The cloud is going mainstream. That’s the word from a recent Cisco Systems-sponsored study, which found that more than two-thirds of organizations are using the cloud to “help drive business outcomes”—a whopping 61 percent increase from the previous year’s study. But almost the same number aren’t maximizing the true value of cloud computing.
What does this mean for your business? It means that while the cloud is quickly becoming a necessity rather than “nice to have,” it’s worth asking some hard questions before you make the move. You can get the most from your deployment after determining the answers to these five questions, and even more from the accompanying infographic.
What’s the Line-of-Business Benefit?
You’re not just moving to the cloud because everyone else is doing it; you’re looking for benefits that boost your bottom line. The notion such benefits exist is not just hype: Many companies report lower IT spending and increased agility in the cloud. Before you make the move, however, it’s worth asking about the specific line-of-business (LOB) benefits you hope to achieve. Otherwise, you’re putting the cart before the horse, hoping a cloud deployment will inspire some kind of revolutionary use. One firm directly tapped the benefit of agile cloud computing by writing a script that closed down sandbox testing environments at night and spun them back up again in the morning, saving tens of thousands per year. This exemplifies the true value of using cloud resources—but it doesn’t just happen. Find your need, and then tap the cloud.
Are You Ready for Change?
Is your company ready for IT transformation? Ultimately, that’s the role of the cloud—70 percent of businesses say the cloud has enabled them to re-engineer one or more business processes. Consider analytics. Running data analytics is the fastest-growing activity in the cloud, since companies now can “flip a switch” and start mining critical data sources.
Having the data on hand isn’t enough, however. Your company must be ready to run with this information and move forward with real change if you want to get the most from your cloud deployment. Put simply, the cloud is disruptive—embracing change is a requirement for increased ROI.
How Much Can You See?
Cloud providers promise on-demand, anytime, anywhere access. While it is a good thing for remote workers and satellite offices in different time zones, it also can lead to a problem: visibility. Do you know who’s spinning up new services, when and for how long? Do you have a way to track and monitor cloud uptime and performance to ensure your provider is living up to its service-level agreement (SLA)? Expert advice says it’s essential that you have a way to independently verify your company usage once services are hosted in the cloud. This could take the form of local monitor tools, third-party services or even a secondary cloud solution tasked exclusively with providing visibility. Bottom line? What you can’t see, you can’t measure—in turn potentially limiting your total cloud benefit.
Where Does Compliance Live?
You have compliance obligations. Maybe those obligations are related to consumer credit data, health information or legal documentation you’re required to protect. Whatever the case, if your cloud provider doesn’t comply with local or federal laws, you could face a hefty fine or other penalty. As a result, it’s worth tracking down a cloud provider that not only knows your industry standards inside and out, but also clearly describes in the SLA how these standards will be met. Here’s the takeaway: Always ask your cloud provider about compliance, and never settle for vague answers or promises that aren’t in writing.
Is Data Done Right?
How much data do you plan to store in the cloud? Almost 50 percent of companies now store more than half of their data in the cloud. Expect this number to rapidly increase as the cost of storage comes down year over year. Beyond balancing the need for local and cloud-based storage, however, it’s worth asking tougher questions about portability, backup and security. If you change providers, is your data ready to make the switch immediately? Is your cloud provider charging extra for data backup? If so, what does the service entail? Last but never least: What steps are being taken by your provider to safeguard data—both stored and in transit? Never underestimate the value of doing data right; better to pay more for great service than save a few bucks on cheaper, less robust alternatives.
The cloud has arrived. Before making your move, however, consider the LOB benefit, your readiness for change and ability to monitor services—along with your provider’s compliance and data-handling aptitude. To better understand the potential benefits of using the cloud, check out the accompanying infographic and determine the answers to a few more questions about how your company and cloud capabilities will fit together.
About the Author / Adam Cady
Adam Cady is director of third-party managed Sservices at SingleHop. Cady is responsible for developing cutting-edge managed services solutions and software management tools for hyperscale cloud platforms. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.