Migrating successfully to the cloud

Thinking about moving your company’s IT systems/applications from on-premises to a cloud-based solution but not yet made the move. If so, then here are twelve pointers to help you achieve a successful migration.

  • Create a cloud migration strategy: Plan for your move to the cloud by developing a strategy which, ideally, enables you to do so with minimal disruption to your business. Part of this will be ensuring that each aspect of the move is correctly deployed before getting too far along in the process.
  • Consider a hybrid approach: A hybrid approach delivers the benefits of the cloud where it can be achieved, whilst recognising that on-premises might be right for those applications that, for operational or financial reasons, aren’t quite ready for the cloud. So, start by looking for potential applications that could be moved to the cloud - it often makes sense to identify lower-risk, higher-reward areas for initial deployments so you can build experience as you go.
  • Choose the right cloud service provider: It’s important that any provider you go with is experienced and reliable, provides a high level of support and fits with your business needs. As part of this you should have a clear understanding of the cloud models that are available to you: Software as a Service (SaaS) offering ready-made online applications and software suites; Platform as a Service (PaaS) providing online tools and components for developing bespoke applications; and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offering computing resources such as virtual servers and data storage.
  • Be clear about the cost benefits: As part of putting together a business case for your proposed move to the cloud you will need to have a clear understanding of the charging mechanisms employed by your potential cloud vendor, along with all the associated costs you are likely to incur as a result of the move, including maintenance, upgrades and data migration.
  • Get the connectivity right: To be able to work effectively ‘in the cloud’ your business will need a fast internet connection. Cloud computing works most effectively when you can upload data to the provider’s servers as fast as you can download from them. Under-investing in broadband connectivity, or not ensuring that the connection is resilient, are significant causes for concern in any cloud migration.
  • Take account of any integration requirements: You should ensure that, where appropriate, the new cloud-based solution can integrate with any internal systems you may continue to run, in addition to other cloud solutions you are likely to use in the future. For example, digital dictation and speech to text solutions are increasingly required to integrate with workflow and document management software in order to effectively streamline the entire document production process.
  • Think about scalability: Any cloud solution should offer flexibility and scalability when it comes to meeting your future business requirements. As part of this you might consider seasonal trends or any other activity that will have a significant impact on your levels of usage and the associated traffic and establish if your proposed solution is capable of handling these.
  • Consider your sustainability goals: Do you have sustainable goals that you are seeking to achieve, such as doing business without negatively impacting the environment or society as a whole? If so, then bear in mind that an increasing number of cloud providers are releasing detailed information on how their solution is eco-friendly and can help businesses reduce their carbon footprint.
  • Establish data ownership: Remember that you are responsible for both your clients’ and your own confidential data (and this is particularly the case in the legal and financial sectors) so you need to know where it stored and that it is safe. You should establish what level of responsibility the service provider takes for any data loss, together with the data processing rules and jurisdiction that will apply dependent upon where the provider’s servers are located.
  • Ensure an appropriate service level agreement (SLA): When entering into an agreement with a cloud service provider you must either accept a standard service level agreement (SLA) or seek to agree variances to this. The SLA will manage expectations by confirming what level and types of support your provider will offer and what financial compensation they will give you if their service becomes unavailable.
  • Don’t forget about security and business continuity: You will be storing critical business data in the cloud, so check that any potential provider is able to offer the many levels of security required within a cloud environment, including encryption, access privileges and intrusion prevention systems. Think also about business continuity - in the event of service downtime, a security breach or loss of data, how will your business continue to operate? What back-up systems do you have in place? What service availability guarantees can the provider give?
  • Establish your exit strategy: And finally… bear in mind, as in all business relationships, that things can and do go wrong which may lead to a parting of the ways. So, it is important to determine upfront how you will get your data back from a third party provider should you wish to leave, or the provider goes out of business. It will help to avoid vendor lock-in by establishing how much this will cost and how long it could take to resolve.

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