IaaS and SaaS provide more than simply cloud-based information services. They enable mass data storage, virtual stakeholder collaboration and mobility of process that far outweighs persisting with an internal IT infrastructure.
However there are challenges of migrating to the cloud that must be understood and expectations that must be met when choosing to rollout any cloud infrastructure. For all the cost and time saving benefits, cloud infrastructure and software can be hugely problematic if not chosen wisely. When they aren’t, these weakest links can often compromise everything.
The primary advantage of the cloud is a permanent connection - anytime, anywhere. Yet service disruption does occur. Companies need to be aware that while cloud outages are significantly less than those that occur with traditional IT infrastructure, they do still happen.
Business leaders therefore need assurances along the following lines - what will happen in such instances? How frequently have they occurred in the past? Are they device or location specific? etc. In short many don’t consider this a real concern to them, but are left frustrated by ANY sort of outage, even if redundancy measures are in place.
Migrating to a cloud service provider creates multiple dimensions of security risk that previously were not even a consideration to most industries. Multi-vendor deployments can compromise the integrity of data and regulatory compliance. This approach however is commonplace as businesses look to the cheapest ways of doing things. It means a mix-and-match combination of freemium and paid subscription services that dumb each other down. Using multiple providers is inefficient and creates opportunities for cyber-criminals to exploit the lax security procedures many companies have in place. In every regard, make sure you know how secure your data is, what infrastructure management system dictates the process and what application security the cloud provider is running?
The pivotal issue - should we assume someone else is automatically protecting our data and backing it up? When moving to the cloud, many businesses fall over making massive assumptions about what the cloud service provider is covering within the SLA, especially when it comes to backup plans and disaster recovery.
Expectations need to be set at the very beginning. No cloud provider can ‘guarantee’ zero downtime, so what they do in such events is hugely important to alleviating fear and minimising risk. For example, what level of redundancy are they able to provide? Many companies don’t research cloud providers with the best reputation for data centre management. Finding out the hard way that a business is inadequately supported is potentially catastrophic.
System unavailability due to routine maintenance or locked-down permissions creates huge frustrations for businesses. Poor scheduling and communication of routine maintenance, upgrades and downtime causes staff a great deal of unrest - being unprepared or ill-informed creates considerable angst and a lack of productivity that can always be avoided.
Managing accessibility in advance is crucial to maintaining critical levels of service and setting permissions as required for each user. Ask how cloud providers will reduce these inherent risks - with multiple servers, data centres and regional infrastructure? Be aware of your data’s location, transfer protocol and user view, at all times. Different regions of the world have different laws and governance standards for data transfer protocol/privacy of information.
When considering the right cloud provider for your business, appreciate that these issues can create huge bottlenecks. Your SLA must meet these challenges head-on and provide the best possible security, uptime, access, etc. Choosing wisely means avoiding the pitfalls of a multi-vendor approach that appears to save money but in reality does the exact opposite. If set as expectations and addressed in the procurement process, these common issues can be solved ahead of time, to make for a smooth transition into the cloud, one that has a massive upside.
Neil Henry has over 18yrs experience in the IT industry, initially in application design and deployment, progressing to management of IT operations for leading enterprises such as Cap Gemini, Oracle, Barclays and the NHS. He specialises in cloud technologies that create business value from mobile, social and big data analytics, to support not just IT but all corporate functions. Neil wrote this post on behalf of Peer1 Hosting.