The case for migrating your business to the cloud is enormous: much lower capital expenses, better service availability, and practically limitless scalability, just to name a few. But it also presents a substantial departure from the old ways of working, and not every business is ready for this new distributed computing model. While the cloud should undoubtedly be a core part of your digital transformation, moving to the cloud requires careful planning and strategy.
Here are seven things to consider before making the move:
#1. Computing workloads
Most business computing workloads are perfectly suited to the cloud. In fact, many mission-critical processes, such as accounting and customer relationship management (CRM), are now handled almost exclusively by cloud-hosted software products. But there remain some workloads that are still better off being handled in-house, namely those that require highly specialized hardware or are extremely sensitive to latency.
#2. Storage requirements
The amount of data generated by everyday business operations is staggering. Petabyte-sized data storage is the new norm in major organizations. One of the important benefits of the cloud is that it offers scalable storage, or at least it should. Some companies don’t only limit the amount of storage available per customer — they may also charge egress fees if you want to move it back in-house or to another vendor.
#3. Information security
One of the most common concerns among business leaders regarding the cloud is that it will compromise their information security. In reality, though, that’s rarely the case, since major vendors like Amazon and Microsoft have economies of scale that afford them the very best security money can buy. Still, adopting cloud technologies does potentially increase your attack surface, so you’ll want to consider security controls and policies from the outset.
#4. Regulatory compliance
Highly regulated industries, such as healthcare, face stringent requirements on what they can do with protected data — in their case, patient health information. If your business handles any data that is subject to information privacy laws, you’ll need to choose a cloud provider that’s also fully compliant with the same laws and can prove the necessary contractual agreement. For some data, there may also be restrictions on where it can physically be stored.
#5. Software licensing
A lot of desktop software is still licensed on a per-processor basis, which means it isn’t licensed for use in virtual machines like those hosted in the cloud. For example, you can’t run desktop editions of Windows 10 in the cloud — you’ll need a Server edition instead. If you run a lot of legacy software that is licensed for desktop usage, you may need to replace it or work with a provider who can configure your cloud environment on a per-core basis.
#6. System integration
Another common barrier to cloud migration is legacy software. Some established businesses still use proprietary software that was extremely expensive to develop and only works in a very specific environment. Also, a lot of conventional off-the-shelf desktop software isn’t best-suited to a distributed computing environment. Your cloud provider should be able to provide all the necessary integrations wherever possible, though you may still need to replace some software.
#7. Access mechanisms
Perhaps the greatest benefit of cloud computing is that it makes your resourcing available to everyone on your team no matter where they are. As such, it’s the only practical way to enable workforce mobility in your organization. However, it will require paying close attention to the way people access your apps and information, since mismanagement of access rights is a major cause of cloud-based security breaches. Always define your access policies and mechanisms from the outset, and ensure any sensitive data is protected behind at least two user verification layers (such as a password and one-time security token).