Are you ready for cloud transformation?

Cloud computing is one of those technology terms that has fast become ubiquitous. In both our personal and professional lives we have embraced the cloud to bring us benefits in terms of flexibility, agility and an immersive social collaboration that enables us to store our digital assets and access them from wherever we like. In the business world, however, how do you decide if or when your organization is ready for cloud?

It is understandable if organizations find themselves a little confused; there are multiple flavors of cloud and each has its own specific benefits and relevance to a company depending on a range of factors. These could relate to regulatory compliance, data sovereignty laws or more. They could be about the size of your organization and your need for agility and speed of operation or they could be about the basic importance of security of sensitive data. But it is important to make the right choice at the start. The European cloud market is in good health and continues to grow unabated – research showed that Western Europe experienced the greatest increase in cloud use year on year, growing from 75 percent of organizations in 2014 to 81 per cent in 2015.

Establishing cloud readiness and cloud types

In recent years we have seen growing adoption of cloud service models, including Software as a Service (SaaS), with notable examples including Concur and Salesforce for some organization activity. However, the majority of multinationals still require hosted cloud service platforms to meet their specific business needs and requirements.

To meet these needs it helps to be well informed when deciding whether or not you are ready for cloud. There are four main types of cloud, each with varying characteristics – public, private, hybrid and virtual private. Public cloud is used by many of us in daily life, services like Amazon Web Services for example, which are built on hosted Infrastructure as a Service and operate mainly on a pay-as-you-go basis. Their ubiquitous availability and scalability make them attractive for some use cases, however, they cannot provide the required security for enterprise use and also place the onus on you to ensure regulatory compliance.

Private cloud offers greater privacy and security plus more control – a good option if your requirements include storing sensitive data or flexibility for powering more dynamic, complex technical requirements.  Private cloud is dedicated to specific a customer and also offers the complete the ‘peace of mind’ being located in your own secure environment, instead of in a shared public one.

Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) blends both public and private together, marrying the flexibility and agility of public cloud with improvements in security, and service management provided by private cloud. As different vendor models have varying characteristics so consideration will require careful consideration of your specific needs.

Hybrid cloud is the fourth option, and is now seen as the fastest-growing and preferred cloud deployment for business enterprise – IDC forecasts that over 80 percent of enterprise IT organizations will commit to hybrid cloud architectures by 2017. Hybrid cloud comprises a mix of public, private and VPC elements within one model, meaning you can place different workloads requiring varying degrees of security, compliance, technical complexity, and scalability in different places. Hybrid architectures tend to me more attractive for larger organizations that are keen to investigate the flexibility and scalability of public cloud without compromising security and data privacy. Critically, hybrid can support of legacy applications and services that have been developed over many years and remain the fundamental DNA for the business enterprise.

So you think you’re ready – but for which one?

It goes without saying that it is a smart idea to evaluate your needs thoroughly. How big a priority is security to your organization, how sensitive is your data and what are your audit requirements? How and what legacy requirements do you need to support in the future? What sort of usage patterns do you have, are they consistent and predictable, or ‘bursty’ in nature and hence prone to peaks and troughs?

If high levels of scalability are important to you, your data is not that sensitive and you prefer an on-demand cost model, public cloud is probably right for you. If data privacy and security are of paramount importance and you require very high levels of performance and reliability for sensitive data use, private likely makes the most sense. A more cost-effective approach with relatively high performance and reliability plus good security could be achieved using a VPC. For a blend of those factors within a larger corporate environment where you can customize the cloud model more, then hybrid cloud probably works best for you.

Making the right choice

Cloud has now become a mainstream business tool that helps us manage and access data in unprecedented ways. With that in mind, many organizations are now faced with the issue of not ‘Is it time my business shifted to the cloud?’ but simply ‘I think I’m ready for the cloud, but I need to be sure I make the right decision’. Done right, cloud strategy helps smaller companies mature more quickly and helps larger organizations manage their data better improving business continuity, operations, customer experience, and compliance needs. Consequently, such improvements enable the organization to be more agile and dynamic which is key to remaining competitive as businesses face increasing ‘digital disruption’.   

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Paul Pizzey
Paul Pizzey is a Business Partner at Orange Business, specialising in managed services, private & hybrid cloud, and business transformation. He has over 25 years of international business experience working with large enterprise and multinational clients having worked on a wide range of infrastructure, outsourcing and business projects. Moving to his current role in 2010, he is focused on helping customers to embrace cloud and managed services, transforming IT delivery to reduce costs and optimise business value.