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CIO field guide: How to successfully navigate a successful path to the cloud

Many businesses are turning toward cloud for its flexibility, scalability, cost savings, and a chance to offload data center duties. The trouble is that the further we move into a cloud-enabled future, the tougher it gets to figure out which cloud platforms make the most sense to individual businesses and each particular application as there is no one cloud solution for everything.

To navigate today’s cloud opportunities, you need a well-thought-out roadmap to guide you away toward the prime destinations and away from the minefields. Here are four ways to develop your cloud roadmap:

1. Align the cloud with your business goals.

Cloud computing cannot be an end in itself. It has to be an avenue to pursue a business objective such as:

  • Improving customer service. Cloud technologies like virtualization and cloud apps for customer-relationship management can transform key components of your business.
  • Streamlining vendor relationships. The cloud might allow you to put all your vendors on a standard procurement and invoicing platform, which can reduce workloads and improve cash flow.
  • Optimizing production processes. The cloud provides ample opportunities to leverage cutting-edge technologies like big data, predictive analytics, and the internet of things (IoT) to eliminate inefficiencies.
  • Enabling disaster recovery protection. The cloud supports the pillars of business continuity (BC)—backup, restore, and disaster recovery. As more of your business depends on technology, you need more emphasis on creating a sound BC framework.

You have to do your homework: Ask people around your business where they think moving to an offsite cloud-enabled solution can help them excel. At conferences, ask colleagues and acquaintances how the cloud is working for them. Don’t be afraid to seek out people’s horror stories, but keep in mind that problems could be self-inflicted.

2. Assess your workloads.

Before you move IT workloads into the cloud, you have to assess how they are working now—and whether you can afford to store them in remote locations. A few points to bear in mind:

  • There’s no point moving workloads to the cloud if performance nosedives. Depending on your cloud server’s location and the amount of bandwidth the workloads require, you could suffer business-critical latency issues.
  • Network availability. Networks go down from time to time. You may have to assess how to reroute your workloads if the network fails.
  • Some workloads can’t leave the premises of your business, while others do comparatively innocuous chores that don’t require Fort Knox-style security. Establishing security priorities is essential.
  • Data value. Creating a tiering system for your applications ranging from the most important top tier to the lowest and assigning availability and performance targets can help determine where you should focus your resources. Then conduct an assessment or work with a partner to determine how they would perform on varying platforms and the estimated cost.

Remember, you must test all cloud workloads thoroughly.

3. Find the right cloud architecture.

Cloud architecture comes in three models—public, private, and hybrid:

  • Public cloud. Tech giants like Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM provide 100% remote servers and technologies to support them.
  • Private cloud. You can deploy cloud technologies like virtualization to allocate resources and automate operations in a dedicated data center environment.
  • Hybrid cloud. Mixing and matching public and private clouds can help you tap the benefits of both environments while avoiding the disadvantages. (More on this breakdown in our recent blog post.)

The cloud environment you choose depends on your unique business challenges. Small businesses without much IT experience or budget appreciate the pay-as-you-go model of the public cloud. Larger companies may decide to keep their clouds private or adopt a hybrid model.

Try to envision cloud solutions on a continuum of control—with in-house IT on the left end and the public cloud on the right.

With in-house IT, you enjoy full control of networks, software, virtual machines, data centers, virtual machines and yet you carry the burden of 24×7 monitoring, management, and incident resolution. As you move toward various cloud solutions, you gradually shift that burden of risk over to a service provider that delivers a service level agreement allowing your staff to focus on your core strategic initiatives.

By 2020, 24% of the total addressable IT market will be cloud.Furthermore, nearly one in five virtual machines (VMs) worldwide are in the public cloud,2 and we are really just starting to see the growth and adoption of public cloud for traditional enterprises.

4. Choose your management strategy.

Cloud decisions can be overwhelming: Do you want individual software as a service applications? Or, are you more interested in platform as a service or infrastructure as a service?

Have you thought through the implications of running critical business processes on software hosted by third parties? Do you have the time, talent, and budget to make sense of cloud capabilities and fold them into your wider business strategy? Do you have a clue as to how to keep everything secure and protect your customers’ data?

These kinds of questions (and many more) plague the development of every roadmap to the cloud. A few direct routes seem obvious, but you could stray for a thousand miles without realizing you’ve wandered off course.

All these complications paved the way for managed cloud services providers—partnering with seasoned, certified experts to get you to your destination and avoid costly wrong turns. At OnX, a CBTS company, we help enterprise organizations in every industry clear a profitable path to the cloud with services like:

  • Cloud readiness assessments to help map and migrate
  • Data protection, backup, and disaster recovery
  • Fully managed cloud operations
  • Remote monitoring and management

Talk to us today and we’ll help you get moving on your cloud roadmap.

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