Nearly 70% of businesses will increase their spending on cloud computing in 2017, which demonstrates the increased value of cloud-based applications for businesses.
The ability to scale infrastructure to match needs, avoid maintenance costs, and take advantage of greater IT agility provides advantages that firms need to stay competitive in today’s market.
However, complete migration to fully cloud-hosted infrastructure is relatively rare. It is more common for companies to use some mixture of cloud and on-site applications to provide the necessary mix of cost-effectiveness and accessibility to suit their particular business climates.
A hybrid cloud dynamic not only provides advantages but also creates ongoing challenges for companies seeking to use the cloud, especially those that are new to the technology.
Businesses must be able to analyze their current environments and assess which applications to move to the cloud and which to keep in-house.
If implemented correctly, a hybrid cloud infrastructure can bring flexibility, scalability, and cost savings in the long term. If the proper care is not taken, however, problems can result, including high costs and low productivity.
If applications are configured incorrectly in the cloud and application interdependencies are not accounted for during deployment, the application may not function. Then, the business is left without access to the application, while the IT department attempts to figure out what went wrong.
If you’re new to cloud migration, the process may seem daunting, so we’ve provided this questionnaire to help you get started. It asks 5 essential questions to spur the discussions your team should have when creating a cloud migration program.
Have You Created an Application Map?
Most applications, like your active directory, email, and voice systems, are not standalone; they connect to or depend on other applications to function properly. Any successful cloud migration must take these relationships into account.
The first step in planning a cloud migration is mapping out every application installed in a server data center, accessed through a software as a service (SaaS) program, or located in a co-location elsewhere. From there, you must document which applications depend on each other to function and the nature of their interdependency.
One approach to application mapping is to structure your map by business unit.
For example, take every application your marketing department uses and group them together. From there, move to your sales department and do the same thing. Accounting, human resources, the contact center, and more should receive the same treatment.
Finally, list the core infrastructure applications all departments use equally: Everyone needs access to a voice system, active directory, quality of service application, and so on.
With every application listed, you can start noting connections.
How does your Cisco Unity Connection voicemail application integrate with your voice system? What needs to change in this integration for it to continue to function if one or both applications are now located in the cloud?
Are Any Applications Available from a SaaS Provider?
SaaS vendors provide software solutions that are hosted on remote servers and billed based on a subscription model.
For example, Google Apps are SaaS because they’re a series of web-based applications that users can access when connected to WiFi. If this sounds like what you’d be doing when migrating your applications to the cloud, then you’re on the right track.
Run through the list of applications that you want to move to the cloud to see if any are available as SaaS from another provider.
If the functionality you need is already in the cloud, take advantage of this opportunity rather than “reinventing the wheel”—it will save you time, money, risk, and hassle.
How Much Storage Does the Application Need?
Understand the amount of storage your business needs in the cloud before transferring on-premise applications and avoid over-estimating your storage needs.
Businesses should avoid securing too much storage to account for spikes in demand, such as during busy seasons or for future growth.
This forward-looking view makes sense for in-house systems but squanders one of the most important benefits of cloud-based applications: the ability to quickly and dynamically adjust resource levels to suit requirements.
Applications in the cloud only need a small amount of excess capacity because you can quickly purchase additional resources on demand.
The cloud’s scalability allows you to be agile and responsive with your IT infrastructure:
- If the holiday season is going to bring a higher workload, you can scale up in October and back down after New Year’s Day.
- If you think your company will grow 50% in a year, you can buy 50% more capacity when that happens, rather than pay for it in advance.
Maximize your cost savings by fine-tuning your cloud infrastructure to suit your present needs, knowing you can change them later if necessary.
Which Cloud Provider Contract Options Suit Your Needs?
Public cloud providers require contracts that specify the cost, service levels, and conditions of deployment.
It is important to evaluate all of your contract options and calculate approximate costs before looking for a cloud provider.
For example, Microsoft Azure is not a good fit for small businesses or businesses that are unfamiliar with Microsoft products.
Contract options typically include month-to-month, full-year, and multi-year contracts. However, longer contracts typically offer lower monthly costs but require a longer commitment.
Saving money is always good, but before you invest in a provider for years, be sure to draft an IT roadmap for your department.
- Where do you see your business five years from now?
- What kind of resources will it need?
- What kind of growth do you expect?
- Will this cloud provider still be in business and be able to offer the services you need?
What Are the Long-Term Costs and Cost Savings of Migrating to the Cloud?
You may experience “sticker shock” after seeing the prices of cloud-based solutions, but don’t let this lead you to a hasty decision.
To assess the costs of cloud-based services, you must compare them to all of the costs of in-house data center infrastructure, some of which may not be apparent immediately.
Remember that cloud-based applications don’t require you to buy, upgrade, maintain, service, power, or cool your own hardware.
You will have minimal downtime and reduced in-house IT personnel, which means obvious savings (salaries) but also hidden savings (benefits, office space, training costs, and more).
Include all of these factors in your cost comparison, and you may find that the monthly cloud fee isn’t as pricey as it initially seemed.
Also, remember the important benefit of being able to scale your infrastructure based on growth or changing needs.
If, six months down the road, you find you need 20% more capacity for an application, you can easily add it in the cloud.
In contrast, expanding in-house IT systems generally must be done in discrete “jumps”— since this typically requires buying and deploying hardware — and can be both expensive and time-consuming.
And what if you need less capacity? In the cloud, this is simple. Change a setting, shrink your overall capacity, and you’re done.
But, in-house, your storage capacity options are limited. Your only options are to try and sell off unused storage equipment, turn it off and place it in storage, or continue to power and maintain equipment you’re not using.
When working with a technology consultant, be sure to ask for a cost comparison of both cloud and on-premises options that includes all of these criteria.
Conclusion: Have You Done Your Homework?
This questionnaire should help you prepare to migrate to the cloud – decreasing the headaches and stress that may arise without preparation.
A successful migration requires considering all the issues raised by these questions:
- Are you purchasing the right level of storage capacity?
- Have you analyzed your applications to determine dependencies?
- Are there SaaS solutions you can purchase to save the time and expense of migrating an application?
- Do you have the right contract terms?
- How much will the cloud solution cost, and how much will it save?
By asking these and other relevant questions, you can determine which apps are best suited for migration to the cloud and how to migrate them in the most efficient and effective way.
About the Author
David Gaudio is an experienced writer and digital marketer. An admitted technophile, he serves as the Technical Writer for Mindsight, a technology consulting firm operating out of Downers Grove, Illinois. David writes for the Mindsight Tech Blog and publishes four articles a week on the latest advances in the tech industry. He was part of the team at Mindsight to win the Cisco Digital and Social Marketer of the Year Award for 2015, a national award that recognizes Cisco partners who demonstrate exceptional creativity and ingenuity in their digital campaigns. In his free time, David enjoys camping and comedy shows.