The vision for cloud computing has always been around the twin benefits of cutting costs and improving flexibility for the business.

However – like so many things in this life – the gap between the ideal implementation of cloud and real life circumstances has meant that many companies have faced challenges in delivering on all that promise. At this point, it’s worth looking at how to plan ahead and stop problems from affecting what would otherwise be successful projects.

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The Cloud Industry Forum released research in June 2015 that stated only 10 per cent of companies felt that their cloud implementations had gone as smoothly as possible and could not have been improved. Of those surveyed, the biggest initial challenges after signing on the dotted line and deciding to “go cloud” were issues around the complexity the migration and difficulties around the sovereignty of data held in the cloud.

Now, these issues should be put into context – many IT projects that don’t involve cloud computing solutions have their equal share of problems that come up after the ink is dry on the contract. Indeed, you only have to look at some of the problems that come up in public sector IT projects as evidence that things are not simple and that unexpected costs can crop up.

However, these hurdles have a bigger impact on the perception of cloud. After all, traditional IT is known to be complex and to require insight and experience; the perception is that cloud should remove all of these issues as part of the reason to shift over. Take this element away, and cloud can get categorised as simply paying for “other people’s computers”.

So what should your response be?

Migration planning is essential for avoiding what Donald Rumsfeld called the “Unknown unknowns” – those problems that can’t be anticipated ahead of them coming up. The more comprehensive the planning stage, the more likely it is that problems won’t come up.

As part of this, it’s worth looking at the following:

What are your dependencies? As part of any move to the cloud, there will be steps where data may be held on both internal and external systems. During this migration, it’s worth understanding where other IT systems or business processes will be connected during each stage. This will help with project planning and critical path analysis, but also provide back-up support in the event of something going wrong.

How are you migrating?

There are multiple different ways to get data into the cloud, varying from fresh implementations of data through to in-place migrations that can be carried out while systems remain online. Discussing the migration process and what potential windows of downtime might come up will help you set expectations within the business.

Is the business informed?

Any significant IT project should have a communications plan for the business as well as the technical plans. It is always worth over-communicating on the status of any planned migration so that the business knows what will be the impact of the move. If there are any problems that might occur due to downtime, then you can collaborate on how to reduce those downtime windows with smarter tools or through alterations to the project timeline.

Looking ahead in this way can help you ensure that any move to the cloud is not affected by downtime or poor user experience during the shift over. Even as IT becomes more complex under the covers, the migration process can be made seamless with the right processes, people and tools in place. This combination can ensure that investment in cloud can start paying back straight away.

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 VP Cloud & Strategic Alliances 

Ian is Vice President of Cloud & Strategic Alliances at Vision Solutions, and has been advising organisations on their requirements for business continuity, disaster recovery and backup for almost two decades. He has a wide background in the virtualisation, storage and high availability space, working across multiple platforms. More recently he has entered into the world of migration, covering data, server, virtualisation and Cloud.

For the past 4 years he has acted as Director Sales, Northern Europe, and prior to this he was UK Sales and Marketing Director at Double-Take Software, who were acquired by Vision Solutions in 2010. Ian studied at Bangor University, North Wales, and gained a BSC (Hons) in Marine Zoology.