Advertising for cloud platforms has become ubiquitous in airports, on billboards, in magazines—just about anywhere technology leaders’ eyes might wander. These ads pluck at the question of the moment for those in charge of a company’s IT: should I be moving everything to the cloud? But this is often the wrong question. IT leaders should really be asking, “What is/are the correct hosting options for my business?” Cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft’s Azure have gained millions of denizens for good reason, but they’re often only part of the best solution for an enterprise. As your organization contemplates an IT infrastructure migration, consider the following to make a more informed decision.
A Full Spectrum of Options
While “cloud” is often the answer many technology organizations settle on, there’s a larger spectrum of infrastructure hosting options available, from Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Azure, to Software as a Service (SaaS)-based solutions such as Salesforce and Workday. To confuse things further still, the debate between public and private cloud adds another layer of complexity on how your hardware, applications, and data will be hosted. The easiest way to understand the ever-increasing number of hosting options is to consider what you’d like to own and manage versus what the provider you’re paying will own and manage. At the far left of the spectrum—the side where you take on all responsibilities—you are responsible for owning and managing everything from real estate to server hardware to fire suppression systems in a server room. On the other end of the spectrum, you pay a service fee for a provider to own and manage all aspects of the IT infrastructure (including the application) and you simply use the application as a service.
As you navigate your decision tree on this, consider the following:
A Hybrid Approach is Usually Best
As organizations evaluate their options, most come to the realization that being at the extreme of either side isn’t usually the best option as it will limit effectiveness and increase cost. A hybrid approach will usually yield a more robust array of applications and IT infrastructure that will better support the business. As an example, commoditized applications or services (those that are ubiquitous and are commonly used across many organizations with little customization, e.g. email, HR, payroll) usually fit best in a SaaS model, while software requiring extensive customization or frequent changes typically work better in an IaaS or PaaS model. Older, highly customized software may have to be hosted or in a co-located data center because cloud providers typically don’t offer older technology stacks. These solutions can co-exist within the same IT organization with relative ease.
Key elements to keep in mind as you develop a perspective on a hybrid solution:
The Cost Factor
Frequently, when organizations begin researching options, they are dissuaded by the ongoing cost associated with running infrastructure in the cloud citing the fact that it is significantly more expensive than their current solution. However, these organizations often fail to account for all of the costs of maintaining and operating their own infrastructure, as well as the differences in the quality of hosting between their existing (often on-premise) solution and the various cloud options.
As all of the cost factors are added, three key observations usually emerge:
Once an organization has developed a strategy and is ready to undertake a cloud migration, it should consider whether it has the resources and the knowledge necessary to execute its vision. A different skillset is usually required to successfully execute an IT transition and hiring new resources or a firm with experience in this area is usually beneficial and will end up saving time and money in the long run. Finally, ongoing maintenance should be contemplated to ensure that the organization has the necessary skillsets to maintain its new infrastructure. In a world of cloud and SaaS, engineers used to maintaining hardware, VMs, and network elements can quickly get lost.
Organizational considerations to maintain a cloud environment:
Contemplating an IT infrastructure migration is a significant initiative with far-reaching implications, both into the business it is supporting as well as the future operations of the IT organization itself. As with any large undertaking, a sound strategy and planning must sit at the foundation in order to ensure success. If you’d like to discuss an application/hosting strategy for your organization, please reach out to us. We’d be happy to help.
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