Preparing for the cloud: the IT manager's first steps

Posted by Richard Mitton on 06/08/15 12:25

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You've identified the need to move some systems and processes (or all of them) into the cloud, read all the case studies, you're sure it's going to save you money and you're sure your organisational structure can make it work. Now it's time to take the plunge, what's next?

First up, the decision itself is probably less than 10 per cent of the job. Now IT managers must do their homework thoroughly, because a mistake here could cost you down the track. The secret to choosing the right cloud service is to let your data tell you what it needs. How big is your dataset(s)? How ‘bursty’ is it, and can you predict the ups and downs? Is it mission critical business data or non-live backup? Customers' credit card numbers or assets from an old marketing campaign? All those numbers, dates and demands will determine how much and what type of storage you need, how fast you have to move it between nodes or offices, how fast you need processes to run and every other aspect of your cloud workload to be. 

When you have all that information at hand, it's time to start talking. Start with the big public cloud operators like Google, Microsoft Azure or AWS, but make sure you engage a couple of third party cloud integration services or consultants too. Launch a tender process if it's appropriate. The key is to get the best possible information about which service (and provider) suits your particular circumstances. Providers are naturally going to say 'we are!' and consultants can introduce a little reality if you have unusual needs.

Your needs might be a simple as a Dropbox-style protected file sharing presence, or they might be so specialised that you require dedicated integration systems to make sure everything plays nice. As news and analysis website Thoughts on Cloud urges in this article, you can't do too much preparation.

Be adaptable

When you find a service you think you're happy with, you're still not quite there. Read the SLAs and fine print very carefully – bring in your in-house counsel or lawyer if need be – and make sure you understand every point. If your business grows and changes, you don't want to be locked in a contract that penalises you for going over an arbitrary processing, bandwidth or storage threshold. These and other essential questions to ask before you sign a cloud computing contract are listed in this Forbes article.

There's also nothing wrong with doing cloud adoption slowly and dipping a toe in the water. Select a task you already do on-premise that's not mission critical such as back ups and provision a cloud service to run it. Until you're certain you're getting value out of it you can run the process in-house at the same time. After all, there’s no such thing as too many back ups!

As you get comfortable with how providers operate you can start to move more processes and tasks into the cloud – everything from email or disaster recovery all the way up to multi-tiered database applications and payment gateways. The bigger and more complex the workload, the more tempted you might be to change things to suit the service – especially the clouds offered by the big providers that can seem to have one-size-fits-all approaches to the market. Stick to your guns. There's a service out there tailor made to your needs, so don't be afraid to move on to find it. It's something a good consultant or cloud service integrator will help you with, and is another reason to make sure you understand the SLAs and won't be penalised for breaking a contract.

Build relationships, not clouds

We live in a world of increasing hybridisation of cloud builds, where business IT takes place in on-premise private clouds and public services. You might not adopt cloud computing to that extent (although most of your contemporaries are, according to a survey from technology solutions provider Avanade), but adopting the cloud is about a relationship – not a transaction – something that must be taken into account when selecting a supplier.

As such, the best providers recognise that they'll work with you to integrate other systems, other methods and even other clouds. As Erez Yarkoni, Telstra Executive Director of Cloud, told ZDNet recently; "Cloud providers need to recognise the way forward will be collaboration, not competition. The organisation that works with multiple vendors to produce a customer-centric solution is the one that will be most successful in the cloud market in 2015”.

If you'd like to learn more about the cloud and your other options when it comes to an infrastructure refresh, click below to download our free eBook:

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Topics: IT Manager

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