You may remember back when we used computers on campus, all our work was stored in a centralized location. We shared applications that were stored, well, somewhere. There was very little that the machines we were using did. We logged on and worked on data that was somewhere else. Life was good. We just needed access to the terminals. Ah, the mainframe.
Today, what has changed? We are now using our devices, all our devices and appliances for that matter, to connect to applications and data that are stored, well, somewhere else. Today we call that the cloud.
As a matter of fact, more and more of what we do is in the cloud. The cloud provides so many advantages, including reduced cost for hardware, licensing and storage. It is no wonder that many businesses have moved or are moving IT operations to the cloud, either completely or in part. Exciting right? Cloud providers promise vast solutions, making on-premise IT solutions seem out of date and weak. So, what does the IT team do when administration gives the word, “Take us to the cloud, Mr. Sulu”?
How to Choose a Cloud Vendor
The IT manager has a choice:
1. Call Amazon, Google, Microsoft, IBM or any of the other solution providers and prepare to write a big check.
2. Roll up the sleeves and start asking some serious questions, researching and planning. This will require time, resources, investment and a very serious look at how the business functions.
When choosing option 2, the first question would be, “Why?” That seems like an obvious or over-simplified question to ask administration, basically on the verge of insubordination. But actually, it is spot on.
What are we as an organization looking to gain from the cloud? List out the benefits the company will gain, then begin looking at the drawbacks. At first, it is quick to observe that moving to the cloud means savings that outweigh any possible disadvantage.
But upon further investigation, the analytical IT manager sees otherwise. There are many factors that could cause issue for the organization:
- Vendor contracts
- Control of cloud services
This IT manager will begin to seriously look at what solutions are offered by the cloud provider and compare to what the organization is currently doing.
They will ask questions like the following:
- How much will software licensing cost versus my desktop licenses over the long run?
- What is the cost for processing resources?
- What if I go over my limit?
- How do I manage user access?
- Is there a charge for adding users?
Cybersecurity and Cloud Computing
The cloud is essentially nothing more than a network of computers across the internet. We can access our data from anywhere we have connectivity. But what is connected is vulnerable.
Cloud service providers have made great strides in recent years to improve infrastructure security. However, the headlines show large data breaches from across all industry sectors, including those you would think are highly secure, suggesting there is still a lot of work to be done in securing cloud-based data.
Who is ultimately responsible for securing data? It is possible that moving to a cloud service provider may improve data security for some organizations. This must be taken into consideration along with access permissions to data stored on the cloud.
Managing access control for cloud-based data is an important function. As seen in the headlines, disgruntled employees have released sensitive information. The IT manager also needs to be aware of who has control of this process. They need to know if they will be able to modify access control or whether that is a function of the cloud service provider.
Transferring Data to the Cloud
You also need to consider what types of applications you’ll be using and how they’ll be handled by the cloud service provider. For example, moving from an off-the-shelf application like Microsoft Office, to Office 365 may make sense. The IT administrator will compare the advantages of keeping desktop licenses versus paying annual fees for the cloud-based version.
But what if you’re using customized solutions for your small business? Now you must investigate how they will work when moved to the cloud. You’ll need to know how much it will cost to customize the applications to work with the cloud service provide, what happens if you need to change to a new service provider and if the data format be easily transferred. What about data transfer costs associated with downloading large amounts of data from your provider?
Preparing for Downtime with Cloud Computing
There is nothing more aggravating then trying to access data from your cloud provider only to receive a message that the service is currently unavailable and to try again later. Many cloud service providers will advertise their uptime status and provide various types of reliability guarantees. However, what if there is an issue not with your cloud service provider, but with your internet service provider? Can your organization function offline? Having a plan for such times will be crucial for being able to function during a down time with consideration for how data will be synced once connectivity is reinstated.
Yes, cloud service providers are numerous and competitive. The cloud can offer benefits to growing a business, no matter the size of the organization. However, there are drawbacks, and it is possible that migrating to the cloud might not be the best solution for a business.
The IT manager and the business administration need to have a full understanding of the benefits and drawbacks to the migration. Develop a migration plan of action and communicate it to the cloud service provider to make sure the contract specifies the needs of your business.
Thinking of migrating to the cloud? Follow both paths. Analyze your options and then go for the one that best meets your needs.
Want to learn more about cloud migration planning? Join CompTIA Instructor Network members Lee McWhorter (@tleemcjr) and Stephen Schneiter (@saschneiter) for their session, SpiceHeads, Stick Your Head in the Clouds with Cloud Administration at SpiceWorld on September 25 at 9:30 a.m.