Nine Questions to Answer Before Migrating to the Cloud
Cloud computing is driving a fundamental transition in the evolution of IT. According to IDC’s 2015 global CloudView Survey, nearly two-thirds of enterprises are using or planning to use some form of cloud—whether for a single project or their portfolio, for test/development environments, or to run mission-critical applications.
For enterprises using the cloud, the benefits of cloud migration begin immediately and accelerate as companies move up the adoption curve. According to the IDC survey, enterprises report, on average, $1.6 million in additional revenues and $1.2 million in reduced costs per cloud application.
Although the transition to the cloud is well underway, some IT professionals remain hesitant, worrying that transitioning their operations to the cloud won’t be quite as simple as flipping a switch.
Before starting the cloud migration process, there are nine important questions organizations and their IT administrators need to answer:
- What are your security requirements?
As a general rule, businesses should avoid storing critically sensitive data—such as credit card information or social security numbers—in the cloud. There’s an economic incentive to use the cloud for all data initially, but the current state of security and encryption in the cloud is not yet fully mature. If there were to be a data breach, the business would be blamed, rather than the cloud provider. Right now, it’s better to play it safe than be sorry.
- What is your vendor’s entire pricing model?
Moving operations into the cloud might save a startup in up front costs but become a burden as the business grows and relies on more complex processes. Businesses need to keep in mind that usage costs occur in four key phases — computing, memory, storage, and network access—and that each one carries its own price tag. The takeaway: Develop a roadmap to help you plan for key growth and transition milestones that might trigger shifts to or from the cloud.
- What is your exit strategy?
Since the cloud is still an emerging market, there isn’t the same level of sophistication as other industries in terms of performance guarantees or price stability. Do your homework to figure out how much it will cost to extract your data if your cloud service provider proves to be unsatisfactory and it becomes necessary to migrate data elsewhere.
- What are your cloud vendor’s resource limitations?
Cloud services are thought of as being able to deliver unlimited, flexible, and scalable IT resources over a network at any point in time. But in reality, using the cloud effectively is very much about knowing the outer limits of what is actually available. Servers can, in fact, run out of horsepower; computing power is not unlimited; cloud resources can go offline for periods of time. It is essential that you determine how much total computing power and storage you will need and confirm that your vendor can meet those needs.
- What is the network response time?
When evaluating cloud vendors, make sure you test the network environment not only at the businesses’ office but also for remote employees located farther from the data center. You need to know what your users’ performance expectations are and then identify a vendor that can meet your specific response time threshold.
- Where exactly will your data reside?
The physical location of your cloud data is especially important for businesses that must adhere to certain industry regulations, such as the retention, privacy, and security requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). It’s essential for a cloud provider to identify the geographic region where the data centers will be hosting your information.
It’s also important to ask how a data center is physically protected from natural disasters, including fires, floods, earthquakes, and storms, and what disaster recovery plans are in place. It’s critical for businesses to take a vested interest in staying up to date on industry regulations because regardless of how often they seem to change, it’s the businesses’ responsibility to maintain compliance.
- What is your cloud vendor’s customer support model?
Some vendors have an on-site knowledge base while others have phone-based support. Find out what model you’re offered, what hours are available for that support, and if the support team is outsourced to another country. Speaking the same language as your customer support agent will help reduce time spent on resolving an issue and allow you to focus on your day-to-day operations.
- Will you need to employ the help of an expert?
Migrating to the cloud can be a very cumbersome process, so an effective cloud provider needs to help ease the transition. It’s important for businesses to identify the key stakeholders who need to be involved before taking any actions.
Put a game plan in place far in advance so you don’t need to backpedal from a premature transition.
- What VPN capabilities does your cloud vendor offer?
To establish secure communications and data privacy between the cloud environment, internal servers, and endpoint users, be sure to ask if your cloud provider offers site-to-site Virtual Private Network (VPN) access or individual computer VPN access. Site-to-site VPNs connect entire networks to each other — for example, connecting a branch office network to a company headquarters network. Individual computer VPNs connect individual hosts to private networks — for example, travelers and teleworkers who need to access their company’s network securely over the Internet.
Asking these key questions before moving ahead with a cloud migration will help make the process a more seamless one, with minimal business interruption, that maximizes the benefits and avoids common pitfalls.
Scott Graham is the senior drector of IT and Operations at Intronis.