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What is an effective cloud strategy and how to develop one?

Understand your needs and your infrastructure

Essentially a cloud strategy is how cloud services are used to better deliver on business goals and business objectives. The agility and scalability of the cloud is one of its biggest attractions, with a host of solutions designed for organisations and enterprises of all sizes. Choice is not going to be an issue, but choosing the right solution, and understanding the pros and cons of cloud migration in general, as we outlined in this article, is worth investigating thoroughly. The most important aspects of beginning to develop a cloud strategy are analysing your current capabilities, measuring how your business objectives can benefit from the capabilities of the cloud and, perhaps most importantly, also measuring if you have the key skills in your organisation to realise your cloud strategy, and if not, what skills you may need to hire in and what effect that may have on the cost efficiency of your cloud strategy.

In addition to the human cost, you’ll need to evaluate the IT costs of your cloud strategy. If you’re a small to medium business you may already have a good understanding of your existing network, hardware and software resources and how they’re operated. At all stages, you need to evaluate how your systems will work on the cloud, whether they’re compatible with it, or what level of reconfiguration is needed. This is a step you can outsource, but it is not a step you can skip if your strategy is to succeed.

Identify key objectives

The main reason for cloud migration is efficiency, the movement of previously large and static services and systems from a physical environment to a virtual one where they will deliver enhanced results for the business, increase operational efficiency and make your business services more flexible and scalable. At the end of the day, your strategy needs to make sure it is delivering better results and services for your business and allowing you to innovate when it comes to delivering those services. Is it making things faster and more accessible for new and existing customers, can you save costs for both your business and perhaps your customers?

With these questions in mind, you can prioritse which elements to first migrate to the cloud. Which applications do you want to run in the cloud? If they’re customer-facing you need to be sure you have tested, tested, and re-tested how they operate in a cloud environment. Remember, you do not have to move all your services to a cloud environment. If you have storage services or data backups on in-house infrastructure that provide a secure and stable service, it may make more sense to keep such services on-site.

You also need to know what is the best cloud-based environment for your assets, will it be a public cloud, private cloud, or a custom cloud environment, or will it be a hybrid approach? As we outlined in our previous article on cloud migration, they all come with their own cost and accessibility factors, so make sure you’re making the right choice and discussing the options with your cloud services provider and your IT department or specialists.

Privacy and security concerns

A cloud strategy involves moving often sensitive data from one environment to another, and there are always inherent security risks of some type. Your cloud strategy needs to satisfy the security requirements of the information you are storing, and also ensure that there is compliance with legal obligations. A data breach can be damaging for your business operations and your reputation, as we explored in this article. Make sure you, or whoever is managing and responsible for your cloud strategy, is well aware of all levels of encryption methods, multi-factor authentication and password protection. Security concerns need to be first and foremost when it comes to an effective cloud strategy. When it comes to legal requirements, make sure you’re aware of what the data requirements are in your jurisdiction, or the jurisdiction where your data is stored, as they may be very different.

Rollout

The implementation of your cloud strategy is of course not just flicking a switch, it’s a process and like any process it needs to have a plan, a roadmap, and milestones in terms of delivery. Like any major project your business undertakes, it needs to have the input of all stakeholders, not just those on the IT side. How will the cloud migration strategy benefit or impact those who work directly with customers, do they have all the information they need in order to provide clear updates to customers? You need to have a realistic timeline of how long this process will take and the various steps involved. It’s very important that it is not rushed. But also it needs to be done cohesively and in a manner which doesn’t slow down your business operations. While cloud migration enhances efficiency, it also means adopting a new range of services which will also need support, is that support in-house or outsourced? Is the cost of that sustainable as your strategy develops? Defining how an effective cloud strategy can help you achieve your business goals will assist you in choosing where investment and resources should be focused and why. This will help you articulate your vision for where the cloud, and technology such as AI, can take your business. But it needs to be done strategically, not just because it is increasingly common, even if that is the case it still needs to be right for your business. Feasibility, not following a fashion, is key. As the founder of Oracle, Larry Ellison, said; “The computer industry is the only industry that’s more fashion-driven than women’s fashion.”

For expertise and information on the best cloud strategy services, practices and resources for your business, get in touch with us at IT Experts Europe.