This week on the blog, RFA UK Managing Director George Ralph discusses five ways to get the most out of the cloud.
Five ways to get the most out of the cloud
By George Ralph, Managing Director, RFA UK
Most firms are using cloud services in some way, even if the extent of cloud use is a single business application like Salesforce, or a ‘personal file’ sync and share service like Dropbox. Some firms have gone further and moved their entire back-end office infrastructure to the cloud, and others are weighing up the pros and cons of cloud services as we speak. Whatever your situation, there are a number of things to consider if you want to get the greatest benefits from cloud services:
Understand your motives for a move to the cloud
Every firm wants something different and believes that the cloud could answer a different set of issues. Most firms’ main driver is a belief that cloud services will be more cost effective than an on-premise solution. This can be the case, but sometimes proves otherwise. More on this in my next point. Other firms want to reduce the staffing budget for an in-house IT team and see cloud services as synonymous with outsourcing. For some, especially those in Central London, space is at a premium and that server room could be better utilised as office space. For others, the cloud promises better system performance and availability. For others, the flexibility of growth (and shrinkage) is the appeal, with the ability to continuously burst and grow without further hardware investment.
Work out the Total Cost of Ownership of your on-premise solution
Only when you know the total cost of ownership of equipment owned and managed by your firm can you make an accurate comparison to the cost of cloud services, to see if the cloud really will deliver those promised cost benefits. In order to work out the TCO you must take into account the initial hardware purchase costs, the ongoing support and maintenance costs of that hardware, any extended warranties, the cost of purchasing software licenses or licensing agreements, ongoing subscriptions and security software costs. In addition to all these direct costs, add the staff costs of administration and technical support and the facilities costs, such as electricity, physical space, air conditioning, fire control, network and internet connectivity costs. Indirect HR costs associated with the management of an in-house IT team should also be considered. While it’s hard to quantify, the cost of downtime and loss of productivity should also be taken into account.
Set SLAs that suit your firm
As part of your TCO calculations, you should have a rough idea of how much a period of downtime would cost the business. When negotiating contracts with cloud providers, set SLAs that suit your firm’s needs.
Ensure that your whole firm is cloud-ready
In order for a cloud-first strategy to work, the whole firm needs to be on board. If the firm’s culture is one of suspicion, fear and doubt when it comes to the security or performance of cloud services, over an on-premise solution, it will take a very persuasive CIO to change the mindset. By involving key departmental heads at the outset, you can make sure that everyone’s needs and processes are accommodated. Spell out the benefits to the relevant departments and sell the vision of the cloud enabled world. Promote the ways that the new services will make user’s lives easier. It’s rare to find someone who doesn’t want an easier life.
Pick and choose what you move to the cloud
Whilst it might be nice to move your entire IT operation to the cloud, it isn’t always the right thing to do. Some applications are irrefutably better suited to the cloud than others. Email for example is rarely better on-premise. Cloud based email solutions are more cost effective, more reliable and SO much easier to manage. Office 365 is cost effective, flexible, always up to date and facilitates greater team collaboration via Sharepoint. The burstable nature of the cloud makes it the ideal home for tasks like risk analysis and calculations, or big data analytics. However, there are some very good reasons why on-premise solutions can be the best option for certain applications or processes; For many financial services firms, data sovereignty is governed by law, and a cloud host which stores data in another country may be contravening data laws and regulations. For firms with internet bandwidth issues, accessing cloud based services may pose problems, files may be too big to transfer to and from the cloud. If internet connectivity is lost, consider the impact of the temporary loss of services. Sensitive financial or customer data may be deemed unsuitable for the cloud, whether this is a real or perceived risk, it must still be taken into account.
In summary, I would reiterate a point that I have made many times, that the cloud is not a one size fits all solution and that it should be approached with your specific requirements firmly in mind.