Everyone’s moving to the cloud is the cry we hear as analysts predict a $400 billion market for public cloud services by 2020 and the talk continues about the flexibility, scalability and cost efficiency the cloud can offer. It is certainly the case that for a growing number of organisations – particularly enterprises - the cloud offers the flexibility, scalability and innovation needed to be able to respond quickly to new business and market opportunities. However moving to the cloud is not as straightforward as it sounds. It cannot be done on a whim. It needs careful planning in order to maximise the benefits.
iomart specialises in helping organisations of all sizes move to and get the best out of the cloud. This five part guide takes you through the benefits and the strategies you need to consider on your journey there.
1. Considering Your Needs
Is cloud hosting right for you?
How do you determine whether your business would benefit by moving to the cloud? It’s a big question.
In an age where we are consuming everything as and when we want it, this on-demand culture is leading many organisations and particularly enterprise business, to move to the cloud, or at least use some cloud services within their IT strategy in order to gain insight from the huge volume of data being created and to create and deliver new apps at speed.
The reasons for this are varied: the pay-as-you consume Opex cost model is not capital intensive; there is the ability to scale resources up and back down as needed; and there are savings to be made on reducing long-term investment in physical hardware, under-used compute resources and headcount. The cloud provides the platform on which you can innovate and deliver new services to your users or to the market you operate in quickly. With Gartner estimating that almost 75% of IT budgets are spent on maintaining internal systems, there is little doubt that the cloud offers a much more cost-effective future.
However, while the cloud gives you the potential to transform your business, it is complex and challenging and involves potentially significant change in business culture and processes. Any such move needs to be done with full buy-in from the wider business – people and planning for any migration is critical. Many questions need to be asked and answered before any move takes place.
Why are we moving to the cloud? What are we moving to the cloud?
Important business decisions need to be factored in, as does the type of cloud being considered for your workloads.
Traditionally the choice has been seen as one of public, private or hybrid.
Public cloud covers a multitude of shared environments. There’s public cloud from the hyper-scale providers such as AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud; there’s the public cloud built by managed service providers such as iomart’s own CloudSure; and then there’s the public cloud platforms that sit behind a firewall for regulatory and governance requirements. All of these offer cost savings, scalability and speed of deployment over a common infrastructure.
Private cloud operates solely for only one company – there is no shared infrastructure. It can be on-premise or in a separate data centre and is either managed by the company or the third party provider. Private cloud from iomart still offers the flexibility and scalability of public cloud but provides greater security for more sensitive information and data that needs to be kept for regulatory and compliance reasons.
Hybrid cloud is usually a combination of the clouds described above with some applications kept and managed on-premise and some running externally. Although the clouds are essentially separate they need to communicate with each other to allow data portability to meet the organisation’s needs. This is achieved usually via a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Hybrid cloud is more complex to manage and can require particular expertise. iomart’s hybrid cloud offers you the best of both worlds.
The type of workload you want to place in the cloud and how you want it to be deployed will determine what delivery model is used – Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) or Software as a Service (SaaS). This will then determine how much responsibility you take and how much is taken by the cloud provider.
Infrastructure as a Service is the most common and the most flexible delivery model. It provides pre-configured compute, storage and network resources via a portal or control panel, giving you direct access to your servers and the ability to spin up virtual machines or deploy any platform on top. You still have plenty of work to do, you just don’t have to worry about the hardware.
Example: An online gaming company that needs hardware that is already racked and ready to go.
Platform as a Service provides the platform on which software and apps can be developed, tested and deployed. The cloud provider takes cares of the underlying infrastructure (operating system, servers and network), leaving you to work on the code and customisation.
Example: An agency uses Magento for clients. If you want to put an instance of Magento in the cloud you would be looking at PaaS – where the platform the software sits on is fully managed by the cloud provider, leaving you/your client responsible for the content published on it.
Software as a Service is as it says. The software is delivered to you (usually via a subscription) – all you do is give access to users and control your data.
Example: Moving your on-premise email to Office365 Online would be delivered as SaaS.
Deciding which of these cloud delivery models is the right one for your organisation will also be swayed by a number of other factors. The amount of risk your organisation is prepared to accept; the financial costs involved; the security issues you face; the in-house skills you have; and the organisational change you’re willing to implement – all these factors will help decide which cloud journey you take.
Moving to the cloud is a business decision not just a technical decision. At iomart our consultants understand the different scenarios that prompt a business to consider moving to the cloud. They work with you at the beginning of your journey to help you map out the right path to cloud success.
2. Choosing a Cloud Provider
How to choose a cloud provider
Whatever cloud you decide on you will either need someone to build it for you or deliver it to you.
So, how do you go about making the right choice? There are a number of important issues to consider.
Technologies and services: Depending on the route you want to take and the size of the project (i.e. full or partial migration) you will require different sets of expertise from your cloud provider. Check that they have the relevant skills to support your aims. If you need help right at the beginning to choose the cloud that’s best for your business or you need help in making your workloads suitable for migration for instance, you will need to consider a provider that has consultants who can create your roadmap and assess your applications.
Infrastructure, skills and approach: Does your potential provider's investment in these three aspects align with your cloud aspirations? What sort of migration assistance do they offer and do they have technical staff who can bridge the gap with your team if some skills are missing? What investments have they made in their own infrastructure? It is essential to understand their expertise and track record in completing successful migrations.
Certifications: If your cloud provider has industry standards and certifications it’s a good sign that they have effective data management and management processes which then translate into the Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that they offer to customers. Look out for ISO accreditations, security standards such as Cyber Essentials and PCI DSS.
Security: For data security and governance reasons it might be essential that you know where your data is being stored, processed and managed by your cloud provider. Do they operate their own data centres; how they encrypt data; whether they are GDPR compliant; and what relationships they have with other third parties and how much they depend on them, are all essential things to know in order to be comfortable with your chosen cloud provider from a security and risk point of view.
Service Level Agreements: SLAs tend to cover issues like service availability and ticket response times and should be measurable and unambiguous. It is important to have complete clarity about the cloud service you are buying.
Reliability: Some cloud services do suffer occasional downtime so, while it’s great if there’s been 100% uptime, it’s equally important to understand how the cloud provider has dealt with any outages. How did they communicate with customers and did they put things right? Did their own disaster recovery processes kick in?
Business health: The relationship you have with your cloud provider could potentially last many years. Therefore you need to check that they will still be around in a few years’ time. Do they have a sound business model? Look into their financial health.
Lock-in: How easy can you leave the contract if you want to leave? Discuss your exit strategy and make sure you know what’s possible.
These are just some of the many considerations to be made when choosing the right cloud provider.
As a Public Limited Company (Plc) iomart is listed on the Alternative Investment Market of the London Stock Exchange. We operate to the highest industry standards – indeed we are the most accredited cloud service provider in the U.K. – so you can be sure that we can support your business’ cloud ambitions for the long term.
3. What Are the Costs?
What Are the Costs of Cloud Migration?
Cost is always talked about as being one of the biggest drivers for a move to the cloud and there’s no doubt that it is a significant factor. However calculating the cost of any migration is not an exact science!
The straightforward way of doing it would be to calculate the difference between what you pay for your current infrastructure and comparing this with the potential cost of the cloud delivery model you want to use. However because so many costs are shared, hidden or even unknown, this can be very difficult for a business to work out.
Direct costs will most likely include: hardware, software, licences, maintenance, power, cooling, connectivity, and staff. Indirect costs will most likely include: how server downtime has affected business productivity and revenue. Then there are the potential costs in the cloud. Cloud providers have simplified their pricing structures so, if you know how many servers, how much storage, network and staff you need, you can submit this to the provider and they will give you an accurate cost. The bigger hyper-scale cloud vendors provide total cost of ownership calculators and monthly cost calculators which make the process simple.
However the cost of the actual migration also has to be factored in. Among the expenses you might incur will be: assessing and testing which applications can be moved; ensuring that on-premise data is synchronised with the data being moved to the cloud; continuing to operate business-critical software during the migration; taking backups to make sure no data is lost during the move; using consultants if you don’t have the in-house expertise.
There will be post-migration costs too. Time spent on integration of the new cloud service, testing more apps before moving them, security and compliance – all these things could add up. You might also need to employ new staff or train up existing employees.
Although there’s no doubt that the cloud can deliver significant cost savings, these might not be obvious at first, and indeed costs might even rise at the point of migration. It is when you have started to really understand how your apps are performing in the cloud and you’ve consolidated the resources they consume, that the real cost efficiencies you are looking for should come into play.
However it’s also important to remember that there are many intangible benefits involved in migrating to the cloud which you can’t necessarily class in terms of a financial saving. The fact that you no longer have to maintain your IT environment, that your business can be more flexible to changing market conditions, and that your staff can access services from anywhere, are things that can’t be costed. Combine this with the peace of mind you get from knowing that it is your cloud provider’s responsibility to keep your new IT environment up and running 24 hours a day and there’s no doubt that moving to the cloud brings with it many positives.
Better understanding of the costs involved in moving to the cloud are crucial for any business to ensure effective provisioning and planning of resources.
iomart helps customers move to the cloud in the most cost effective way. Our consultants and pre-sales architects work with you to understand what you want to achieve and help you select the best cloud tools and services to achieve it. Get in touch to discuss your cloud requirements.
4. Security Considerations
Cloud Migration Security Considerations
For any successful move to the cloud, security is a big factor and needs to be taken into consideration – not just before and after, but also during the actual migration.
One of the best ways to ensure this is to have one person in charge – a project manager who can engage with all stakeholders and oversee the process from start to finish. From this one single authority, or as we say, one single point of truth, everything else happens both on the technical and non-technical side.
The pre-planning and the migration are tightly controlled by a person who has complete oversight of the project, communicates clearly with the right people at the right time, and can spot any potential issues early on. By having a project manager you will be able to mitigate as much risk as possible.
In-depth responsibility for security during a migration however comes down to having good IT governance. The complexity of migration means your team needs to be aware of any potential vulnerabilities. So, when a server or virtual machine is moved to the cloud, the application owner has to be primed and ready to test that it works in the new environment. Good IT governance will ensure that all security testing is completed by the business’ acceptance team. They will discuss the right level of data encryption because, while all data will be encrypted in flight (during the migration), deciding what encryption is necessary at the final target destination will depend on the importance of that data to the business.
iomart provides you with a project manager to check that every aspect of your cloud migration is managed in detail and will work with your IT governance team to ensure that it meets the necessary security requirements.
5. Preparing to Migrate
Preparing and Moving to the Cloud
Whether you are migrating from on-premise or from one cloud to another, any move you undertake will change the way your business operates so you need to be well prepared. Creating a roadmap allows you to chart your course but also plan for the unexpected.
It’s also important to establish a cross-business team that will manage the migration from planning through to completion. This should include your finance director as the costs involved with the move and the duration of and potential benefits from the migration project will have a direct impact on the balance sheet. The team will also need to involve your HR director as the ability of the IT team to manage the move may well lead to changes in responsibilities and some members of staff might be resistant to what is being planned.
Then there’s the application portfolio. The first step is to select an existing application that can be used to do a test cloud migration. This will be an app that is not dependent on any other apps and is not business critical. It is vital that the text migration does not affect the business’ performance or user experience if any issues do occur. It also gives the dev team a chance to learn from any mistakes that are made.
Sponsorship within the business is key. By facilitating co-operation and communication through the various departments of the business executive sponsorship for the test and full migration will be assured. Users and sponsors all need to understand why you are migrating and what success will look like e.g. what the benefits will be. This needs to be communicated regularly, not just as a one-off.
Which applications will remain on-premise (if any) and how they will communicate with those being moved to the cloud? The applications you want to move might need to be re-architected to ensure maximum performance in the cloud. This involves looking at the chosen delivery model - will they be migrated to an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) environment or will they need to be converted to run on Platform as a Service? Any apps that will no longer be necessary can either be consolidated with one that has similar functionality or be sent into retirement. This allows you to build a roadmap or sequence for migrating your apps based on all the business and technical factors and builds a profile for best migration practice for your IT team. All of this will be done with security in mind as discussed in the previous section.
Cloud migration can be complex and fraught with risk, but when it’s done right, the benefits are numerous. The whole process will have caused your business to look again at its culture, processes, and governance. Success will be judged by the way the applications now perform in the new cloud environment and the extent to which your business can move more quickly – whether that’s developing new services and taking them to market, or the ability of your IT staff to work on more revenue-centric activities rather than just trying to keep the lights on.
So, are you ready for the cloud?
iomart has two decades of experience helping businesses migrate successfully to the cloud. Our consultants can help you select the right cloud/s for your business and prepare a roadmap for getting you there, while our technical architects build the right platform to support your IT systems when you get there. And in the era of multi-cloud, our support teams can help you with the ongoing management.
Moving to the cloud is a business opportunity as well as a technical opportunity. Make sure you can take full advantage by talking to our specialist team.