A Migration Strategy For Your Business’ Cloud Computing Infrastructure

A private cloud computing migration strategy is a plan for moving multiple operating systems to one or more servers that company staff can access remotely via the internet, as opposed to only having server access through an in-house local area network (LAN).

Private cloud computing can encompass a wide array of apps — from firewalls, project management software, and even bug tracking programs — but it all starts with using virtualization software to separate the apps from their physical infrastructure, the server, making them remotely accessible from any desktop or smart device with internet capability.

Virtualization Vs. Cloud Computing

Server virtualization, in which two or more virtual servers are located on a single physical server, is a fundamental technology of cloud computing — and the terms “virtualization” and “cloud computing” are used synonymously. However, while the two technologies closely correlate, virtualization and cloud computing aren’t interchangeable practices.
As a report from Business News Daily explains, “Virtualization differs from cloud computing because virtualization is software that manipulates hardware, while cloud computing refers to a service that results from that manipulation.”

Virtualization and cloud computing are technically different, but both are part of a cloud computing migration strategy. The service cloud may be located onsite in a company’s data center, hosted offsite in the data center of a service provider, or both, comprising a hybrid cloud in which some apps stream from an in-house cloud, while others stream from the location of a cloud service provider.

Now that we’ve had a short refresher on cloud computing, let’s look at whether an onsite cloud, an offsite cloud, or a hybrid model works best for your cloud computing migration strategy.

Clouds: Onsite, Offsite, and Hybrid

Whether a cloud migration strategy involves migrating to an onsite cloud, switching to a hosted offsite cloud, or transitioning to a hybrid cloud, the strategy’s success depends on ten basic factors, among other factors based on user-specific requirements.

1. IT Relevance

Before putting a cloud computing migration strategy in motion, it’s important to assess why you need cloud technology. Do you need cloud capacity to address IT issues only cloud technology can address, or does cloud technology offer features you’d like to implement in the IT network but could receive from another type of technology?

For example, if you’re looking for offsite data storage, you can get it from an offsite service cloud that an IT company hosts. However, from a cost perspective, you may be better off storing data offsite through your disaster recovery plan. Or, you could get what you need from a third party that specializes in offsite data storage.

Migrating a business to a cloud network is a major endeavor in terms of time, money, and training employees to use the new cloud infrastructure. Consequently, it’s best to start your strategy for cloud computing migration by consulting with a cloud specialist to determine if the plan would offer the return on investment (ROI) you’re looking for.

2. Cloud Scalability

Unless your IT needs are set in stone, you want a cloud that can scale up to accommodate your evolving IT needs. Scalability depends on two basic factors: the virtualization software used and the server used to support the software.
Using a hosted cloud from a provider that lets you scale up at any time is the easiest way to always have the scalability you need. But, what if you deploy a cloud in-house? What level of scalability should you target?
For most businesses, using virtualization software that offers 25% more application capacity than currently needed — and placing the software on a blade server located in a chassis that can hold several more servers than presently required — would be an example of a highly scalable solution.

3. Network Security

A cloud computing migration strategy must account for two types of IT security: network security, and security according to company policy. For example, an organization that needs cloud computing for financial services may have a policy prohibiting sharing business information with third parties, and would need to use an onsite cloud.

Most organizations don’t run into this issue, limiting their security focus to the IT network itself. If you opt for a hosted cloud, you’ll want to make sure the service provider offers three key security features: a double-sided firewall that protects data from internal and external theft, 24/7 network monitoring that apprises you of network issues in real-time and resolves most issues automatically, and servers equipped with EV SSL certification.

There may also be user-specific security requirements to consider. For example, if it has the option of using an offsite cloud and decides to do so, an organization that needs cloud computing for financial services that involve merchant services will need a provider that maintains PCI DSS compliance, which protects payment card information.

4. Upfront Expense

Transitioning from a non-cloud to a cloud-based network is no small investment. Depending on the size of the network and the capabilities required, you could easily invest six figures just to put the pieces in place to start operating the network. This is why many organizations opt for an offsite hosted cloud or hybrid cloud.

Let’s say you plan to deploy a cloud onsite and you purchase all the resources you need for the installation. Here’s a conservative list of what you’ll pay for, not including cost of labor for installation or cost of employee training: virtualization software, hardware that optimally supports the software, and cables and other basic network accessories.

Implementing an offsite, hosted cloud avoids these expenses. You pay a flat, monthly fee after signing an extended contract or opting to pay as you go. Using a hybrid cloud can also reduce startup cost, depending on which network resources are insourced and outsourced.

5. Maintenance Cost

Offsite hosted clouds also eliminate the cost of cloud network maintenance. If you purchase your resources outright, you’ll pay for scheduled hardware and software maintenance, software and hardware upgrades, as well as any hardware repairs, security fixes, and physical or virtual reconfigurations the network requires going forward.

When you combine the upfront cost of buying network resources outright with the ongoing expense of network maintenance, it’s easy to see why most organizations outsource some of their cloud capacity to a provider specializing in infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and/or platform as a service (PaaS), which offer a more comprehensive approach to cloud computing that software as a service (SaaS).

According to a recent survey from RightScale, “71% of [organizations] use hybrid cloud platforms… [because] the biggest challenge for the cloud market today is a lack of resources and expertise.”

6. Remote Access

The three cloud models we’re discussing — onsite, offsite, and hybrid — can all be accessed remotely via the internet. Consequently, the value of remote access is largely determined by security technologies that underpin it. For example, EV SSL certification, which encrypts data as it travels from an internet browser to a cloud server, is a major value proposition. So is PCI DSS compliance if you need cloud computing for financial services.

Responsive design is another technology that defines the value of remote access. Responsively designed web pages “respond” to mobile devices by instantly scaling to fit the devices’ screens, improving page navigation. If employees access your current network with mobile devices, they’ll look do the same with the cloud network. With mobile devices increasingly being used for business activity, responsive design is a necessity.

7. Internet Reliability

A cloud system is only as reliable as the user’s internet connection. Consequently, the first thing your cloud computing migration strategy should evaluate is the reliability of your internet connection. For cloud services, Google set the gold standard about seven years ago, claiming to deliver over 99.9% cloud uptime — a claim subsequently validated more than once.
Today, 99% and up is still the uptime percentage businesses should look for in an internet service provider (ISP) and a direct provider of hosted cloud solutions. Companies specializing in hosted cloud solutions typically hit the mark, but ISPs tend to have a wider range of uptime percentages.

Whether your cloud computing migration strategy involves deploying services in house or outsourcing the entire cloud network, remember that your organization’s ISP will be the gatekeeper of cloud access. If your ISP routinely forces you offline, resolve the problem before implementing the cloud.

8. Cloud Technology

Cloud computing systems share a similarity with other IT systems: They need frequent to stay on the cutting edge of IT. Some organizations don’t require the newest technology. In fact, some begin their strategy for cloud computing migration by searching for hosted options that support a legacy system.

If you’re at the opposite end of the spectrum and need the newest cloud solutions, outsourcing is an excellent option for two reasons: third party providers consistently offer new technology to remain competitive, and switching to newer technology starts with a change of service request, not investing in new software and hardware to facilitate the upgrade.

9. System Control

Outsourcing cloud services doesn’t diminish your control over the services you receive, but it eliminates control over hardware and software that create the service cloud. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s exactly what some organizations want, especially ones that don’t have a formal IT department. The provider keeps the cloud highly accessible, usable, and secure through scheduled upgrades and 24/7 system monitoring.

Organizations that have a formal IT department, on the other hand, often like to control the behind the scenes elements of the cloud. These are usually organizations with a big IT budget invested in maintaining a full-service team to handle in-house IT functions. For these entities, using an offsite cloud or hybrid cloud can be a bad deal financially, as outsourcing amounts to underusing their costly in-house resources.

10. Migration Timeframe

If you’re migrating to a cloud, you’re presumably doing it to gain a business advantage. Consequently, it’s important to establish a timeframe for migration. You may already have business plans based on the advantages the cloud will offer. Establishing a set timeframe for your cloud computing migration strategy helps ensure you don’t put the cart before the horse.

If you need help developing a realistic timeframe for implementation, you can use the services of a third party provider, regardless of whether you outsource or insource cloud capability. In addition to outsourcing the creation and installation of an in-house cloud, you also have the option of outsourcing maintenance for an in-house cloud.

Need to Refine Your Migration Strategy?

The history of modern cloud computing can be traced back to the late 1990s — a time when many cloud capabilities we take for granted were in the development phase. Since then, cloud computing has gone from being a novel IT solution to being an industry within itself, with the global cloud computing market generating $110 billion in 2015 alone, according to Synergy Research Group.

However, despite the massive growth and ubiquity of cloud computing, businesses that don’t specialize in IT need the assistance of third party IT providers specializing in cloud services. This is why NIC is here. If you need assistance with refining your cloud computing migration strategy, we’ll help you decide whether an onsite cloud, an offsite cloud, or a hybrid cloud would work best for your requirements.

To get started on choosing the right strategy, call us today at (877) 721-3330, or send us an email through our contact form. We look forward to supporting your business-critical IT needs!

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