These days, it’s difficult for a business to stay competitive without migrating to the cloud. Cloud computing means a faster network, more efficient sites and software, and more productive employees, since your data is available whenever you need it. Integrating with the cloud also allows your company to be more flexible. Rather than anticipating your server and networking needs five years from now, you can scale up or down according to your business demands, without purchasing hardware you may or may not ever use. There’s also an additional labor cost savings, since you’re able to pass off some of the routine work of maintaining your servers and networks to your cloud provider, freeing up your IT staff for more valuable work.
Migrating your operations and networks to the cloud is a huge decision, however — one that requires careful planning, finesse and timing. Introducing a cloud network may totally change how you do business, especially where you dedicate IT resources and how you express security and recovery policies. That means a monumental shift in thinking, and it all starts when you begin your initial cloud network planning. To help, we’ve come up with a checklist of six high-priority considerations you’ll need to weigh before implementing cloud computing.
How Far Will Your Cloud Network Extend?
It may seem counter-intuitive to discuss in an article called “Six Considerations for Your Cloud Network,” but one of the most important things you’ll need to consider from the very start is what you don’t want to store in the cloud.
In cloud computing, the risk of malicious attacks is elevated. Additionally, you may have less control over your secure data or assets. That could cost you, from a legal standpoint — and it might even jeopardize your reputation. Although security policies have improved enormously since the cloud was first introduced, some companies still find that the risks outweigh the benefits. That means an integral part of your migration planning should be deciding what parts of your operation you’ll move — and which pieces might be better left in a traditional data center.
For some, the solution is to keep mission-critical applications and services contained to an on-premise or hosted network. Other companies choose to store important financial data, like customer’s credit card numbers, on premise, since they’ll have much more control over it there. As you begin to develop a migration strategy, it’s helpful to segment your business operations into the pieces that can be moved to the cloud and those (if any) that will stay behind.
What Will Your Migration Plan Look Like?
A poorly planned cloud migration can result in a number of networking snafus — everything from service interruptions to device conflicts to network outages. And these interruptions can set off a nasty chain of events: lower customer satisfaction, lost business, poor employee morale and unsaved data are some of the unintended consequences that can spring from mismanaged cloud migrations.
Because of this, your transition must be precisely planned to minimize disruption to your network. User accounts and permissions may need to be updated. Applications or services may need to be updated with new device IP addresses in order to recognize necessary hardware. Surveillance systems and VoIP phone systems may be impacted, as well as locally hosted programs. Your team should develop a cloud migration strategy that attempts to mitigate potential disruptions — and implement a plan to handle the fallout if issues do occur after migration. At Taylored, one of the benefits we offer is our broad experience helping customers plan finely tuned migrations and pinpoint areas of concern, identifying potential issues well before they become a problem.
How Will It Affect Your IT Security, Metrics, Goals and Policies?
One area that tends to throw businesses when they move over to the cloud is how much they are now reliant on their providers for IT basics, such as security, upgrades and monitoring. On one hand, this frees up resources to focus on new value-add objectives. Your internal IT team no longer has to worry about many of the basic operational tasks that are part and parcel with an on-premise data center. Site inspections, monitoring and facility maintenance are now a thing of the past.
On the other hand, relying on your cloud provider to provide performance reports and access to metrics may change some of your key performance indicators. And your network security now rests mainly in the hands of your provider as well, since your team may no longer have direct access to information like packets, flows, and device behavior and other indicators that can be used to diagnose security and performance concerns. That may change your approach to high-priority issues and new integrations in the future. Your provider should be an integral part of these conversations now — which is why it pays to find a provider you trust, who views your company as a valuable partner.
How Will You Address New Network Security and Privacy Concerns?
As you’ve no doubt already gleaned, cloud migration introduces new potential risks to already vulnerable networks. A big part of your project planning will be deciding what level of security you need each step of the way. Keep in mind that there are often tradeoffs in performance when you increase security. For instance, encrypting data protects the information stored there but may slow overall access rates. Drilling down into security requirements means deciding which parts of your stored data your business needs on demand, and which parts are better off behind the highest security.
Additionally, because you’re dependent on your provider for performance reports, you may not have as much direct access to the kind of analytics you previously used to gauge network security. Before you begin migrating, make sure to get clear on the security procedures and protections your provider uses to secure data. At a base level, these should include user authentication, backup and restoration policies, firewall, and regular inspections.
Review your contract and tease out what your provider is obligated to provide — and what they expect you to manage on your end. In the event that you do ever experience a cyberattack or data breach, you’ll have a clearer idea of how to troubleshoot, and it will be easier to determine who is responsible for what.
How Much Will It Cost?
No major project is complete without a clear-cut cost analysis. In general, businesses find that they save money when they successfully migrate — the high efficiency rate of the cloud frees up resources they might previously have dedicated to server maintenance and upkeep. This means you’ll have the opportunity to relocate IT budgets, redirecting your finances to more valuable projects. For instance, in their roundup of cloud computing predictions, Forbes anticipated that cloud spending will grow at six times the rate of IT spending through 2020. Those cost shakeups will definitely affect your budget.
But migration isn’t the right move for every business, financially speaking. The best way to begin assessing whether it’s right for yours is with a thorough review of your current IT infrastructure costs. In this audit, analyze not only the direct costs — the equipment, labor costs, licensing and warranties — but also those that are more indirect, such as employee productivity or end user satisfaction. Usually these are measured by examining server logs to see how frequently servers and networks were down in the last year, and the average length of that downtime. Performing a full-scale assessment can often clear up questions about the true value of migrating to the cloud and whether or not it’s right for your business at the time.
How Will It Help You in the Future?
One last consideration to weigh as you begin to contemplate a cloud network is how much you expect your network, needs and services to grow in the next five years. Cloud computing is a rapidly evolving space that may look vastly different in five, 10 or 20 years. A key area to look out for are developments in network security, which is a growing concern for the industry and likely to dominate its attention for some time.
Keep this potential growth in mind as you consider deployment models, particularly as you decide whether you’ll opt for a public, private or hybrid cloud. In several years, your site traffic, device needs or security requirements could completely change or evolve into something entirely different. That’s the primary reason it makes sense to move over to the cloud in the first place: It’s a more flexible infrastructure that can grow as you do. And that’s exactly what networking should be: a path into your company’s future.