Migrating to the cloud is one of the key growth avenues for businesses. Moving your business to a cloud-based solution is a way to improve operations and productivity by boosting flexibility, accessibility, and cybersecurity. It is also a way to reduce costs.
Despite such clear advantages, making this step requires your utmost consideration. Here we list seven things to ponder before you actually migrate your operations to the cloud.
1. Determine why your business needs to move to the cloud
This is the very first question to address, as you do not want to make this move just because it is a “cool” thing to do. You need to have a bird’s eye view of your business to determine which areas could benefit from migration. As the chart below suggests, the reasons for transition to the cloud range from enhanced security to better IT performance, but you need to determine what’s in it for you.
For example, you may believe the use of certain tools can be optimized if they are moved to the cloud or you can greatly benefit from a cloud-based call center or call recording solutions. In that case, go for it.
You might feel the performance of certain applications and their interoperability with other systems can be enhanced with their move to the cloud. Or that it will lead to improved communication within your remote team.
What you need to determine is which benefits of the cloud would fit your particular case. Could your business take advantage of better ways to share or store information? Or, will you benefit from boosting seamless collaboration? Then, you should certainly do it as such advantages can lead to massive productivity increases.
2. Manage location and security of data
You are responsible for both your clients’ and your own valuable, confidential data. At any time, you need to know where it is and be sure that it is safe. For certain industries, such as the legal and finance sectors, data security is a make or break issue. According to a recent study, nearly 80% of businesses suffered at least one cloud breach in the past 18 months, and 43% experienced ten or more breaches over the same time period.
That is why you need to always be aware of both data locations and the laws that govern it. You need to stay informed about data regulations and be aware if your data is subject to government surveillance.
In order to make sure your data is governed properly, you first need to align the governance and security requirements of applications with the security provisions of your potential cloud platforms. This is because you need to make sure that your applications and data will be securely guarded, yet fully accessible and auditable.
Your next step is to make sure you are always able to manage access to data. That means you need to control what services are being used, at what cost, and by whom. This way cloud costs will not spiral out of control.
3. Define in which ways the work culture of your business will change
A move to the cloud is not just a business or technology strategy but is a massive organizational change in itself. It requires a change of perspective, learning new skills – primarily cloud-computing skills – and forgetting a few old ones.
Often, it creates an entirely new organizational culture and new workplace collaboration, and it often necessitates applying new HR methods and solutions such as agent supervisor tools. In other words, it is not just a tech issue – it affects all the areas in the chart below.
Migrating to a cloud is a major business shift and stakeholders should receive an explanation of why it is done and how it will change the organization.
A lot of procedures within an organization would change – starting from data storage and ending up with the outreach strategy and the organization of the sales process. Stakeholders must be informed of how their roles will change as a result of such a transition.
For example, successful service and data migration carried out by Spotify happened in large part because the company gained stakeholder buy-in. Spotify was careful to consult its engineers about the vision. Once they could see what their jobs looked like in the future, they were all-in advocates.
It is important to note that cloud computing usually reshapes the role of the CIO. He or she no longer has to take care of IT infrastructure and its maintenance. Instead, from now on their role is more focused on business analytics – such as finding appropriate business intelligence support, launching a new smart business intelligence platform, or a sophisticated dashboard – and finding out new ways to utilize the cloud for business growth.
Besides the role of CIO, moving to the cloud would entail a few crucial changes for the majority of staff. It is therefore paramount that they are ready for change and are capable of implementing it.
Telefonica UK CIO, Brendan O’Rourke, isolates this as a key challenge in the firm’s migration process, where even changes like moving employees from using local storage to cloud-based infrastructure could reduce the momentum.
It is, therefore, helpful to conduct multiple seminars and training sessions to get staff up to speed on new procedures of storing and sharing information. A successful migration means bringing your people with you, too, not just your data and applications.
4. Find out how cloud migration will impact IT and business performance
The only way to minimize disruption from cloud migration and preserve business continuity is to understand how, when, and why your teams use applications. You can do this via various collaboration tools. In addition, you need to look into the way the move to the cloud will affect various aspects of your IT infrastructure.
For example, you need to see how it will affect your internet connection and bandwidth. Bandwidth, along with accompanying enterprise-grade routers, is crucial to transmitting the maximum amount of data your connection can both send and receive.
In order to secure the best possible connection for your business and for cloud solutions, you can opt for various tools, such as a leased line with a dedicated pipe devoted to the internet. Another method is fiber to the premises – it can provide similar services at a lower cost.
Uncontended lines mean that you aren’t competing for bandwidth with other paying customers. This means you don’t suffer from packet loss or latency, which would worsen the quality of your connection and therefore any cloud solutions.
Added to that, you need to make sure your service level agreement with providers will help you along the migration path. It’s not uncommon for issues to arise when it comes to cloud solutions and software applications.
From user confusion to minor glitches or major outages, you will depend on your provider for help and advice. That is why before making the migration possible, you need to make sure you are happy with the service they offer – in terms of their responsiveness and reliability.
Finally, there is something to be said about cloud compatibility. It is critical that your software license is compatible with your cloud solution. Otherwise, you won’t be able to host it on a remote server.
5. Align your move with your hardware life-cycle
How old is your hardware? If you have recently invested in new hardware, then financially it would not be advisable to move your IT infrastructure to the cloud.
The perfect time to make the move is when your hardware is three or more years old. This is because any money you would spend on replacing the equipment would be better invested in cloud migration.
If you can align your migration to the cloud with your hardware life-cycle policy, you will be able to optimize the use of existing hardware-related resources until they are on the verge of becoming obsolete. Only after that would it make sense to make that crucial decision on whether server data should be moved to the cloud.
6. Find the right cloud provider
If you believe cloud migration is a great idea for your business, you need to choose the right cloud provider. Often, when you look into your business needs, you realize that different applications have different requirements.
That is why, for most organizations, a hybrid, multi-cloud approach that involves a range of private cloud, public cloud, and SaaS providers will be optimal. That said, such a hybrid approach might entail certain challenges in terms of management.
In order to see which specific solution would work for you, you need to conduct due diligence. Collect references from people you know, focusing on the key characteristics such as:
- Technical competency
- Customer satisfaction
- Market leadership
Once you zero in on a list of cloud vendors, you need to dig deeper to look into their specific capabilities. Here is what you should keep in mind:
- Quality of data centers
- Quality of engineering team
- Approach to data safety
- The number of customers already using their services
- Their solutions for managing updates and patches
- Customer support
You need to answer all these questions in order to avoid making a cloud blunder. While a move to the cloud makes perfect business sense, you need to be absolutely sure that this move fits your business growth model and your needs in the future.
7. Determine the realistic costs and timelines
Once you have decided that cloud computing is a great solution for you and have chosen the appropriate provider, here is the next issue to consider. You need to have a realistic idea of costs and timelines – and the way it fits your budget. The needs and resources of financial service providers would differ from those of ecommerce platforms, and so would their perception of appropriate cloud migration costs.
That is why, even if migrating to the cloud makes perfect sense for your business, both the price of this move and the length of time it takes to do it might pose insurmountable problems.
Even if you have a notion of costs and timelines, you need to be prepared for some surprises. You will also have to develop a framework to manage the transactions. Here again, what matters is the reliability and responsiveness of your service providers. You need to make sure they have a robust and proven methodology.
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About the author
Richard Conn is the Senior Director, Search Marketing for RingCentral, a global leader in unified communications and audio conferencing solutions provider. He is passionate about connecting businesses and customers and has experience working with Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Experian, Target, Nordstrom, Kayak, Hilton, and Kia.