Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Things you should consider Before moving to the Cloud

The Cloud buzz has dramatically increased as of recent, with enterprises now taking a serious look at what the cloud has to offer, but the true focus for cloud services is still honed on the small and medium business to move more and more of their processes to the cloud. However, as with all new technologies, there are some important things to consider before taking the cloud leap.

Understand the difference between private, public and hybrid clouds. Cloud comes in several flavors, so make sure you understand the differences. Going with a large public cloud may be a very affordable solution for some of your needs, but it may not be the best for your company’s data or security. Private cloud providers are often higher in price, but are often focused on industries, and offer a higher quality of customer service. These cloud providers will be able to answer some of the harder questions you may have with moving your processes into the cloud. They will also most likely think of things you haven't considered. Hybrid cloud providers can often offer the best of both worlds, by keeping your critical data local and in a private datacenter, while pushing your non-sensitive data to the more affordable public clouds. They all have their places in the community; you just need to know which ones are best for your needs.

Know your security requirements! This can't be said enough. Moving your company’s data into a cloud is often a more secure transition than how you have things today, but it doesn't mean you are without risk. Again consider the difference in what type of cloud you want to move into, and how you will access it. Most of the cloud security issues I see today are more in line with mixing cloud services from multiple vendors and ending up with a spaghetti of cloud services that are only secured while inside of their environments. Many people also forget that while a vendor like Amazon and Google are huge players in the public cloud, they are also a big target for criminal intent and showing up on everyone’s radar. When considering security for the cloud, make sure your technical staff gets with your vendors and understands how their requirements to stay compliant and secure. This will help you decide what needs to move into the cloud and perhaps what kind of cloud technology to move it to.

Make sure your cloud provider has a robust Disaster Recovery Plan. It may seem like a no brainer, but make sure your cloud provider has a sound, proven backup strategy in place. This should be a BIG topic for any cloud provider and the platform should be built on battle tested established technologies. Recovery of files, databases, emails, and entire systems should all be options. The higher end solutions should include High Availability in the event of equipment failure, and instant failover options for your data when equipment fails. Luckily most cloud providers have these technologies in place and are more than willing to brag about them. If they don’t the turn and quick run away!

Know your customer service needs before you talk with Service Providers! While a provider may not be able to provide 24/7 support for all things, evaluate what your absolute customer service needs are and present them to the provider before making any decisions. All solid providers will have a Service Level Agreement (SLA) that outlines their response to issues and how they are addressed. Ask for a copy of this before spending too much time with a company that can't meet your needs. Again a provider dedicated to your business model will most likely have anticipated this.

Do your homework!
It is not hard to find the right cloud solution; it just takes time and some basic education.
·        Remember to understand your cloud options and the strong vs. weaker points.
·        Take your time and evaluate what you want to move to the cloud.
·        Talk with your vendors and get their feedback on how their products and services have performed in cloud environments.
·        Know your security and SLA needs before you talk with cloud providers. This will help you quickly decide if they are the right fit for you.
·        Discover and research your providers. In many cases it makes since to keep the same provider for most if not all of your services, but this isn't always the case.

If cloud computing is too much of a task for you then find a cloud consultant to support you with the proper guidance and choices. This can often lead to a much smoother transition and sounder choice in the end.

If you need more help with your cloud strategies and guidance feel free to reach out. I'm always looking for ways to help the SMB community with solid technology decisions!

Sean Riggs

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