A successful cloud journey requires careful planning

Bob Petrocelli, CTO, Datto

Now more than ever, the cloud strategy narrative has moved off the drawing board and into reality and implementation. According to the latest report by Cisco and Boston Consulting Group (BCG), cloud spending in the ASEAN region is expected to see a growth of 25% by 2024. Datto is also seeing a rise of smaller businesses moving their IT infrastructure to the cloud – with public cloud in high demand.

As a result, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are turning to cloud providers. For many SME organizations, Microsoft Azure seems like a natural choice as they already use a range of Microsoft solutions. At the same time, organisations that already use on-premises Windows Server and SQL Server licenses can use those licenses in the Azure cloud at no extra cost. For many SMEs, it seems that Azure is their default option, whether they move all their existing servers to the cloud or opt for a hybrid approach that aggregates some workloads into Software-as-a -Service (SaaS) applications like Office365 before moving the rest of their IT infrastructure to the cloud.

A successful cloud migration can make a big difference

In the first few months of the pandemic, several major IT infrastructure projects were put on hold, allowing organisations to focus on deploying remote working solutions. This was necessary to keep the business running, but now the demand for cloud migration support is rising again. With benefits that include flexibility to scale up and down as needed, fixed monthly costs for IT infrastructure, and less cumbersome server rooms in the office, SMEs see the value of the cloud. 

SMEs with little or no in-house IT expertise can be overwhelmed by cloud technology. Cloud contracts and non-transparent cost models can also be complex and difficult to understand. This may be a reason why some small businesses are reluctant to take the plunge. In addition, SMEs are nervous about the increasing number of ransomware attacks – and are therefore doubtful about cloud security. 

The truth is, if done correctly, cloud migration can improve an organisation’s level of security. Cloud providers and third-party vendors have developed sophisticated security solutions and are dedicated to constantly improving them so that the solutions can mitigate the latest threats.

To execute a successful cloud migration, here are five things to consider:

  • Plan well: It’s easier to launch an IT project if there’s considerable planning to ensure the value makes sense for the business. It may be a good idea to have a 3-5 year plan for new IT projects. IT infrastructure needs will naturally change as the business grows, so a plan for scaling should also reflect the business objectives. A timeline of business investments may also be useful here.
  • Don’t migrate everything at once: Decision makers should keep in mind that migrations do not have to happen at once but can be done in different stages. Which parts of the business can be run more efficiently in the cloud? Is now a good time to modernise certain parts of the business? Most organisations choose an approach where some applications are moved to the cloud, while others are kept locally until it makes sense to move them.
  • Be ready with change management: moving your infrastructure to the cloud will change the way users work and access applications. This can create friction and unhappy employees because they must adapt and change their habits. Hence, managers need to communicate carefully about the changes, keeping employees informed about new processes and managing expectations. It would also be good to consider what training is required to make employees feel comfortable to start working on the new infrastructure.
  • Put strong security measures in place: Data protection needs to be considered carefully when moving to the cloud, because Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) providers don’t usually cover this. For example, while Microsoft Azure has a backup service built in, it doesn’t necessarily meet the individual backup needs of the business. For example, some Azure models offer free backup, but if you want to store historical data and automatically restore it, it may be a good idea to spread backups across both the IaaS provider and a separate private cloud so that operations are not disrupted in the event of a network outage.
  • Get external help: it can be difficult as a business to assess when it makes sense to move to the cloud, what parts of the infrastructure need to be moved when, whether security has been taken care of and how to make it as smooth as possible for employees. Businesses should contact an MSP or other IT service provider who can help with the best possible cloud migration.

The impact of the pandemic on SMEs digital transformation has been huge, and many may have already benefited from moving their IT infrastructure to the cloud. At the same time, many businesses may have made hasty decisions when it comes to their cloud strategy. Hence, it’s a good idea to follow the above recommendations to ensure a successful migration. If cloud migration is done correctly, organisations will see a clear improvement in the efficiency of their infrastructure.