Best Practices for Developing a Cloud Strategy

In my recent webinar, The Cloud is Here – Are You Ready?  I provided tips for determining your organization’s cloud readiness and steps for developing a cloud strategy.  Missed it? No worries – you can view the on-demand webinar anytime. In the meantime, I’ve listed  best practices for mapping out your own cloud strategy.

Decide what problems you want the cloud to solve

An essential first step in creating your organization’s cloud strategy is to determine what problems you’re trying to solve by leveraging a cloud-based solution.  For example, do you want your ecommerce site to scale according to peak shopping periods such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday? Or are you a healthcare organization that needs to store protected health information (PHI) in a secure, compliant cloud environment? Keep in mind that your business departments may have a different idea of what problems to solve than your CIO, CTO or Chief Information Security Officer CISO, so make sure you get feedback from all of them.

Educate your stakeholders about the cloud

Organizations need to have a common, shared definition of cloud and its capabilities. In many cases, your stakeholders will have different views of what the cloud is or lack of knowledge about the cloud. Use the definitions from my previous post on cloud readiness and get agreements on what the cloud means to everyone involved.

Work with your stakeholders to articulate your organization’s goals. Write down where you want to be in the short term as well as the long-term. Articulating your organization’s tactical and strategic goals will affect how you use the cloud.

Also decide which applications or business processes lend themselves to a cloud environment. Keep in mind that opinions on this will vary among your stakeholders. For example, if your organization has a CISO, he will have a much different opinion of what should be migrated to the cloud than your colleagues in sales and marketing due to security concerns.

Finally, understand how much customization and standardization comes with a cloud solution. One of the benefits offered by the cloud is economies of scale. However, the trade-off can be found in the level of customization. So if your organization’s IT department is used to having a lot of control in their current environment, you need to reset their expectations.

Determine business drivers for the cloud

Different departments will have different reasons for leveraging the cloud. For example, a key driver for your finance department may be data security, while marketing may only be concerned with sharing collateral with field sales. Therefore, it’s essential to weigh the different business drivers and settle on those that carry the most importance.

Understand IT’s requirements

It’s essential to collaborate with your IT department to understand what your organization’s current hardware inventory looks like and how it can be leveraged within a cloud environment. Factor in the total cost of ownership (TCO) of your current IT assets and those you will need for your cloud solution. And be sure to do an “apples-to-apples” comparison. It’s very common for an organization to mistakenly compare their current server environment to one in the cloud. They often don’t consider the fact that a cloud-based provides a  facility to store your servers, a network and a team of cloud experts to manage your environment.

Consider how you can reuse existing IT components. If the components in your IT environment are fairly new, you may be able to use  them in a colocation center. Also examine workloads on servers to gauge under- and over-utilization. Collaborate with your IT team to identify ways to use your assets more efficiently in your cloud environment.

Also conduct a workload analysis to identify which of your existing applications are compatible for the cloud from both a business and compliance perspective. Consider any geographical restrictions with your data and applications. For example, some government data have geographical boundaries that prevent it from being stored outside the United States.

Finally, understand the infrastructure impact from the different solutions you’re considering. Examine the dependencies in operating systems to understand how your applications will “talk to each other” in the new environment.

Implement best practices for creating a cloud strategy

  • Invite your organization’s key stakeholders into the process. Make sure their input regarding the proposed solution is taken into consideration, otherwise you risk having them become detractors versus advocates.
  • Document business and IT requirements. Keep in mind that these will vary depending on the department.
  • Develop and agree upon success metrics with your stakeholders. Make sure everyone in your organization understands what a successful cloud initiative looks like.
  • Don’t fall into “point solution” trap (i.e., “Let’s just put everything in Dropbox.”) Operating without a well thought-out cloud strategy puts you at risk for losing proprietary data, incurring fines or sacrificing availability.
  • Communicate what you’re doing throughout the process.

The HOSTING team of cloud solution experts helps IT teams assess their technology environments, maximize asset utilization and refine their vision for the cloud. Contact us today for help in creating a sound cloud strategy.

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