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A pragmatic approach to the cloud

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As with any new technology, cloud computing has been through the hype cycle, with inflated expectations giving way to disillusionment and moving further along the maturity curve toward realistic, practical and beneficial solutions, says Peter Reid, SharePoint Solutions Head at Intervate, a T-Systems company.

However, for many organisations, whether they have taken their first steps toward the cloud or are still contemplating a move, the journey can seem like an overwhelming task. In order to leverage maximum cloud benefit, whether organisations are just starting or are well on the way, a pragmatic approach is needed for the journey to the cloud.

The need for digital transformation within organisations is one of the biggest drivers for the cloud from the perspective of the CEO, along with the desire to transform the business and enhance the customer journey. However, the IT manager and the business typically have different cloud priorities, as the IT manager is tasked with improving processes and cutting costs. Another driver of the move toward the cloud is the need for improved agility in order to keep up with rapidly evolving technology. In order to address this, it is vital for IT to move from a tactical, reactive state to a strategic role, providing solutions that address business challenges and support business.

Moving toward the cloud requires organisations to break the journey down into manageable steps. The first step is to evaluate cloud maturity and then develop a cloud strategy that, at the very least, aligns with both business and IT objectives. Ideally, cloud strategy needs to become an integral part of business strategy, with the ultimate goal of adopting a full digital transformation strategy where cloud is the enabling technology.

Once maturity and strategy have been ascertained, organisations should select areas to migrate based on several factors. The migration must make sense from a cost or business enhancement perspective, and the information value must be ascertained. A plan for integration, including security, data volumes and the user experience, must be developed, and a roadmap for how the migration is to take place should be established.

The first step in the cloud journey is to understand the different dimensions of cloud services. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is the most basic level, with organisations leveraging the infrastructure of a service provider to take advantage of virtualised machines.

All software and services remain the property and responsibility of the organisation. Platform as a Service (PaaS) includes solutions such as databases, operating systems and websites delivered on a services basis. Software as a Service (SaaS) is the full software product in the cloud, including email, sales force solutions, SharePoint Online and more. As one moves deeper into the cloud through these dimensions, so return on investment increases. However, the level of customisation available decreases proportionally. Organisations need to find the right balance of cost effectiveness and customisability to suit their business requirements.

The next decision is which model of cloud services to adopt. The private cloud consists of infrastructure owned by the organisation upon which cloud services are delivered. Public cloud solutions are delivered via the Internet, and all organisations own is their login or subscription and their data. Each of these models has its own advantages, with private cloud being more secure while public cloud is more flexible and agile and delivers greater cost benefits. As a result, hybrid solutions consisting of elements of both public and private cloud will be the standard for the next five to 10 years, particularly for large organisations. For the foreseeable future, given information security and privacy concerns as well as legislation, it will continue to make sense to maintain some services and data on premise.

Ultimately IT is no longer simply about keeping the lights on, and the cloud enables IT to effectively deliver greater value to the business. Following a pragmatic, step by step approach to cloud migration and integration will ensure businesses are poised to leverage the advantages of this evolving technology Partnering with an experienced, expert service provider at every stage of the process will help organisations to realise the full value of their cloud implementation, regardless of where they are in their journey.