security. If scale and resilience aren’t important at this stage, then you should balance whether additional costs are worth the investment.
Requisite skills and experience
Secondly, not all cloud service providers (and their technical offerings) are the same. Each has a different cost model, architecture, and technology components, that requires a different set of skills to manage.
You need relevant skills and experience in your IT team to properly design and build a cloud environment; inexperience almost certainly leads to sub-optimal design decisions, implementations and insecurity. This can have an impact on costs (blowouts) and project timescales (overruns). Business continuity and service delivery needs to be maintained.
Responsibility is not delegated
Thirdly, moving workloads to the cloud does not transfer responsibility for aspects of your services, particular things like information security. Cloud services comes with a shared responsibility where you need to establish the relationship with the cloud provider as a partner engagement, where you remain in charge of managing and delivering your business outcomes, with elements of the service you select being managed by the provider.
In a Software as a Service (SaaS) environment, the cloud provider takes care of the IT infrastructure and platform delivery, but you remain responsible for the configuration of all the features provided in the service – there may be a variety of security and privacy features, for example, and it’s your responsibility to select the best ones to provide the levels of protection you need for your data.
The further you go down the technology stack in your provisioning, through Platform as a Service (PaaS) and into Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), the more things you take responsibility for. While this responsibility affords you flexibility, you also need the skills and experience to make sure everything works as it should. It’s all too easy to introduce configuration vulnerabilities into your most critical business services.
Mitigating the risks
The fastest, most effective (and arguably the least painful way) to mitigate most of the risks associated with cloud migration and ongoing operations is to to employ the services of an experienced Managed Service Provider (MSP). One that specialises in designing, provisioning, and running cloud services day in day out. You can leverage their experience, their developed processes and their understanding of the latest available tools.
An MSP’s core value proposition should be to provide customer confidence and success in the digital transformation process, to deliver a highly tuned cloud provisioned solution. Thereafter, there should be a commitment to stable ongoing cost-effective service management.
Leverage the experience of a proven MSP
Look for an MSP that has proven experience of managing deployments in your industry,. For example, if you are a university, look for a company that provides long-term support for large university environments. They will approach your project from a position of authority, they’ll likely know all the considerations, what to avoid and tricks that can only be learned from the benefit of experience.