Everyone is talking about how best to use the cloud as part of their IT strategy. However, organisations who want to find out how to use it to scale activities, to reduce the number of support heads or to save money are asking the wrong questions; they are entering the cloud era from a traditional perspective.

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The multi-faceted amorphous nature of cloud means that it does not slot in directly to a traditional IT strategy. Yes, it is another tool in the IT box, but it should be used to address business requirements and not necessarily technical ones.

It can certainly help with scale, define strategy, reduce support heads and save money but only if it is aligned to an organisation’s business strategy, with specific goals defined and KPIs agreed before any implementation begins.

Rather than use a singular cloud to solve a technical problem such as running out of disk space, or using SaaS to address application lifecycle issues, organisations should be considering how they can use multiple clouds to fulfil their business needs. That is where the true skill resides, interleaving and tuning a multi-cloud solution.

One company EACS has worked with had a significant five-figure cost against on-premise backup, driving tapes around to offsite storage facilities. They also had a three or four-week turnaround for data restores and 15,000 tapes in storage, 80 percent of which were not catalogued. This is not rare; we come across it quite frequently.

One of the other challenges we were talking to this company about was the fact they had very little (if any) disaster recovery provision at their HQ. Cloud seemed perfect, right? Remove the reliance on magnetic media, geographically separate backup and production data; combine this with the increase in DR capability Infrastructure as a Service (IAAS) provides and we all thought we were onto a winner.

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However, their procurement strategy only focused on the backups, not DR. Cloud fell at the first budget hurdle as it was ‘expensive’ when considered in isolation to address the backup challenges.

That company still expends five figures on magnetic media management and has gone a separate route for DR. Both projects combined provide a more expensive and less flexible solution than leveraging a cloud solution. This is an example of a large company pursuing a traditional and ingrained IT procurement process without focusing on the overall business need.

Combining projects and initiatives to drive value in this cloud era is not a sales strategy to inflate the deal, it is a modern approach to enterprise IT that needs careful, cross-company consideration.

Many of the failures of cloud adoption we see are when existing IT budgets have been used to apply cloud to an existing IT service. This typically results in backup costs spiralling due to poorly defined retention, IaaS costs spiralling due to a ‘lift and shift’ approach to cloud migration, and Platform as a Service (PaaS) not delivering the value due to poorly understood business processes.

Of all the companies we have spoken to about cloud transitions, the ones which are most successful are those that use it to address a particular business requirement. We recently created an entirely new division for a large insurer who needed to tactically separate this new venture from a compliance standpoint. We provisioned this in the cloud for 40 users within two weeks.

From an SME perspective, having a cloud-enabled infrastructure can be key to absorbing any acquisitions quickly and efficiently. We work closely with an estates management company whose business growth strategy is one of an aggressive company acquisition, adding four or five businesses a year throughout the UK. They have a private cloud infrastructure which makes absorbing users, and more importantly the plethora of line of business applications, a ‘simple’ task. The challenge becomes a business one, not technical. In this case getting IT involved early enough in the acquisition process to plan and assess has been the key hurdle to overcome.

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In closing, the first question organisations should ask themselves when considering cloud is: “What business issues am I currently facing?” Having defined these, and understood the business processes supporting them, they can then ask themselves how IT – whether traditional, cloud or a combination of the two – can best be used to address them.