The cloud has dominated news cycles for so long that it can be overwhelming for businesses considering a cloud migration to get their bearings. Rather than immediately diving into complex and specific cloud decisions that are best reserved for deeper in the process, it’s necessary to first consider if cloud computing is even right for your organization. To determine that, ask yourself the following five foundational questions.
It all begins with the simplest of questions. Countless articles will tout cloud migration benefits, but it’s necessary to consider how your organization currently operates, houses data, runs programs, secures applications, and more. What do you anticipate improving if you were to move to the cloud?
With 76% of small business cloud users reporting reduced costs, money is often the top catalyst for a move to the cloud. Keeping everything in-house is expensive. You have infrastructure, hardware, and personnel costs to consider, and that’s assuming your business can even handle a high level of data processing or traffic spikes that may come at certain times of the year. The cloud offers the ability to scale up or down as necessary which means money isn’t unnecessarily spent, and the reduction of physical power consumption helps save even more.
While some argue keeping everything in-house maintains the highest level of security, what happens in the event of a fire or natural disaster? At its most basic, a cloud can serve as a backup for data storage. Plus, 83% of IT professionals are already storing sensitive data in the cloud, indicating higher levels of trust and security than ever before. Cloud providers also manage the patching and updating of client environments, improving security without further effort on your part.
When it comes to running applications or accessing information quickly and from different geographic areas, the cloud makes a huge difference for companies. Employees who work from home or in separate offices can quickly and conveniently get their jobs done through the cloud rather than trying to connect to a solitary server room in the basement of the company’s offices. Most clouds offer superb integrations with existing data warehouses, ETL tools, and other company software programs.
“The cloud” might paint the picture of a singular option, but there are many different classifications of clouds to think about:
Public cloud: As the traditional and straightforward option, the public cloud is what most people think of first. Choose a provider and they’ll store your data, run your applications, and provide a number of other proprietary services.
Private cloud: This option is attractive in that it’s completely customized and dedicated solely to your business. However, the costs to create and maintain your own cloud outweigh the benefits when modern public cloud capabilities are so high and secure. Only 15% of enterprises don’t use a public cloud, and those who choose private ones typically do so for regulatory or industry compliance reasons.
Multi cloud: It may come as a surprise, but 84% of organizations use a multi-cloud strategy. That means they are using more than one cloud service/setup at the same time (i.e. using both AWS and Azure, or using a hybrid cloud). While this may be more feasible for larger organizations with different departments and moving parts, it’s something to consider depending on how you segment your operations.
Hybrid cloud: Of the 84% of businesses with a multi-cloud strategy, over half use a hybrid cloud made up of public and private offerings. Rather than put all your eggs in one basket, this strategy can take advantage of the on-demand features of public clouds with the customization and control of private ones. This mentality avoids a single point of failure, but still likely has extra cost associated with it.
Many make the mistake of starting with this question, and while it’s important to understand what’s available in the market, there’s no reason to stress out on choosing your cloud provider too early in the process. The good news is that as you consider the other questions on this list and think about your operations, some providers will naturally rise to the top of your list.
While there are many factors to consider, think about your current data analysis for an example. If you’re currently in the Microsoft family when it comes to data processing, reporting, or ETL tools, then Microsoft Azure will probably feel like the natural cloud tool for your company. With that in mind, let’s take a glance at the main cloud players in the market and see what everyone else out there is using:
AWS: Amazon Web Services (AWS) dominates the field as the most popular cloud option, with 77% of companies who use a cloud currently utilizing or experimenting with the service. Constantly improving its ecosystem and offerings, it’s an option favored by developers. Plus, the largest digital bank in America, Capital One, provides a nod of confidence by relying on AWS to run their AI initiatives.
Azure: Microsoft maintains a hold on the number two spot with 52% of companies currently using their cloud service. With a huge array of related offerings, Microsoft provides an attractive option and familiarity for those who engage with other services of theirs. Furthermore, Azure especially excels in working with data centers.
Google Cloud Platform: 20% of companies are using Google’s cloud offering, and while that puts the service in third place, it’s one that is growing rapidly and seeing large investment. As Google begins to package the offering with its other services, expect to see it become more prevalent and a viable option for many.
IBM, Oracle, VMware, and Alibaba: While an exhaustive cloud list is unrealistic to compile, there are offerings outside of the big three worth mentioning. They may be used less frequently than others, but these services still have vast numbers of customers. As you consider some of the “smaller” players, you’ll find that many are grounded in a specialty or niche. For example, IBM prides itself on multi-cloud tools and being a great option to base hybrid models around.
Let’s say you’ve thought it through and are ready to migrate to the cloud. Before signing on the dotted line, it’s essential to consider your security practices. In fact, research proves that security concerns are the #1 barrier to cloud adoption. No matter what advertisements tell you, switching to the cloud is never a “plug and play” situation when it comes to security. Clouds require constant monitoring, and that means IT professionals who can spot weaknesses, backdoors, and breaches before they turn into full-blown cyberattacks.
Public cloud providers do their best to alleviate security concerns by monitoring their networks and providing patches often. However, every member of your organization will play a vital role in maintaining cloud security. Employees must be educated on cloud best practices so they’re not jeopardizing the integrity of your cloud environment. Downloading or uploading corrupted files, accessing the cloud from an unsecured home network or personal device, and using poor passwords (or not using one at all) all can have dire consequences for cloud security.
This is ultimately the question that can make or break plans to migrate to the cloud. Without the right experts in your corner, whether they are in-house, temporary, or provided by another company, there simply isn’t the potential for long-term cloud success. Of course, finding the right cloud professionals isn’t easy considering the IT job growth rate at its lowest in nine years due to a lack of IT pros.
The IT skills gap is clear in Portland and across the country, but in niches like cloud and security, it’s even more distinct. Nearly three-fourths of organizations plan to spend more on security to help potential cloud operations, but that requires hiring. In the face of a new talent economy, organizations like yours experience a new hiring reality that requires determining the right mix of talent and outside services to accomplish initiatives like cloud migrations.
Moving to the cloud can bring many benefits with it, but getting to that point can be a challenge. It takes due diligence by conducting research and, at a minimum, asking yourself the above five questions. Only then can you be truly confident that a cloud environment is right for your business.