With digital transformation looming large on most companies’ agendas, how to transfer systems efficiently to the cloud has become a central concern. Gregg Mearing, Head of Managed Services, Node4, outlines why enlisting the help of an MCSP (Managed Cloud Services Provider) will usually benefit such projects…
In recent years, there has been an enormous upswing in digital transformation projects. Cloud adoption tends to be integral to such projects, (alongside other strands such as mobile migration, social elements and analytics). So, how can businesses best-ensure their movement to the cloud, as part of such projects, is a success?
Projects that move systems to the cloud (as part of a wider digital transformation project) tend to have one major thing in common; they fail frequently. Why? Largely because they tend to be far more complicated, difficult, and expensive than most companies initially realise. Such projects involve a huge number of moving parts, and require a broad skill base in order to be completed successfully. It’s common to find such projects being abandoned halfway, when companies realise they don’t have the money, or access to the right kinds of staff with the right kind of skillset. Engaging with an MCSP can be the best route to avoiding this common trap.
Starting with careful, impartial analysis is critical
Most companies reasons for moving systems to the cloud tend to be similar: Cloud offers almost limitless scalability, allowing your systems to expand and contract according to demand. Cloud systems can be highly responsive and highly automated.
That said, even if you have the technical ability to implement cloud projects successfully, you have to ensure that the business case has been sufficiently analysed. After all, there’s no guarantee that your cloud systems will automatically be more cost-efficient or effective than your old systems. Overall, these projects need to be approached top-down with an impartial, holistic, business-oriented view. You need to involve a party that is completely platform-agnostic, and who will ask the business questions before the IT questions. After all, from a business perspective, the correct answer may be simply ‘don’t do it’. MCSPs will be used to undertaking such analysis on a daily basis for their broad range of customers.
On top of these considerations, you have the various business-risk elements to consider. What’s the risk that this project could lead you to overpay for services? Could it result in loss of business or data? And, will it risk putting you in breach of the law?
Technically speaking, a business needs to understand the suite of applications that will be affected, how business-critical these applications are, availability requirements, traffic profiles, etc., as well as questions related to costs, and time required for development. For example, if your company moved from two local mail servers to twelve cloud-based servers, how would the associated applications deal with that? Would the associated applications require re-engineering for your new cloud environment? The question to ask is always, ‘what will break, and how do we fix it?’ And, do you have the skills in-house to analyse and correct for that?
The skills question
You’ll find that the skills base required to provide cloud migration services such as these is incredibly broad. For example, as an MCSP and IT integrator that handles a lot of digital transformation projects, Node4 is required to employ dedicated developers, windows admins/sysadmins, database experts of various hues, as well as a number of other highly specialist individuals. These people need to be platform-and technology-agnostic, and possess a real breadth of skills.
Realistically, it’s just not practical (or affordable) for most companies to employ this diversity of people for a single project, far less to employ them long-term, and keep them occupied and retained. As a rule, the more highly skilled the individual the more other businesses seek after them, making it very difficult to retain them.
The need to manage security is an increasingly complex question
A top consideration in the mind of most businesses now is, ‘how will this new system affect my security exposure?’ The number of threat vectors in the marketplace are expanding in number and increasing in sophistication every day, and include everything from DDoS attacks to cryptographic ransomware. It follows that capable security expertise is also becoming hard to source.
Ultimately, a business needs to manage security and remain in-line with the latest regulations, as well as providing encryption where required. Such concerns are occasionally viewed as a reason not to adopt public cloud services—but they needn’t be. An MCSP that assists with cloud-based digital transformation projects should have the requisite in-house expertise to walk you through all your security requirements.
Engaging with an MCSP
Overall, an MCSP should already have all of the skills in-house to allow you to make a success of cloud-based digital transformation projects. They’ll be out-and-out cloud experts, and, importantly, will bring an outsider’s perspective to your business issues. And, if you’ve already established that you’ll be likely to require cloud services, an MCSP should be able to offer you significant economies of scale, (both in terms of the cost of hosting systems and of managing them on an on-going basis), and should be able to cross-sell services at a discount.
When engaging with an MCSP, look for a company that not only has a solid customer base, but also a history of comparable projects. Look, too, for a company that has its hands in many different platforms and technologies, and no particular investment in, or bias towards, one or another. Ideally, you’d engage with a company that can make money out of straightforward consulting and integration work, without the need to necessarily host your systems. After all, you need a partner you can trust to tell you if cloud isn’t the answer to your requirements.