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Embracing the cloud effectively in four simple steps

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As understanding of the benefits of the cloud continues to grow among organisations worldwide, so too does cloud adoption, writes Taj Elkhayat, regional vice-president: Middle East, Turkey and Africa for Riverbed Technology.
Gartner predicts the worldwide public cloud services market will grow 16,5% this year, as more companies pursue a digital business strategy and shift away from legacy IT services, adopting cloud-based services instead.
Seeing competitors migrating files or applications to a public cloud computing platform – reaping the rewards of achieving greater flexibility, usability and cost savings, among others – is putting pressure on companies to quickly catch-up. However, rushing to migrate an organisation’s entire IT infrastructure to the cloud all at once would require pausing all business operations, and devoting an unlimited amount of budget and engineering support to this mammoth task. Of course, this would be impractical.
In reality, businesses do not have unlimited resources and cannot pause operations. So, how can businesses make the move to the cloud quickly and efficiently, while addressing their own needs and available resources? The key is to not migrate everything at once. More often than not, organisations are not as far behind as they might fear. Adopting a considered approach such as the one below will guarantee a smooth and effective move to the cloud.

Step 1: Decide where data will live
Firstly, organisations should determine which applications and information stores they wish to migrate to the cloud and which ones they don’t. For example, an e-commerce company may only need to scale up certain IT resources in order to match the various shopping seasons. However, it would probably want to keep confidential and sensitive data, such as customers’ credit card numbers, in the data centre, where it is entirely under its control.
For companies that are expanding and opening branches in other countries, opening IT operations to support a new region used to be an expensive process that could take up to a year or more. It involved renting data centre space, and hiring people to set it up and manage it. Now, working with an existing cloud vendor, businesses can co-locate applications at the provider’s local data centre – a process that takes a lot less time and effort.

Step 2: Migrate apps to the cloud
By far, the most common reason for an enterprise to adopt cloud computing is for data storage. Files stored in the cloud are safe from the dangers that might threaten physical storage, with the added benefit of being accessed from anywhere. In fact, according to recent studies, 90% of enterprises will increase annual spending on cloud computing this year, with 70 per cent of those cloud adopters reporting they use cloud infrastructure primarily for file storage.
However, companies are increasingly looking to move more complex operations to the cloud, such as application delivery and development. For example, in Europe almost half of enterprises are already using advanced cloud services to run business applications.
That being said, migrating applications to the cloud is not as simple as moving files from local storage hardware to a cloud provider’s platform. This requires re-engineering those apps to ensure they optimally leverage cloud resources, and that they perform just as well (or better) than the existing data centre-based version.

Step 3: Achieve full visibility
Moving to a hybrid IT environment and implementing a mix of cloud and on premise applications has a number of advantages, such as reduced costs and more IT agility. However, dealing with a wider variety of applications that run on different infrastructures and are spread across many locations, also creates security and productivity issues.
The Riverbed Global Application Performance Survey 2015 showed that when applications fail to meet performance expectations, they directly impact productivity and the company’s bottom line.
Organisations running apps in the cloud should not have to sacrifice control over convenience and cost. And in today’s complex hybrid world, you need visibility over all applications no matter how or where they’re deployed or consumed — SaaS, IaaS, in data centres or remote sites.
The solution is to establish end-to-end visibility into application performance across the entire network. In order to close the performance gap, organisations need to establish a clear line of sight into how apps are performing, and how they impact on the end-user experience. By identifying the cause of performance issues IT can fix them before users even notice. Once the organisation has diagnosed and fixed performance issues, they can ensure peak performance of applications across any network.

Step 4: Improve to succeed
Once their apps have been migrated to the cloud, organisations have an opportunity to reassess their processes to increase agility and automate processes along the release pipeline. The key to continuous improvement is putting in place a strong feedback loop that guarantees that quality is not sacrificed for agility.
As a result, teams throughout the organisation can stay focused on innovation and collaboration, benefitting users and ensuring quality – ultimately delivering what the business needs to grow.

There’s still time
The latest technologies enable real-time continuous data capture and analysis so that companies can view network delays, and provide speed, insight and control no matter where data is stored. These new tools are enabling enterprises to overcome their long-held fears over security and accessibility of cloud computing services.
According to Riverbed’s survey, 96% of respondents already use some cloud-based enterprise applications in their work today, and 84% expect the use of these applications to increase within their companies over the next two years.
Companies that are just starting to incorporate cloud computing into their IT architecture are not alone, and they shouldn’t feel rushed or try to move too much at one time. But if they are still undecided about migrating to the cloud, now is the time to develop a plan to deliver their business-critical applications over the Internet. Organisations of every size will realise significant cost-savings almost immediately, and performance improvements for all their users, no matter where they are in the world.