It is time to embrace the cloud, but proceed with a plan

Businesses are keen to embrace the cloud for many reasons. Cloud solutions provide enterprises with an IT infrastructure they can control with few overhead costs and complexities. This gives them the ability to focus less on IT, and more on their business and bottom-line.  

With the cloud, businesses are able to design and operate complex global and local platforms with little up-front cost, and pay only for the infrastructure and technology used. They can integrate platforms into existing legacy physical environments and add in SaaS solutions as needed. Cloud solutions provide the power, flexibility, and the commercial models that could only have been dreamt of five years ago.

However, it is important that businesses plan carefully when implementing a cloud solution. The right plan can help businesses avoid unnecessary pitfalls and ensure the transition to the cloud goes smoothly.

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Ensure you have the proper skills to bridge the cloud security skills gap

Cloud security works differently than owned-infrastructure security. Physical servers are replaced with virtual machines running on virtualised hardware and security is managed through a cloud dashboard rather than directly on the server. The ease of use of adding resources is one of the attractions of the cloud but it is important these new resources inherit security characteristics in a carefully controlled manner.

If employees don’t have the proper skills to manage the cloud, businesses should consider using a managed service provider (MSP) to help with migration and provide support after the move. An MSP will take care of the migration and maintenance on behalf of the IT team and eliminate the need for extensive cloud security know-how on the business’ part. This move will also accelerate an organisation’s maturity and greatly reduce the time to value.

Consider data residency and protection in the cloud

Data residency has been debated widely in recent months, especially since the Court of Justice of the European Union declared the International Safe Harbour Privacy Principles void in October 2015. The Safe Harbour agreement between Europe and the US was meant to provide blanket permission for data transfer between the two countries, and peace of mind for companies with data residing on foreign soil. The legislation has now been replaced with the EU-US Privacy Shield but uncertainty persists.

One answer to the uncertainty lies in the cloud because businesses can choose where to store data. The simple solution to data residency is to store data locally and avoid sovereignty issues.

Data protection is another cause for concern. In the EU, data protection laws are in the process of being replaced with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is due to come into effect in May 2018. This includes the “right to be forgotten” for EU Citizens, which is especially applicable in the cloud where data can be replicated across nodes and backed up multiple times. It is important that businesses keep data protection in mind when building their solutions.

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Manage cloud sprawl to minimize cloud costs

The cloud offers growth and scalability for businesses, and it is easy to keep building platforms and pumping data into the cloud. Unless you’re careful, the size and number of services you are using will continue to increase and this will lead to the cost of cloud services to mount up.

By deleting old, obsolete, and unused applications on a regular basis, as well as archiving data to cheaper, higher latency services, businesses can avoid this unnecessary expense. By taking into account how they are managing the cloud strategy, businesses can realise the promised savings of cloud computing.

The best solution is to have a single pane of glass view for all your cloud solutions and spending. With this visibility, businesses can use only what they need and switch off or consolidate little-used infrastructure. Regular ‘cost optimisation’ activities should be undertaken to ensure you are benefitting from the latest cloud features, capabilities and pricing changes.

Ensure your cloud provider sets the standard

One of the benefits for businesses getting into cloud computing is that cloud providers themselves will provide security and compliance to the data being stored with them. Standards such as ‘ISO 27001’ for information security management is the stamp of approval that means your data is secure with a cloud provider.

However, this may not be enough. It is crucial that businesses check to ensure the provider has the compliance framework in place to satisfy the regulatory requirements of its industry and marketplace. For instance, if a business is accepting card payments online it needs to meet the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). As already mentioned, GDPR is fast approaching and will cause significant changes to the accountability and liability of a cloud provider for their customers’ data, so expect more stringent and defined responsibilities to be put in place.

Cloud is transformative for businesses

The cloud represents a shift in the way businesses consume and pay for IT services but it is also transformative for businesses, allowing them to scale business offerings, save on hosting solutions and ultimately, offer better solutions to their customers.

By keeping the above considerations in mind when migrating to the cloud, companies can guarantee a successful and pain-free transition. This provides opportunities for innovation and means businesses can benefit from new routes to market, while offering clients new capabilities, covered by security and certifications. Clients can relax knowing they have provisions for future growth built into their solution.

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