What You Need to Know About the Age of the Cloud

If you are still asking whether or not to move to the cloud, I have news for you. 95% of respondents in the Rightscale 2016 State of the Cloud Survey stated that they are using a cloud service, up from 93% the year before. In a recent survey of global IT decision-makers, Oracle reports that 88% said cloud computing would be a priority over the next 18 months. And if you follow the money, Forrester believes that businesses will spend about $191 billion on cloud services by 2020, compared to $72 billion in 2014. Truly cloud services have become standard for any organization wanting to be at the forefront of delivering quality services from an IT perspective.

Categories of cloud setups

The three main categories of cloud offerings are public clouds, private clouds and hybrid clouds. Public clouds like those offered by Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure are where applications and/or data are stored and managed by third party providers of cloud services. Private clouds are those built and managed entirely by organizations for their own personal use without sharing, while hybrid clouds are a mix of the two. A third party managed service provider offer options mainly along the lines of software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS).

What to consider when moving to the cloud

In my opinion, the benefits of the cloud outweigh the risks. Starting from cost savings from reduced infrastructure and head count, ease of deployment of new or changed services, reduced headache from managing IT infrastructure and applications, and greater flexibility when it comes to organizational change, these are just a few of the opportunities that exist when an organization moves to the cloud.

Public, Private or Hybrid?

According to the Rightscale survey, 89% of the respondents were on public cloud, compared with 77% on private and 71% on hybrid. While the hybrid option seems like the best bet, leveraging on the private cloud’s privacy and control as well as the public cloud’s cost and capabilities, it is also the most complex to manage. This decision should be driven by the board in close consultation with the IT leadership, obviously guided by the company’s strategy and risk frameworks. Organizations that are in highly secretive, regulated or controlled industries will most definitely go for private clouds. I am however realizing that as public cloud storage providers are continue to refine their product offerings with customized and localized cloud services, more and more organizations will get the benefits of privacy and control in the long run as well.

What should go into the cloud first?

For organizations, the imperative from the board level is to move everything at once. However, this is not as easy as it seems, when you look at it from the nuts and bolts. In my experience, I know it is better for an organization to make decisions around first moving their backups and any service that is in the development pipeline to the cloud. From there, analyze which existing applications are to be moved and which should be replaced based on cloud service capabilities, vendor contracts and costs. Once decisions have been made, select the applications to be moved together with their dependencies, and then migrate them in clusters depending on the company’s risk appetite. Finally ensure that legacy systems that cannot be moved to the cloud have a roadmap towards replacement in the near term.

Drawbacks of the cloud

Are there any you may ask? Many experts will argue that security is a drawback of moving to the cloud. I disagree. Consider this, the major companies offering cloud services continue to invest in security at a scale that an organization managing its own infrastructure can never come close to matching. And if you sum up the relevant skills and resources to keep up with this challenge, this headache is worth paying a cloud service provider to deal with.

Privacy and legislative requirements regulations that state data must never leave the country’s borders remain a thorn in the flesh for cloud service providers. And small organizations find that they lack dedicated service and personalized touch when their applications are hosted and supported by the big cloud service providers. There is also the significant challenge of data migration and dealing with legacy systems, as well as organizational change issues. A move to the cloud can also take time, a prime example being Netflix taking seven years to fully complete their migration to AWS.

For companies that choose to maintain their own clouds so go have a private cloud or set up a hybrid structure, the management complexity can be a significant challenge. And this can have serious ramifications particularly in quality plus a waste of time and resources if the organization does not get a good return on investment due to lack of the relevant skills and expertise.

To cloud or not to cloud?

That isn’t the question it seems. Despite the listed disadvantages, there is every indication that cloud services are here to stay. The benefits in terms of cost, speed of deployment and resilience heavily outweigh the drawbacks and organizations globally are getting on board the cloud train. For companies that choose not to contract a public cloud service, working with an experienced managed service provider should bridge the skill gap required to tackle the complexity particularly in a hybrid cloud configuration.

When all is said and done, it looks like organizations will need a helping hand in migrating to and staying on the cloud. And who is better than NIC in providing you with solid guidance and expertise on how to get the most from your cloud service? Contact us and enjoy NIC’s premiere hosted service that allows customers to utilize a highly advanced data center infrastructure, which ensures that your IT infrastructure is in a safe, secure environment thus allowing you the freedom to focus on your core business activities.

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