Winning in the Cloud: 3 Key Considerations

Published January 3, 2019

As more businesses take to the cloud for their core data and applications, the formula for success evolves based on individual company needs and objectives. The fact is, there is not a single cloud solution or approach to cloud migration that works for everyone. That’s okay, because every business is different.

So how can you be sure you get the cloud that’s right for your business? We encourage companies to think about three core factors. Collectively, these issues set the stage for success in the cloud and form the core of the business case for migrating more – data, applications, processes – to cloud-based environments.

1. Ensure security is “built in from day 1”

Perhaps the biggest misconception about the cloud surrounds the issue of security. Specifically, we are often asked if it’s secure enough for housing core data assets and hosting key applications. The cloud is absolutely secure, and more effective than traditional, on-premises data centers. One reason is that with cloud infrastructures, it’s impossible for bad actors or malicious insiders to plug thumb drives into servers or other hardware and walk off with the data. And they minimize the impact when a laptop is lost or stolen, as the data can be more easily recovered.

But don’t take our word for it. Consider the perspective of Sean Roche, associate deputy director at the CIA’s Digital Innovation Directorate, who said at an industry event in 2018 that, “the technology is better equipped than any legacy system to house the country’s most valuable secrets.”

“Security is an absolutely existential need for everything we do at the agency – the cloud on its weakest day is more secure than a client service solution. Encryption runs seamlessly on multiple levels. It’s been nothing short of transformational.”

That said, companies want to ensure their cloud environments and solutions are secure in line with their industry standards and the sensitivity of their data. While most cloud service providers offer robust baseline security, many companies go further to make sure they follow industry standards, like FedRamp and the National Institutes of Standards (NIST). It may also be necessary to extend and enhance security to meet service requirements for individual sectors, say PCI in financial services.

The other big idea is making sure that all environments – development, test and production – are secure. You can rest assured that hackers are interested in entering your network through whatever environments they can. “Password” is a bad password in any environment – and an invitation for bad actors. Using a “security built in from day 1” mindset, we protect all cloud environments like they are production environments and we instill this security mindset into developers and “cloudologists” on our team.

Strong security is also a matter of culture. Security leaders must engage business stakeholders to instill a risk-aware culture where all users – every developer, analyst and executive – recognize the importance of security, the many common risks and how their actions can promote (or undermine) security.

2. Optimize the cost savings

Lower cost is often the main reason companies consider migrating to cloud environments. A full accounting of the cost advantages starts with savings on capital expenditures. No more investing millions of dollars on servers for foundational capacity and then having to spend still more to add new servers to deal with unexpected spikes in demand for computing resources. No more letting 40-60% of computing capacity sit idle most of the time. The real estate and maintenance fees (e.g., heating and cooling) required to maintain data centers shouldn’t be overlooked, as they can easily add up. Further operational expenditures – including labor costs – are necessary to maintain, upgrade and monitor those servers, too.

In our experience, companies can save at least 50% by moving to the cloud. There is not one hard or fast number for cost savings. Rather, it’s about driving solutions and user experience to those end users demanding applications from IT. On a typical six-month development project 10 or 20 years ago, five months of the time would be spent “racking and stacking” the infrastructure, with only one month to build solutions. Today, the paradigm shift means development teams can spend five months building capabilities and driving adoption in the cloud. Those savings come from reductions in both CapEx and OpEx. However, those savings don’t just fall from the sky; companies must be prepared to negotiate for the right service levels and explore what can seem like a complex array of pricing options to find the best deal – that is, one that delivers the optimal mix of cost savings and business value.

It’s worth reiterating that the economic benefits are not just cost savings. Cloud service providers offer companies the ability to “try before they buy” and seamlessly add volume when they need it. This approach offers much greater cost flexibility and predictability. As opposed to the sunk costs of traditional data centers, you only pay for the resources you consume. It also saves time with procuring, installing and configuring additional servers.

One other consideration relative to cost: consider the analytical and reporting tools cloud providers offer to help ensure that you don’t experience any sticker shock and that you can effectively communicate the full value proposition back to the business.

3. Accelerate the time to value

Security and savings are the top two cloud-related issues for most companies. But you shouldn’t forget about speed. Put simply, the cloud helps businesses move faster. Consider that it used to take multiple IT pros up to a few months to get databases procured, implemented and configured to support new product launches or other important initiatives. Further customization (say, adding additional data fields) could extend the timeline.

Today, via highly intuitive and effective self-service toolsets, those tasks can take only five or 10 minutes. It’s a big deal – and a huge boon to any business trying to get more agile. IT groups can now more easily re-orient on business value instead of technical requirements or limitations.

In the past, IT projects were managed with a 90% focus on technical details and parameters (such as how to set up and manage core infrastructure) and about 10% concern for the needs of the business. That equation has been flipped on its head. Because the cloud makes it so easy to give the business what it needs, including requests for slight tweaks to computing needs, IT’s job got both easier and much more value-adding.

The increased access to data also helps businesses move quicker and generate more useful insights. We aim to create data lakes that allow data scientists and analysts to use cloud-based “analytics ecosystems” to enhance analytic value.

As data varieties increase and volumes grow, such high-powered analytics and insight generation will only be possible in cloud-based environments. Indeed, cloud makes the most advanced analytical and cognitive techniques – including those based on artificial intelligence and machine learning – practical.

The Bottom Line: The Cloud Offers Security, Savings and Speed

Big data may be famous for the three (or five) V’s, but the cloud’s three S’s are just as important. If you are looking for secure computing environments for critical assets and data, significant cost savings over past IT environments and increased speed for the business, it’s time to go all-in on the cloud.

Like to learn more about how Infinitive’s cloudologists can help your business?  Let’s talk.