Cloud computing can make certain things easier for companies and IT departments. But moving to the cloud is a big undertaking, with a lot of potential for disaster, as Neil Campke describes in this guest post.
Businesses of all sizes are deciding to leverage the scalability and affordability of the cloud, even if not everyone making those decisions understands what the term “cloud computing” means. Small companies, for example, may use a patchwork of small cloud applications like Dropbox, FreshBooks or HootSuite without realizing that they are already leveraging cloud services.
On the other hand, enterprises often choose a major infrastructure provider, such as VMware, to build a private cloud.
This post focuses on enterprise migration, but it also includes some tips for small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) that want a piecemeal approach. Here are the areas to focus on for a successful cloud migration:
The right providers
A successful enterprise cloud migration begins with the right cloud service provider (CSP). The right CSP for your organization:
- Offers the services that you need. Your needs can range from simple applications and document sharing to application hosting and big data. Whatever your business requires, your CSP should provide it.
- Lets you pay for what you use. Often, a utility pricing philosophy is the best value for a business. In other words, just as you pay for electricity based on usage, you should pay your CSP based on usage.
- Delivers easy access. You should be able to check your business information using any device at any time by signing into your provider’s login page.
- Minimizes downtime. Most service-level agreements spell out the vendor’s uptime guarantees. Ask the vendor to provide a downtime history log.
- Provides technical support. In today’s world, 24/7 support is a given. In addition to availability, find out whether you’ll talk to a customer service rep or to an actual technician. Also, ask about average response and resolution times.
- Scales to your needs. Your goal is business growth, so your CSP should be able to offer extra storage capacity, additional services and space for additional users as you expand.
- Prioritizes security. A data breach of any kind, whether through a network breach or a physical security breach, can be disastrous for your company. Ask for a rigorous explanation of the provider’s security protocols. One good sign is SSAE 16 certification, which means that the data center meets standards related to physical security, redundancy, privacy and customer access.
The right order of operations
Another key to a successful cloud migration is to transition the right elements in the right order. Enterprises should consider hiring a service to assist with the migration and deployment processes. In addition to migrating data, companies of all sizes can focus on the following migration priorities:
- Websites. Many companies host their websites off-site and find that the improved performance and reliability is worth the investment.
- Test environments. If your company tests software online, then test environments fit naturally in the virtual infrastructure.
- E-mail. When a small business uses Gmail, they login to their web account. They receive and store messages online. Gmail and other e-mail providers are essentially cloud applications. If you need to move enterprise e-mail into the cloud, you might like Zimbra, which combines enterprise e-mail with calendar and UC solutions for collaboration using any device.
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications. Today’s cloud CRM solutions provide a strong user experience. Many cloud CRM applications work in the VMware environment, including Microsoft CRM and SugarCRM. You can also choose the VMforce cloud, which combines the power of VMware with Salesforce.com.
- Collaboration. Simple cloud solutions like Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps are good cloud collaboration environments for small businesses. Enterprises or small and medium-sized businesses dealing with large files, such as Adobe files, should opt for something more robust. Zimbra, the aforementioned email solution, contains many collaboration tools. Your company could also move to an enterprise social platform like Socialcast.
The right security solution
In the earlier point about choosing the right provider, we discussed the importance of evaluating the security of your datacenter, but high-value information assets deserve additional consideration. For the most sensitive data and intellectual property, ask your CSP about specialized data protection security services.
About the author: Neil Campke is an IT specialist who writes for a wide range of business and technology publications. He recommends SafeNet Cloud Security products for world-class data protection.