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March 13, 2017updated 28 Mar 2017 4:29pm

Cloud strategies and how to find one

A recent survey of enterprise IT professionals by IDC found less than five per cent believed their organisation had an optimised cloud strategy.

By John Oates

This shouldn’t be a surprise. A key benefit of cloud technology is the ease of set up. This has meant individual departments, or even teams within departments, have organised their own cloud services. Differing end dates for existing data centre deals also help create a confusing patchwork of providers.

So-called ‘shadow IT’ which bypasses the usual purchasing channels has the advantage of speed and flexibility but brings equally important disadvantages.

Security can be compromised if people search for the quickest and probably cheapest solution to technology problems.

By making individual decisions any cost-saving benefit from economies of scale is lost.

It is likely that departments are duplicating the work done elsewhere in the company – even if that work is just choosing a good cloud provider. Cost implications could go deeper if more complex services are being created on a bespoke basis for different departments. Without sharing best practise the advantages of being a big organisation are lost.

But most importantly each incremental purchase can undermine an organisation’s wider technology strategy.

Someone, whether in the IT department or not, needs to be able to get an overview of all these different deals and think about strategy.

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But bringing visibility to such a complex picture can be very difficult. Especially because in a big organisation new providers are probably being added every day.

That might mean choosing an operating system, or even operator, so that staff will be able to easily use each others services.

Or exploiting shared, common standards so that bespoke applications will work from any department using one of several cloud providers. Such standards will also ease the move to another provider should that be necessary.

If nothing else open standards will help focus the mind of your provider on the fact that you can change relatively easily.

A strategic view of the whole company’s cloud infrastructure might mean increasing the diversity of providers in order to ensure redundancy for disaster planning or recovery.

Or thinking about geographic spread so that back up systems are isolated from core data centres in the event of a natural disaster.

Thinking strategically about the cloud does not just mean thinking about how to start deals. It is just as important to think from the very start about how you get out of the deal at the end, or in the event of service problems, before the end.

That means agreeing how service levels will be measured, and what happens if they are not met.

A cloud strategy should enhance the best aspects of cloud technologies – like flexibility and the ability to quickly switch providers.

It should provide an easier and better way to begin a cloud project – even if that is as simple as a check-list of questions to ask before signing anything.

But a proper strategy will also accept that doing a cloud deal is not a two day task.

The deal, the relationship and level of service, will need managing and maintaining throughout the life of the contract.

Cloud providers promise to remove all this from your life. But the reality is that any business relationship needs monitoring and updating, especially one based on shifting technology.

The first step to creating an enterprise-wide cloud strategy is a proper audit of deals which are already in place.

Looking at that overview in terms of security, service, scalability, redundancy, cost and diversity will help guide a strategy for the future.

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