Key considerations – in detail
Aligning IT to business goals
While cloud computing may seem like an IT decision, it should be a business decision. Before moving to the cloud it is vital to think ‘why?’. What is the aim of migrating to the cloud, or what are the intended benefits that your organisation hope to gain? Moving to the cloud opens up new markets, opportunities, and can radically change how your organisation operates. Because of this intrinsic link to business strategy, you should involve other departments and make the shift to the cloud a company-wide initiative rather than simply an IT initiative. By aligning IT to business goals, your organisation can better reap the benefits of the cloud whilst also highlighting the vital importance of IT and digital transformation to business growth.
Choosing the right approach
Moving to the cloud can be complex. This could be due to legacy infrastructure, regulations, existing complexities and more, which is where there is no one size fits all approach. Some workloads can be immediately migrated to the cloud ‘as is’, while others may require extensive work to become cloud-ready. Organisations also need to consider their desired end state and consider how they can achieve this – this may be weighing up whether to heavily re-architect an existing system, or reviewing the benefit of replacing the solution with a cloud-native application. These changes can have major implications, so it worth carefully considering your cloud strategy.
We recommend adopting a phased hybrid approach; starting with the elements that are simple to migrate so you can see immediate value and phasing more complex workloads to give sufficient time for planning. Remember that you can run migrations in parallel and iteratively review your strategy – but don’t be afraid to take this opportunity to transform before migrating. You do not need to default to a ‘lift and shift’ approach, so it is worth considering how workloads could be transformed to better take advantage of the benefits of the cloud.
One key reason that holds organisations back from cloud migration is legacy infrastructure and systems (sometimes known as “technical debt”). Typically, this is due the technical setup of key line of business applications that your organisation heavily depends upon, which are not ‘cloud-ready’. While some apps can be re-architected – or even replaced by a SaaS solution – legacy systems often have complex setups with heavy integrations and built-in dependencies. For these systems you will need much longer to plan and prepare – however it is a likely question of ‘when’ they will move to the cloud rather than ‘if’.
New mindset and skills
Moving to the cloud isn’t just a technical change, it’s also a cultural change and benefits from having a new mindset. You need to start thinking about how you and your team will adapt to a cloud-first approach and make sure that you have the right skills to do this.
Adopting a cloud-first approach means defaulting to cloud-based solutions and this also requires a mental shift to orient your processes to consumption rather than capacity. The agility of the cloud means that organisations can quickly disrupt industries, so it’s no longer a case of the large enterprises outcompeting the small organisations, but now the fast organisations outpacing the slow. Those that can rapidly evolve, modernise and delight customers will excel – and to do this, you will need cloud services.
Security in the cloud
Traditional perimeter security models are no longer possible in a cloud-first world with increasing mobility and the disappearing perimeter. Cloud computing unlocks powerful possibilities with flexible and modern working, which means that your security needs to evolve to be just as agile and flexible. The recommended approach is Zero Trust which secures people, devices, networks and data – wherever they are – by following the rule of ‘never trust, always verify’. This means every access request is automatically verified before granting access. Moving to a Zero Trust model is not an overnight exercise but by aligning your security and cloud roadmap, you can ensure the security is built into your cloud migration and gives your organisation the protection it needs.
As organisations hold an increasing amount of sensitive personal data, there are rising regulations that organisations must adhere to protect the data they hold. When moving to the cloud you need to carefully consider where your data will reside and what regulations you must adhere to. For example, UK organisations must adhere to GDPR, which stipulates that personal data must be retained in Europe and not transferred out of it.
Luckily, as cloud computing is so widespread, key cloud players have ensured that their data centres are built across the world to allow organisations to keep their data within their countries/regions. Microsoft for example, have two UK data centres so that organisations can ensure their data remains in the UK – even if using geo-redundancy to another location.
Governance and change management
Cloud computing opens up new possibilities to organisations that allow them to be agile, however you need to have a strong cloud governance framework in place to balance ongoing cloud transformation with control and change management. Departments can rapidly spin up new services in the cloud or make changes to existing systems, but without the right governance controls in place you could quickly find increasing risks, rising operational costs and a lack of visibility and control. By establishing a clear governance framework – a set of rules, policies and best practices – you can balance control and ongoing management with agility. Microsoft have a wealth of resources on Azure Governance that we would recommend looking at for a starting point.
Migrating to the cloud is the first step – afterwards you need to consider ongoing management and support. Do you have the right skills, resources, and time to manage your cloud environment? You may want to consider whether this can be managed internally, or whether it could be outsourced?
Many organisations do not have the skillsets or desire to manage their cloud estate. Attracting and maintaining an inhouse team of cloud consultants with the suitable underlying processes and technologies can be uneconomical for organisations. Alternatively, those with inhouse specialists have quickly realised the value in having their teams focusing on long-term strategic goals and innovations rather than the day-to-day running and management of their IT operations. In these instances, outsourcing cloud managed services can be a more attractive offer.
The benefit of the cloud model is that organisations move from a CapEx model to an OpEx model. This means that you remove excessive upfront costs and capital investment that is often over-compensated to ensure you have sufficient resources for the next few years. Instead you only pay for what you use. The is a great benefit – but this cost model is very different, and organisations need to be sure they have the visibility, forecasting and understanding of how their costs will change after migrating to the cloud. You need to consider how cloud spending will be managed and also consider optimisation to assess your costs and are not overpaying due to inefficiencies. If you are considering outsourcing your cloud management it can be worth finding out is there is a cost optimisation service included, or if not, considering how you will monitor this internally.
With the rapid pace of change in the cloud industry, you need to continually review and optimise your cloud services to gain the greatest value. The continuous technological evolution and the complexity of the cloud can mean that organisations fall behind on new improvements and features that could optimise their operations. Whether you have regular reviews as part of your wider IT and cloud strategy, embedding a sense of continuous improvement and an agile culture has great benefits. Those that can take advantage of the latest enhancements and quickly adapt to changes will thrive in the cloud-first world.