Getting to the Cloud from Here

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Much of the hype surrounding the benefits of cloud computing to enterprise is real. Moving IT operations, either in whole or in-part, has considerable implications to an organizations operational flexibility, efficiency and improvements to IT functions. The question for many organizations isn’t so much the goal but rather the path to the goal. Dennis Ravenelle, release project manager for Harvard University Information Technology said costs are a main and obvious driver. When Harvard weighed options for an IT service management (ITSM) solution, the cloud solution was almost $500,000 less expensive than the in house offerings. In a recent article in Campus Technology, Revenelle recounted the contrast between the complexity and costs involved in upgrading software. “In 2008 we upgraded our on-premise ITSM tool suite. We were a couple of revisions behind. The project was estimated to take six months and cost $600,000. It ended up close to $1 million and took almost a year,” he said. Contrast that experience to, when in January 2014, Harvard upgraded its cloud-based solution. After six weeks of testing, on a Saturday night they pushed the button and went live with it. “We had stood up expanded stabilization support for Monday. But by the middle of the day we called it off because it was a non-event. The upgrade cost us virtually nothing. These are some of the considerations.”

Such stories have enterprise cost conscious and efficiency pun dents wanting to jump in to author their own fables of success. But moving workloads to the cloud is a process fraught with potential pitfalls. As is often the case, experiences such as these are usually far more complicated than their simplistic narration reveal. So what does one need to consider before committing to moving the in house IT infrastructure up to the cloud? According to Mike Martin, Senior Vice President, Solutions & Services for Logicalis, a global IT provider, “It’s about doing your due diligence.”

While every cloud migration strategy will have elements that are unique to specific industry and organization size, some best practices before formulating the strategy are common to developing an effective cloud migration plan. Navigating the process of moving a physical, in house environment to the cloud requires in-depth preparation and planning. Basic planning is essential, and creating a cloned, parallel environment to test the process of migration is essential to test and remove any flaws encountered during the move.

First, evaluate all your applications and determine how each contributes to the organizations operation. Determine which applications will provide the most benefits from transition to the cloud. Software and hardware that is approaching the end of their optimal life cycle may be best suited for early migration.  Newer technological assets can continue to be utilized in house effectively until a later departure.

Thoroughly investigate and define your security needs and calculate the risk factors of the move. Establish security policies for each application. These policies will play a key role in identifying a cloud provider who will meet those specifications. Vet potential cloud providers carefully and thoroughly. It’s vital to learn as much about your cloud provider as possible in order to instill confidence and trust in their abilities and their commitment to serving your computing needs. Once an inventory of the services you want to move to the cloud is complete, a determination can be made as to the type of cloud environment they need and the impact the move will have on your organization’s infrastructure and facilities, then you can begin to develop a cloud migration strategy.

And remember, as with any journey to a new and unfamiliar place, having someone along for the ride, who has traveled the path before you and is familiar with the twist, turns and pitfalls that can be encountered along the way, can be invaluable to reaching your destination sooner, less expensively and with fewer trials and tribulations. Contracting the services of an outside team of IT professionals, who are well schooled and experienced in the process of developing and implementing an effective strategy, can be some of the best money spent on your journey to the cloud.

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