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Key Elements of Cloud Strategy

If you are considering moving your IT functions to the cloud, but are not yet sure what specific form that should take, you may be ready to develop a cloud strategy.

The process starts with an inventory of your IT assets and existing cloud applications. Then you need to identify the application integrations you will need, and specify security and compliance requirements and management and reporting needs. Last but not at all least, you must lay out user and support considerations.

Core questions to be addressed in developing a cloud strategy include:

  • Whether to use the public cloud, a private cloud, or a hybrid. Some of the more familiar public clouds include Amazon Web Services, IBM Bluemix, Microsoft Azure, and Google Apps. The public cloud may initially appear less expensive, but required add-on services can change that (e.g. backups and disaster recovery; compliance add-ons; additional CPU, data, and bandwidth utilization VPNs, as well as special integrations).

If you use resource intensive applications such as SAP, AutoCAD or Photoshop, the public cloud may not meet your needs and private virtual desktops may be a better option.

  • What is necessary to ensure data security in the cloud. Public cloud systems may not automatically offer security capabilities. If they do, they may leave it to you to turn them on and configure them.

How will you ensure that you have anti-malware, firewalls, and website filtering in place, as well as alerting systems for software or equipment failure, low disk space, failed backups, etc.? How will you resolve those alerts? How will you make sure that all security technologies are regularly updated?

  • How to make sure that your identity and security controls continue to function properly, so your network, employee connectivity, and related applications will retain the same authentication controls and security privileges that users face today.

  • What provisions must be made for backup and disaster recovery, given the operational requirements and regulatory constraints on your business. Public cloud providers usually offer provisions for backup and disaster recovery, while leaving it to you to enable backups. They may have limitations on how long they retain backups, as well as whether you can restore individual/selected files or records rather than the entire system or database. You need to determine whether you will need redundant server, storage, and network infrastructure, or even a full working environment at a secondary location.

  • What data or applications should be migrated to which cloud service based on your business requirements, and whether the move can be phased over time.

  • How the differences between Microsoft Office 365 and in-house versions of Office, Exchange, SharePoint, and Windows file share (the online version is called OneDrive) may make a difference to your operations. The online versions offer additional features for mobile workers, support in managing data in multiple offices, and usage reporting. They may not be able to provide any add-ons, integrations, and customizations that have been made to in-house implementations.

  • If you are using other cloud applications, whether the provider offers the customizations and application or data integrations you need, and whether these will be handled seamlessly so that your operational staff can continue to work productively and executives can continue to receive the reports they expect.

  • What departments/employees will be using which applications or servers on the cloud, and which users are amenable to lead the change.

  • How your users will receive tech support after you migrate to the cloud (hint: public cloud providers usually don’t offer this service).

The answers to these questions will shape your cloud strategy, determining how you will make use of the cloud in your IT capabilities, and the form that use of the cloud will take.

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