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Which cloud model is right for your business?
Public cloud features services and infrastructure that are provided off-site, usually over the internet. It offers a great range of technology choices and provides a great level of efficiency. This model is more cost-effective for small businesses.
Private cloud offers a higher level of control, because all the services and infrastructure are maintained privately. However, it requires a business to purchase and maintain the software and infrastructure, which reduces the flexibility and can affect cost savings. A private cloud model is more suitable for medium-sized businesses.
Hybrid cloud allows organisations to benefit from the automation of a public cloud model while reaping the control and privacy benefits of a private cloud. It also lets a business run its custom or legacy applications in its existing data centre with the option of leveraging a number of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications in the public cloud.
If you run a small business or you're just starting out - or if you lead an organisation with standard service offerings that has relatively repetitive or straightforward workloads used by lots of people (for things like email, intranet applications, etc.) - then opting for a public cloud model, where you don't carry the infrastructure burden, could be a smart business decision.
Larger organisations often have a mix of custom in-house applications and standard applications. A hybrid cloud will mean you don’t need to forfeit past investments while taking advantage of cloud-driven applications.
Taking it step by step
STEP 1: Audit what you have
Start with an audit of all your applications and associated data, and then choose what should be moved and in what order. Remember: applications that aren't as critical to operations make for ideal first candidates, but keep in mind these will only deliver incremental benefit. Get the balance right because moving too slowly on delivering benefits will not be favourable to your stakeholders.
STEP 2: Define your existing set-up’s shortcomings and what they’re costing you
Uncover how your organisation’s existing set-up may be ill-prepared to survive a major outage if something goes wrong. If possible, quantify the cost of the resulting downtime and loss in data. How much would your business lose for every hour it wasn't working? What about the regulation and compliance implications? Include all variables applicable to your business.
STEP 3: Build a migration plan
Before you get into the nitty gritty of migration, you need to create a robust plan so that the project won’t disrupt the business. If you've chosen a hybrid cloud model, this is the time to outline what applications and data will be moved to the public cloud and what will stay on the private network.
STEP 4: Explore how the cloud could be the right path to take — from both strategic and cost perspectives
List the key business benefits of adopting a cloud strategy. These might include:
- Operational efficiencies. You can set up a cloud service or feature quickly.
- Scalable and flexible. Grows with your business as your IT demands evolve.
- Resiliency. Cloud providers have mirrored back-up solutions that can be used in a disaster scenario, mitigating downtime.
- Substantially reduced overheads. The cloud offers all these gains without the financial commitments or investment required for infrastructure purchase and maintenance. Outline the cost advantages of moving to the cloud by comparing how much your organisation is paying now for its existing set-up while also taking into account the risk costs calculated in the next step.
STEP 5: Be upfront about risks
Outline any potential risks of a cloud strategy. These will be different for every organisation, but one likely to be consistent across the board is the need for due diligence in choosing a particular provider. Reputation, history and sustainability should all be factors to consider. The dynamic nature of the cloud means that it’s important to know where exactly your data is going to reside. Business continuity plans must also be well documented and tested. And when implementing new technologies it’s important that current processes are reviewed and updated to match.
STEP 6: Plan for when things go wrong
Although rare, it’s worth remembering that things do go wrong and you can experience outages, so you need to design your business continuity architecture appropriately. Using two cloud models is like storing data in two physical locations. A business continuity strategy, that duplicates your applications in multiple regions and data centres will ensure you’re covered.
While a number of cloud service providers offer business continuity solutions, you still need to protect yourself against the risk of losing data, even in the cloud. It’s important you have back-up processes in place to protect you against unforeseen outages and human error, so you can avoid unnecessary downtime.
*Originally published November 25th 2016. Updated November 8th 2019.