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10 things to consider when moving to cloud

We love cloud, obviously! But, while it can offer a range of operational and financial benefits, migrating to cloud is not always as straightforward as the hype around it would suggest. This handy guide details 10 key considerations worth pondering before jumping into cloud.

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Market hype around cloud tends to promote it as a ‘fix all’ solution. In both the private and public sector, we see organisations being encouraged to migrate their whole existence to cloud, to achieve a number of perceived benefits including better choice, scalability, and cost savings.

We love cloud, obviously! But we also know there are many ways to help our customers solve their business problems. It’s important we choose the right solution. Going completely cloud-native is not necessarily the appropriate choice, or  as straightforward as you might think. 

In this blog we’ll cover 10 key considerations that may make you rethink your approach to cloud.

1. Skills

To successfully adopt and maintain a cloud environment, you need the right skills in your IT team. Of course, you don’t need an AWS certified expert to run a few SaaS apps, but when migrating business critical workloads to IaaS platforms, you need somebody familiar with cloud architectures, as well as the original applications you’re looking to move.. 

The cloud market is crowded . There are thousands of providers offering platforms, tooling and sandboxes for you to build in. If you don’t have the right skills in-house, you will find it very difficult to know where to start, or worse, lose time and money trialling options that go nowhere.

When planning a cloud migration, remember to factor in the cost of buying-in cloud skills through recruitment, or from consulting partners.

2. Legacy applications and compatibility

Your legacy applications are often those most critical to business as usual. Whether it’s a database built 10 years ago by somebody who has left the business, or a custom application that has been modified extensively over time, you have to make sure they will still work when hosted in the cloud.

Not only this, but cloud migration is often fuelled by a demand to use something new. These new solutions will need to be compatible with your legacy applications. If planned poorly, it can feel like fitting square pegs into round holes.

Carry out a review of your legacy applications before embarking on a cloud journey. You’ll thank yourself in the long run.

3. Business disruption

Digital transformation will inevitably cause disruption, and a shift to cloud is no exception. Many organisations are now 24 hour operations, making it difficult to find an appropriate moment to test and deploy changes. For those with customer facing web applications, there is the matter of customer experience to worry about too.

Remember to think about your end users during cloud migration. Will they need training? Will they need to download new software? Or can you make their experience completely seamless? Consider a test environment with rollback plans in case something goes wrong.

4. OpEx over CapEx

A touted benefit of cloud is the ability to switch to an OpEx model rather than CapEx. In theory this is great, you only pay for what you use, and there’s no hefty bill for hardware up front.

However, cloud consumption models have their drawbacks. Unless you are tracking your cloud spend on a daily basis, it’s likely you will only find out how much you’re paying when you receive your invoice at the end of the month. For a finance department, this makes operational costs incredibly difficult to plan against.

This model may also prevent a cloud migration being signed off at all. If you’re unable to demonstrate the expected cost of cloud to decision makers, then how can they approve the switch?

5. Egress charges

One of the main unexpected costs is the dreaded egress charge, in other words, the cost to retrieve your own data from a cloud environment. If you’re running a cloud application or database, expect to pay egress charges every time data leaves your cloud. If those tools are  being used regularly and in significant volumes, the cost of data egress can be crippling. 

Before any move, analyse the traffic coming in and out of your applications to understand the volumes you may pay in egress charges.

6. Regulation, compliance and data sovereignty

For the public sector there is understandably a heavy focus on compliance and regulation, which can dictate where data is stored and processed. Cloud providers do offer choice when it comes to the region in which data is stored, but the self-healing, flexible nature of cloud can leave organisations, particularly in government, feeling uneasy about relinquishing control of where everything is kept.

Similarly, these kinds of organisations need access to accredited networks like the Public Services Network (PSN). The network operator requires evidence that the end-end architecture is robust and compliant. Cloud environments can add complexity to this process.

7. Shadow IT

Whilst legacy applications may prove a headache to move to cloud, the same cannot be said for SaaS apps - they are almost too easy to buy. In many cases, all it takes is a credit card and an internet connection.

Whilst this is a great way to dip your toe into cloud services and tools, there is a very real risk of Shadow IT. If not carefully controlled, you could find yourself supporting dozens of new cloud tools, or worse, be completely unaware that they exist!

Process is not sexy, but it’s critical for your IT team to keep a lid on the adoption of cloud-based tools - both to avoid duplication and risk. Make sure your IT software policies are clear and firm, so that unsupported applications don’t slip in unnoticed.

8. Reliability of the Internet

The breadth and depth of cloud services available today means you could be running anything from a handful of basic applications, to your entire business infrastructure in the cloud.

On the low end of this scale, using the internet as backbone for connectivity is likely to be sufficient. But would you trust it to carry all your most critical traffic? Remember, the internet is a best-effort network. There is no quality of service, no SLA, and nobody to call if there’s a problem.

Think about how the network should support different parts of your business, and consider a mixture of connectivity methods to suit each use case. Perhaps some of your cloud environments would benefit from a dedicated private on-ramp back to the network. Others may be just fine using an encrypted internet connection.

9. Security

Cloud providers can now provision tools to secure data and infrastructure better than you would be able to with an on-premise data centre. The key is that these tools need to be understood and used correctly to be effective.

A data centre provides clear security benefits. We describe this as a single door which is easy to see and protect - you go in and out of one point and have a clear view of your perimeter. You can retain control of your data and feel satisfied that you’ve taken measures to protect yourself.

With such varying security requirements across a business, one cloud provider can’t cater to all. Default cloud security may only be a Layer 3 /4 firewall. Don’t assume that all providers will create high levels of security automatically - it’s very easy for companies to build an entire service without having any resilience at all, and be unaware of the risk to their business.

10. Cloud lock-in

Cloud lock-in occurs when applications become embedded into a certain cloud provider, using their native tools, making it tricky to extract and move them to another location. This is common, and somewhat ironic, as the end result is a situation that was often the motivation to move away from on-prem in the first place.

Avoid becoming an ‘Azure house’ or an ‘AWS house’ by baking-in portability into your cloud migration plans. Otherwise, you could quickly find yourself stuck with a provider with no means of escape.

In summary…

We believe cloud is a fantastic technology, and it represents the future of compute for many organisations. However, it should not be seen as a silver bullet. For us, cloud sits amongst a landscape of solutions that can work in harmony to solve a business challenge.

Did we miss anything? We’d love to hear your opinions, war stories and observations about cloud adoption. Drop us a comment here.


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