For most businesses, the question is no longer “Why get in the cloud?” but “Why not get in the cloud?” This profound sea change means more businesses utilize and understand the benefits of cloud computing, but moving to the cloud isn’t without risks. Assessing the benefits and liabilities of moving to the cloud is a critical first step in securing your critical applications.
Not all cloud computing is equal
For most organizations, adopting a cloud strategy means finding an optimum mix of public cloud and private cloud, dedicated hosting and co-location services to support their business. This is hybrid IT, where your IT services and business applications are delivered from multiple locations, on-premise, co-location, private cloud, public cloud, PaaS or SaaS.
However, to take full advantage of the cloud, it is important to understand which types of applications and technologies are best suited to specific cloud services and which are more suited to traditional IT environments or can span across hybrid platforms.
Each service has its own performance, availability, recoverability, insight and security requirements, and every enterprise requires a different mix of traditional and cloud services to achieve its goals. Understanding which applications are best suited to each element of the mix entails understanding how workloads perform, and the associated costs, as well as understanding the implications of risk for each application on each platform.
All of these considerations can help define which platform is best suited in each case. For instance, data sovereignty issues might dictate that while the web front end can be in the public cloud, personal data should be stored in an on-premise database. Another example is that an on-premise enterprise resource planning (ERP) system might be combined with a public cloud-based data warehouse solution for historical reporting and business intelligence. Such a solution can take advantage of the scale and low cost of a public cloud while making the most of investment in current on-premise infrastructure.
Risk and the cloud
While the cloud offers businesses tangible benefits beyond running traditional IT infrastructure, it’s important to understand and architect for potential risks. Some of the risks that should be considered include:
Compliance. It’s not always a simple question of following one cloud provider’s security guidance. Data governance and placement of personal data is one case in point. The important considerations about where the data resides should not be overlooked.
Server sprawl. Lost tribes and pet rocks persist in all models of computing and have a tendency to expand to fill all the holes created by cloud computing. Cost control and cost management are not always key competencies of IT departments, and managing environments from quality, consistency and cost perspectives can be even more necessary with a DevOps practice than a traditional approach.
Cloud-based service level agreements (SLA). These can be hard to translate into an enterprise. For instance, while major cloud platform providers tell us to design for failure, it seems clear that many people are designing for cloud solutions to be up all the time without adapting the designs to work around failures.
Disaster recovery is different in the cloud. While the levels of resilience that are built into cloud solutions can be equivalent to a traditional disaster recovery design, not all software architects get it right. Proper consideration must be paid to design for availability in the cloud in case of an outage.
A guiding hand
For those who are just beginning their journey to the cloud and hybrid IT, it’s vital to fully understand how the cloud can best support your organization—not just from a technology point of view, but also from a people and process perspective.
As specialists in the journey to hybrid IT, Ensono offers an assessment that helps design the best route forward for your specific business needs and reviews how it will impact your existing people and processes.