CLOUD IS GREAT, BUT IT'S ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA TO LOOK AT ALL ASPECTS BEFORE ANY BIG MOVE
Moving your SMB to the Cloud (in some way or another) is generally a great idea, and you won’t hear too many negatives from us on the matter. However, we thought we’d list some of the things to consider before you dive in. Here are our top 10 tips to think about.
1. YOUR CURRENT INTERNET SERVICE
You should really get to know everything you can about your current office Internet. In fact, not only your office Internet – but everywhere you are expecting to work from, including your home.
It’s not only about the current bandwidth you have, but also your SLA (Service Level Agreement) and reliability. Remember, if your services are going to be in the Cloud, what happens when your Internet goes down for 3 or 4 days ? Would a cheap backup line be a good idea, and if so – can your network support a seamless fail-over to that circuit? Also, is your current ISP under any legal contractual obligation to fix the Internet service in a timely manner?
2. CLOUD PROVIDER SLA
If you’ve started the process of looking at a cloud provider to host your data/email/applications/services, find out if they have an SLA, what their obligations are or if they incur financial penalties if the service is unavailable. Your comfort with this agreement may depend on your particular business and industry and should be weighed against your expectations, the cost of the service and your company's risk profile.
3. YOUR DATA LOCATION
This may or may not be a big deal, but depending on your industry and your regulatory requirements, it could also be a massive consideration. I would first consult industry peers and governing bodies, and work backwards. Also, it’s often not that easy to move geographic data locations after the fact, so this something you want to get right from the get go. Find out if the provider can even offer geographic alternatives.
4. LOOK AT YOUR EXISTING SOFTWARE LICENSING
Some software vendors place huge restrictions on both their licensing and support packages when operating their software from a cloud platform. Some software can't be moved to the cloud. This can often be difficult to determine when reading the software terms, as they may not reference the cloud per se, but more often than not place restrictions on operating their software using technologies such as Remote Desktop Services, Citrix or VDI, common when delivering applications from the cloud. The best way check this is to speak to the software vendor directly and tell them what you are intending to do. They should be helpful and at least tell you if your migration is possible and if there are going to be extra costs.
Exposing your data or applications to the Internet will no doubt have security implications. Your attack profile will increase and you will lose some of the control you currently have over your perimeter security. However, there are many ways to move your workloads to the cloud without really exposing your network to the Internet directly. This may take some planning and some thought, but it can be done. Our advice would be to be the skeptic and ask the difficult questions when speaking with the consultant managing your migration project.
6. BACKUP AND DISASTER RECOVERY
One of the most consistently overlooked factors when considering a move to the cloud is what happens when it goes down. Firstly, don’t be fooled by the term ‘Cloud’, and remember that it is still a data center somewhere, with servers and hard disks and electricity that is storing your compute power. Obviously, most Cloud services are far more robust and redundant that even a good on premise server solution, and that's the attraction right? But, we have also seen ‘cloud’ services that are little more than a bunch of servers hosted in a garage somewhere. Knowing what the underlying data center architecture will do to protect your data is key to understanding what you are paying for. Find out from prospective providers what backup and disaster recovery looks like before committing to them.
At some point, you are going to need assistance with the cloud system and knowing what to expect from the supplier will give you a sense of what your risk may be. They are a supplier like every other, so always give their support a call during your selection process to test out their response time, competence and communication. Select with your eyes open.
8. STAFF TRAINING
Often overlooked, there is going to be a cost to your business in terms of your staff training. Moving applications or services to the cloud, however seamless it may seem – will always be a learning curve and something that will reduce productivity or output, hopefully only in the short term. Hopefully this cost will not deter your discussion to move to the cloud, but it should be factored into the equation when looking at the TCO.
9. VERIFYING USAGE
Most Cloud providers price their services on consumption billing. This can really work in your favor if you have intermittent workloads that you want to scale up quickly when the need arises. But, you should always look for a way to internally and independently verify your consumption, or you could soon be faced with a huge bill that not only can you not afford to pay, but you also cannot dispute.
10. VARIABLE COSTS
Although cloud prices traditionally have been decreasing over recent years, currency fluctuations, rising compliance costs and other factors have seen the costs vary. Always build price differentials into your budget, allowing for spikes in costs, or reductions in service. Yes, cloud technology is agile – but so are the bills.
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