Top five tips for jumping on board the cloud safely
- — 28 February, 2013 11:31
Cloud is a popular trend in many organisations and delivers a fundamental change in the way businesses collect, store and handle information. Everyone is talking about it, a lot of people are using it but only a few people truly understand the ins and outs of the beast.
When it comes to benefits, they are well explored and discussed. We know cloud delivers better organisational flexibility, quick and timely deployment, cost effective infrastructure solutions, the opportunity to refocus IT resources and more often than not the creation of new business models.
But when it comes to safety, the jury is still out. The below five tips will help shine some light on how to make a smart, safe and tailored decision based upon your individual organisation’s needs when it comes to cloud.
Understand the demands of your organisation
Before you can investigate a cloud solution, you need to understand your organisation’s needs and uncover any processes that may impact employee productivity or your broader business functionality.
Ask the basic question, why are we thinking about moving to the cloud? Engaging key decision makers in a reasonable discussion will help identify any hidden key priorities and direct decisions.
Depending on the structure of your organisation – from small business to multinational – your employees will have different demands and expectations. Cloud has almost limitless possibilities. Infrastructure services such as data storage and processing power might be the solution your organisation needs. But to harness the most effective solution, you need to be familiar with your organisation’s background and requirements.
Investigate your options
Cloud is cloud, right? Wrong. Cloud is a multifaceted service that has numerous solutions. There are three key cloud computing options: public cloud, private cloud and hybrid cloud.
Public cloud uses the web to deliver resources, such as applications and storage, to the public on a free or pay by usage model. These are large scale solutions owned and operated by third party service provides, and customers benefit financially as infrastructure costs are split across all customers using the cloud. Security and data integrity is a key risk on public cloud, as security and infrastructure shapes are static for all users.
In contrast, private cloud is a platform controlled by a corporation’s IT department, and housed within a corporate firewall. Because the solution is built exclusively for the organisation, private cloud is often considered the safer solution, though has a much higher financial outlay.
Hybrid cloud is one of the most popular cloud options and is a combination of at least one private cloud and one public cloud. A partnership between the two finds the middle ground between accessibility and security - an organisation can take advantage of the cost effectiveness and scalability of public cloud, but can still control the security around specific applications and information. The increased flexibility of computing is what makes this solution the most attractive, and often the most popular, solution for businesses entering the cloud space.
Every company has specific IT requirements and activities that will determine the type of cloud service necessary – but it is important to investigate your options and understand your needs before committing to one particular solution.
Control access rights and restrictions
Cloud delivers a number of benefits for users – mobility and flexibility being key advantages for the developing work environment. But with users working across multiple locations, mediums and networks, it presents a risk of data leakage that does not exist when dedicated servers and resources are used exclusively by one organisation.
The whole point of cloud is to increase access, but the question of who needs access to what is critical for businesses. Assigning access rights helps monitor user pathways and control access to certain data pools. Typically, organisations create categories which they will assign to individual users.
Cloud is designed to take your data off site and store it safely and efficiently. The cloud helps protect businesses from physical dangers relating to data loss – anything from a stolen hard drive through to an unforseen natural disaster. Every time a document is updated on site, it is replicated on the cloud.
However, there can be some weak links in the chain. If there are infiltrations to the IT service system through a virus or hacker, people can potentially lose access to their accounts, find data has become corrupted or hacked and have no way to recover or track what is happening to it.
This is where local backups come in.
As a rule, cloud should be considered an additional back up, not a replacement. Although your data is stored on the ‘cloud’, this is still housed somewhere, in a physical location. The same threats that face a 1 terabyte hard drive can potentially affect some of the largest data storage centres in the world.
Many organisations regularly back up sensitive data or data which is not being frequently used, to help protect against any threats. By housing data on the cloud, and on site, it creates a stronger barrier to data penetration and loss, helping to increase the security around your organisations data.
Partner with a service provider and create a plan
Partner with a service provider that has proven success with businesses similar in size and scope to yours that understand your technology. It is important that you are thorough and vigilant in your selection.
Once you have selected your service provider, consider rolling out a phased migration that will allow you to gradually increase the load giving you time to fine-tune and minimise risks while maintaining business continuity.
The Cloud is scalable, so it allows businesses to create a plan for growth that utilises the benefits of the Cloud without a significant up-front investment. You can start small, and gradually increase your usage over time, while only paying incrementally for the services and access you need. Small business owners who want to reduce costs without sacrificing their ability to do business and compete with larger companies are using the Cloud. If you are ready to put the Cloud to work for your business, you can start small so you can see the benefits without making major changes to your operations.