Well after what would seem a career as an IT event reviewer/blogger I thought a change of direction was in order with some more strategic tech type BLOGS to cover some of the areas of question and concern I get challenged with while I’m out and about visiting our wide range of customers. I thought first up would be the thing that seems to top the topic list for most of my meetings, of course that’s and the question that comes with that topic….
Are Cloud Services Right For Me?
That’s a great question and probably a good starting point, however the only thing I normally warn people of at this stage is, don’t get to stuck on the technology, “cloud” has been a significant IT trend over the last few years and it has been a real disruptive technology, but the reason it has is not because people have chosen Microsoft this, Google that, Salesforce, Dropbox or anything else, what has made it disruptive is it has allowed businesses to develop new business models, new ways to do business, new ways to innovate and and allows business to operate more effectively because of it. Non of that happens because they chose a particuarly technology however, it’s because the businesses understood what they needed cloud services to deliver.
What things should you be looking at then if you want to consider Cloud in your business?
Below are some examples of questions and queries that we get asked by people considering cloud solutions and some of the tips we give;
Understand the Problem you think you are solving…
Probably covered this already, but just to be clear, understand the problem you are solving, this is not a technology conversation. Do you need more efficiency, need to cope with fast growth, need to have a more effective way to deal with geographically spread employees, need a way to collaborate, need to use services on demand, want operational cost IT rather than capital expenditure? all businesses problems that cloud can help with, but start there, not at the service level.
Are cloud services appropriate for what you do?
In many cases they are, but like any technical service, cloud or otherwise, its important that you do that bit of due diligence, before you take all your services to the cloud have you considered if the services and processes you use in your business can sit in the cloud? We do a lot of work with manufacturing companies, for many of those they have services that need to speak to local machinery and systems, sticking them in the cloud is probably not going to be something that they are going to be able to do without a complete redesign of application, process or even hardware.
Can I put my data in the cloud?
Depending on your industry this is a very important question, now in pretty much all cases, including some of those industries that think they can’t, peoples data is pretty safe in the cloud with the big providers, If you are using a Microsoft service for example, they do a lot of work with many of the regulatory authorities to ensure that their services work within the framework of industry regulation. However that’s not always the case, remember that phrase “due diligence”
How do I pick a cloud provider?
Now I know we said don’t worry to much about technology, but at some point, when you’ve decided that cloud does solve a problem and that it’s right for you, in the end you do need to pick a cloud service provider. So this is a slightly more difficult to give a generic answer because it does depend on your need. What are some of the things that people should consider;
- Is the service appropriate?
- Do I need a generic public solution such as office365 or are my needs more bespoke?
- Do I need a point solution? Something that just addresses a single problem
- Is the provider financially sound, do they have a track record of service delivery?
- Are they going to be around for years to come?
- Do they have a support model that fits?
- Where is the data going to be stored, does that meet my data sovereignty needs?
These are just some of the areas we look at with potential cloud customers, it’s that due diligence stuff again!
Type of service you want
Of course understand the kind of service you want, cloud service isn’t limited to taking a broad solution like Office365 or Gmail, the services can be very bespoke, solutions like Azure deliver compute power in the cloud. Custom vendors will supply Infrastructure as a Service solutions that allow you to take your infrastructure, put it in the cloud, but its your infrastructure running on your private setup. And of course the near future in my opinion, is the Hybrid deployments, using cloud services alongside your on premise solution, from simple stuff like hybrid exchange in 365, through to more complex initiatives such as NetApp private storage for hyperscalar providers where your data stays in your control but you get to use public compute power to deliver your IT systems.
Yes, I would say that wouldn’t I, but get help, ask for advice. Get help in deciding if its for you, advice on how you get to a cloud platform from where you currently are, understand how you manage and secure your data in the cloud, lots of things that someone with experience can help you do. For me, cloud services have a role to play in pretty much any infrastructure, the flexibility and speed of deployment cloud solutions can bring is in asset in pretty much any business, not for everyone though. I’ve spoken with two companies just this last week who won’t consider cloud in their business, logic is flawed in both cases, but in the end whether you want to move your business to the cloud is a big a part of the equation as anything else. Hope this gives you some food for thought and some questions to ask yourself when looking at a cloud strategy in your business, because if you don’t have a cloud strategy for your business, you really should get one!