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‘The Cloud’ has become something of a buzzword in recent years. Cloud computing and the various solutions it enables are now widely used by consumers and commercial entities alike. For the former, the services enabled by this tech – such as data storage and streaming services – can typically be accessed instantaneously. In turn, this drives a common misconception amongst commercial entities: that they will be able to migrate to the cloud quickly and without complication.
In reality, the process of moving data, applications and infrastructure to virtualised locations is often complex. There are instances where the process could be viewed as straightforward but, typically, this is only when the organisation in question is small and have little reliance on tech. To put it another way, it’s very rare that the process of migrating all – or even a portion – of a business’s tech setup to the Cloud is a straightforward one.
With that in mind, what should businesses consider when moving to the Cloud and what are the likely challenges they’ll face when doing so?
Typically, larger and more complex organisations will find the process of transitioning to the Cloud to be time-consuming. Indeed, the only circumstances under which migrating to the Cloud is likely to be simple is when the organisation in question is small and has very simple requirements such as virtual and communally accessible storage.
We quite often see larger organisations utilizing sizeable and complex infrastructure, have contracts with a variety of vendors, be beholden to policies concerning their data etc. and all can complicate the migration process.
For many organisations, the decision to migrate to the Cloud stems from a desire to ensure that their critical data is backed up to a remote location and doing so is, of course, a vital component of any business continuity plan.
Surprisingly, though not all services include backups – and stakeholders need to scrutinise any packages they are considering before signing contracts as a result.
Virtual backups alone do not yield robust disaster recovery plans. Remember that data stored remotely is still present on one or several pieces of storage media physically located in a data centre and can still be physically damaged, suffer from logical errors or become lost due to cyber crime.
Instead, complement virtual backups with two further physical copies, one kept on and the other off-site.
I, personally, advocate a staggered or hybrid migration process to businesses looking to move their infrastructures to the cloud. I appreciate the desire to enact changes in their entirety but, in my experience, doing so brings about too many procedural changes within too short a space of time and adversely affects productivity.
By gradually rolling out changes, organisations will find it easier to re-train end users, provide them with time to acclimatise to new structures/interfaces and, vitally, not overwhelm them.
Before making the metaphorical leap to the Cloud, organisations need to consider not just how doing so will enhance continuity plans or yield savings, but how their employees use the systems they have in place and how their day-to-day practices could be affected.
It’s vital that decision-makers consider how new infrastructure could impact employee activity and practice. Staggering implementation is important, but the immediate effect of introducing new interfaces, practices etc. must also be considered. Wherever possible, strategies designed to combat both change fatigue and diminished productivity should be in place before the start of the migration process.
Many people are surprised to hear that more than half of all IT projects are abandoned during the implementation process; failing to clearly define project’s objectives and impracticable approaches typically being the most common causes.
In my experience, stakeholders often regard project implementation as commonplace and a task that any IT professional should be able to undertake. In reality, it’s a speciality and organisations need to consider whether skills gaps are present in their workforce before enacting a Cloud migration plan as a result.
Cloud services are highly customisable, with a multitude of additional features available to all users. This, of course, is beneficial as it means that providers can typically meet the needs of their clients. Companies that do not determine their precise requirements beforehand can see their costs spiral rapidly, however.
Adding extra storage space, more users, increasing functionality and more will all result in a larger monthly bill and it’s far from uncommon for me to speak to decision-makers who found the costs of moving to the cloud increased exponentially following a month or two. The reason: they needed to add features post-migration.
Some regulatory requirements are obvious. The need for legal firms to retain information for set periods of time is a great example. Others, though, are less obvious – particularly those generated by relationships with vendors and clients.
Different nations have different regulatory requirements and, if your organisation needs to store data concerning a partner that is based in such a country, you’re going to need to adhere to rules set out by both your domestic body and any relevant foreign regulators.
There’s a common – and very dangerous – misconception surrounding the cloud: users think it’s entirely secure.
The data that an organisation stores in the cloud is, as I’ve said previously, still present in networked storage media – that media just happens to be located in a data centre rather than your office. As a result, this data can be accessed by anyone with the right credentials. Furthermore, no infrastructure, irrespective of which company maintains it, is entirely secure.
All too often, companies move to the cloud and assume that, in doing so, they’ve discharged responsibilities regarding cyber security to their provider. They haven’t, however, and they need to implement further measures to secure their data and infrastructures – particularly as GDPR legislation has given regulators considerably more power.
If your organisation is considering moving to the cloud, ROCK can help. We harness comprehensive and collaborative auditing procedures to glean a holistic and nuanced understanding of organisations before developing bespoke and practicable cloud migration plans.