Five Key Considerations Before Moving to the ‘Cloud’
January 4, 2012 @ 03:28 PM | By James Whitemore
It seems like everyone is talking about how computing is moving to the cloud – defined as the delivery of computer applications to distributed users from a central location rather than putting software on individual PCs or local servers.
There is certainly an element of truth to that. Gartner estimates that the cloud market will reach $150-billion by 2013. Among the reasons for this sudden interest in cloud-based computing and communications are the need for collaboration among the increasing number of remote and mobile workers, a desire to improve customer service, and the ever-present goals of improving operational excellence while driving down technology equipment and management costs. To help you decide whether you’re ready to move to the cloud, here are some important elements to consider.
- Distributed vs. centralized enterprise - The first consideration should be whether your company has a single headquarters location only, or also has multiple branches. If everyone works out of headquarters, and that’s all you plan to have, you may not need a cloud-based solution. But if you have multiple branches in addition to headquarters, or a significant number of your employees spend most of their time out of the office, moving to the cloud simplifies management of communications and applications – which, in turn, improves collaboration between employees.
- IT staff size and capabilities - The next consideration is the size of your IT staff. In the past few years, many organizations have pared their IT staffs, particularly in maintenance functions. Additionally, while technology has continued to advance at an ever-accelerating pace, very little has been spent on training or upgrading skill sets.
- Prepare the infrastructure – ditch the public Internet - Once you’ve determined that the cloud is right for your enterprise, it’s important to look at your network infrastructure. Networks at many organizations are often a hodgepodge of carriers and equipment that were built over a period of years. Many times they were based more on expediency than an enterprise-level plan.
- Be able to prioritize network traffic - With the Internet, all traffic looks the same. Which means if data for the day’s financial report arrives at the same time as last night’s highlights from ESPN, the latter may win out. A fully managed voice/data/video network provides one quality of service (QOS) and routing capability over the entire network. It allows you to prioritize traffic by business case rather than simply on the type of traffic (video, voice, data, etc.) to ensure that business-related data always goes ahead of non-business data.
- Controlled migration or rip-and-replace? Once the infrastructure is in place, it’s time to start moving applications to the cloud. One of the prevailing myths is that this is an all-or-nothing proposition. In reality, migration to the cloud is a complex proposition, so performing a complete rip-and-replace is a bad business decision fraught with risk.
Ready or not, the future is coming
Your industry is highly competitive, so you can be sure if you’re not looking at cloud solutions and how to speed adoption of the latest technologies, your competitors are.
But there’s no need to go it alone. The right partner, particularly one that offers a fully managed voice/video/data network, can help you migrate to the cloud intelligently and successfully, allowing you to achieve the operational excellence you demand while delivering superior customer service.
This article appeared in Corporate United Quarterly (12/5 issue)