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Delivering a cloud strategy: what you need to know

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So the board has signed off on your cloud strategy and you’re ready to start on your journey. But where do you start? While your strategy will look at where you want to be at the end of your journey, your next step needs to be how you’re going to get there.

Firstly you need to consider which cloud provider to use. While you’re probably used to sourcing technology providers and have a purchasing process in place, the cloud presents it’s own unique set of factors that need to be addressed. Finding a provider that most closely matches your needs involves undergoing due diligence to ensure that they’re able to deliver against your service needs. Check the SLAs on offer; consider data location and sovereignty; what level of disaster recovery is available; what governance and compliance guarantees do they provide; and what provisions are in place if you want to cancel the service – how do you get your data back.

Depending on whether you’re implementing a hybrid, public or private cloud scenario will impact your choice of provider – from UK-based managed service providers to hyper-scale global providers. In addition to cost, you’ll need to consider whether a commodity or bespoke platform is right for you.

Once you’ve identified the provider, you’ll need to look internally to see how well prepared your IT team is to manage a cloud environment. Does your team have the right skills mix; do you have the software to manage the platform? Look closely at the support your provider offers and ensure that your team can fill gaps or complement and add value. Consider a provider that manages the entire cloud environment if you have lots of skills gaps or prefer your team to concentrate on other service areas.

You’ll also need to identify how you’ll roll out the cloud to the business and its employees. The transition to the cloud is a change to the organisation and will impact it at difference levels and ensuring buy-in is vital. You’ll have the opportunity to eradicate shadow IT and take control once more of those departments that previously had managed their own IT needs bypassing your team but they’ll need to see the value of what’s on offer. Drive home the benefits of new applications and ways of doing things but reinforce governance, compliance, licensing, back up and audit issues.

Communicate the benefits in a language that employees understand. Adopting cloud will improve business agility, which means quicker deployment of new applications that can support new business innovation projects. It will also mean better availability and improved performance – delivering employees a more ‘consumer’ experience in the office.

Finally, but by no means least, you’ll need to get the business ready to move into the cloud. Use the opportunity to revaluate, transform and refresh your IT infrastructure. Start by auditing your current server and application landscape to spot whether a there is a need or even an opportunity to upgrade, replace and rationalise components. Then consider whether you’re able to move everything at once or take a phased approach moving application by application. Either way you need to ensure that you communicate timings to the business and be clear with your provider.

So you’re ready to move into the cloud? Before you do, build a test/development environment – whether that’s on-premise or in the cloud. This way you can build the management tools you’ll need for the new environment, build your teams’ IT skills, test the migration, see how to recover servers, check your disaster recovery plans and even update your process documentation. By taking the time up front to check your strategy, will pay dividends when you implement it.

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