All the cool kids are moving to the cloud and you really should consider it too. But first of all perhaps weigh up what it actually means to put your money, data and trust into what is, let’s face it, fairly nascent technology.
There are great benefits to be had from moving from traditional in-house servers to the Cloud, and we’ll take a look at these later. First, let’s consider the challenges you can expect to encounter when moving to the Cloud.
First of all, there are the initial costs to consider. Before you make the move there will be some financial outlay – you may have to put in VPNs and greater connectivity before you start your Cloud journey. Then, of course, there will be lots of technical and contractual i’s to dot and t’s to cross: this is going to take your time and energy but it is essential that you get it right from the off. You need to get the right people in place to make sure you will get the service you expect and need. You also must know exactly what the costs are and be confident that there are no nasty surprises or hidden extras. In short, you need to know exactly where you and your data stand going forward.
You also need to consider control. Who will have access to data, what will they be able to do with it and where in the world are they? You may be uncomfortable with handing over your company’s ‘crown jewels’ to a third party so if you have any doubts at all it is essential that you know the who, what, where and how.
It is imperative to consider your information security too. For example, will your data be kept on shielded virtual machines that operate on a guarded fabric? Do you want it to be? And what about DDoS protection and back-ups? Until you are fully comfortable with all of these variables then your server should stay firmly within your sight and your physical control.
Moving to the Cloud could also have some unexpected effects on your IT performance. There will be an increase in network length, your data may be several hundreds of miles away and this will increase the time it takes for the users to speak to their servers which then have to process and send back your information. Although this may only take a fraction of a second to do, these fractions of a second add up when it happens many thousands of times per transaction. And it is possible that this retrieval of data could take longer, leading to performance issues that might impact you internally and at the same time become noticeable to external users. Make sure you check for such latency issues before you move.
This all sounds a bit scary but there is help at hand. The availability of monitoring services and software that have full visibility of your IT estate’s activity in its entirety means that it is now possible to have much more comfort and faith in making the move. Using a hybrid combination of APM (application performance monitoring) and NPM (network performance monitoring) it is possible for businesses to see exactly who is doing what on their system and where they are. This can be done in real time but, also, alerts can be triggered for unusual activity taking place after hours.
The monitoring technology is placed ‘over’ the existing network and takes in all the external pathways and conduits, such as those going to the Cloud servers. It monitors the system and its traffic for a period of time and builds up an understanding of what normal state looks like. Once this is done it then monitors for unusual activity or any signs of the system slowing down, and actively looks for any malicious intent across the network.
Such monitoring services can also be used to identify where performance issues lie, allowing the user to see if their Cloud connection is causing any latency and giving evidence of this to their provider. The key to any successful IT partnership is clarity and visibility, and this advanced performance monitoring provides just that. It gives visibility of application flows, and by flagging issues can identify problems before they become user impacting. It can also be used in change modelling which means that a business could see the effect that making a change could have on the network, such as switching to the Cloud.
It’s not done for the sake of appearing to be ‘on trend’; there are real advantages and benefits to be had from making the move as long as it is well planned and properly executed.
So you’ve got your monitoring in place and are ready to make to switch. What are the opportunities you can look forward to after moving to the Cloud? As we’ve said already, all the cool kids are doing it and there must be some benefits, right? It’s not done for the sake of appearing to be ‘on trend’; there are real advantages and benefits to be had from making the move as long as it is well planned and properly executed.
Once the initial costs to switch over are met, the ongoing expenditure will be far lower than maintaining and servicing your own bank of servers. There are no power, cooling or space costs to worry about and you won’t need to pay people to be available 24/7 in case of any outage or service issues. In the long term, this will be a definite saving to your bottom line.
The Cloud model lends itself to much-increased agility. Having a subscription model means that you can add and subtract servers as and when you need them. You don’t have to think about the specifying, planning and installation of new kit. There’s no need to think about downtime at weekends or in the middle of the night. Adding capacity in the Cloud can be done really quickly and is a great change enabler for businesses. This added agility means that you can achieve scale in a much more efficient and cost-effective way.
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The security of your data should be better too. The large Cloud service providers will have up-to-the-minute security technology which most smaller businesses would not be able to afford or move as quickly to install. You have to remember this is the service providers’ bread and butter, not just a means to an end. If they are not secure, remaining up-to-date and releasing the latest patches they will quite simply go out of business. This knowledge combined with your performance monitoring technology should help you sleep better at night.
So the Cloud does offer great benefits and opportunities to businesses but it is not something to rush into. Take the time to plan your migration and identify the risks before you go ahead. Make sure you have the mechanisms in place to manage and control those risks. Finally, make sure you understand how your Cloud estate will be managed and monitored. Once you are happy with all this you can get ready to join the cool kids.