As the calendar turns to 2019, the rapid pace at which businesses are migrating their on-premises networks to the cloud continues unabated, with line items for cloud-based applications and cloud infrastructure now ranking among the three highest IT spending priorities, according to figures from Computer Economics.
Overall, the percentage of companies investing heavily in cloud-based software doubled in 2018, the research firm reports. And that momentum figures to continue, as only 20% of companies have converted at least half of their business applications to the cloud. “The appeal of SaaS is pretty clear,” says David Wagner, vice president of research at Computer Economics. “The increased flexibility, reduced infrastructure burden, and ease of upgrades should have made SaaS a slam dunk.”
One reason moving to the cloud hasn’t been a slam dunk to this point is the measured approach many businesses appear to be taking toward digital transformation. And in many respects, it’s wise to be circumspect about transitioning an enterprise network to the cloud, with nothing less than the company brand, the customer experience and the security of data — customers’ and your own — at stake.
Still, the widespread migration to SaaS and cloud-based network solutions such as SD-WAN is expected to continue gaining strength. “We expect that increased use of cloud infrastructure will mean a continued effort to move as many applications and processes out of the data centre as possible,” Computer Economics posits in its IT Spending & Staffing Benchmarks 2018/2019 report. “The wait is over, and IT organisations are finally jumping into the cloud in a more substantial way.”
Before jumping in, though, it’s critical that organisations and their IT decisions-makers assess their readiness for a migration to the cloud. Here’s a list of questions they should be asking themselves as they lay the groundwork for such a move:
What is driving your cloud strategy? In other words, what are your reasons for moving to the cloud and what benefits do you expect to realise from the move?
This question is designed to get at the fundamental strategic motivations for a cloud initiative. As such, the answer needs to come collectively from all the key stakeholders within the business — operations, IT, finance, sales/marketing, HR, and so on.
Describe the overall digital experience you envision, both customer-facing and back-office, once the transition is complete.
What’s the end game? What’s on each stakeholder’s wish list? The answers to these questions should help define the parameters of a cloud initiative.
What’s your vision for how the process of transitioning to the cloud will unfold?
Will it be a wholesale migration or a phased-in approach? What’s the timeframe? How will responsibilities for managing the process be divided?
Do you have more demands for delivery of business innovation than you have staff/time to support?
This question is designed to assess how well your organisation’s human resources align with the organisational drive to innovate — and it requires a real gut check.
Has IT conducted a needs assessment/business case around a potential move to the cloud to determine which customer-facing and back-office workloads to move to the cloud and why?
If a needs assessment has been conducted, what were the key findings? And if not, is there a plan to conduct one in advance of the cloud initiative? This is stating the obvious, but it’s always a good idea to conduct a thorough needs assessment before mobilising on a major initiative.
How does your network align to support your investment in your customer experience initiatives?
Here’s another question aimed at assessing strategic alignment, and one that goes hand-in-hand with the preceding question. While moving to the cloud means a smaller IT footprint in-house, it will drive additional network capacity.
What are the biggest strengths and weaknesses of your network today, back office and customer-facing?
Consider how and where to build on your strengths and shore up your weaknesses. Also consider what happens if the network goes down when your POS resides in the cloud.
What does your organisation’s application roadmap look like?
How might your digital user experience evolve and grow over time?
How do you envision your security needs changing when you move to the cloud?
As strategically vital as cloud-based digital services are to differentiating a brand, moving network infrastructure and apps to the cloud also raises the specter of significant new cyber vulnerabilities, including DDoS attacks, ransomware incursions, uninvited data exfiltration and other potentially devastating forms of breach. What types of security measures might you need to incorporate into your network to protect users, their data and your network assets?
How will you know you have enough bandwidth to support new and/or existing apps?
This assesses whether your network capacity can keep pace with your aspirations.
Could your company benefit from having a single provider manage your network, security and voice services as you focus on your digital transformation?
Working with a single entity can make life a lot simpler for an IT department. The economics of bundling also may benefit the bottom line.
To what extent has your organisation investigated SD-WAN as a network solution?
Businesses are embracing the software-defined wide-area network for its scalability, elasticity and cost-effectiveness compared to other hardware-focused network approaches.
Which internal stakeholders and departments should be engaged in the cloud initiative?
To put the initiative in position to succeed, be sure the right people have a seat at the table from the outset of the transition process.
Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences and use-cases? Attend the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam to learn more.