With the growing popularity of cloud computing and the frustrating complexity surrounding it, anyone who can slap up a website can claim to be a cloud “expert.”
We have provided cloud services for our clients for over 13 years, long before people even started referring to Internet-based computing as the “Cloud." We have also noticed there’s some pretty rotten advice out there about cloud computing and cloud migrations (moving your IT networks to the cloud). Here are a few “tips” that miss the mark.
Note: We mention the term Cloud Integrator several times in this post. A cloud integrator is a IT systems/services provider that specializes in cloud computing and cloud migrations.
Everyone should move all of their applications and networks to the cloud
(Warning: Do NOT let a cloud expert tell you there is only “one way” of doing something!)
With all of the hype and excitement surrounding Cloud computing, you may find yourself getting swept on to the bandwagon. We can’t blame you! The cloud delivers benefits like:
- Predictable IT Costs
- Ability to access your desktop and/or applications from anywhere and any device
- Automated backup and disaster recovery
And that's just to name a few.
With that said, the cloud is not a one-size fits all solution. All options – be it an in-house, on-premise server or a cloud solution – have upsides and downsides that need to be evaluated on a case-by-case scenario.
Here is an example: Let’s say you're an agricultural supplier and you run an agribusiness software application that is crucial to your daily retail operations. This software does not have a cloud-based version available.
You still have the option of running that software from a virtual terminal (something like this, where you access a virtual desktop from a cloud server using a service like Citrix or Windows Remote Desktop).
This will work great if you need to access the application from multiple devices and locations. However, depending on your location and the quality of your Internet connection, it may make more sense to run the application in-house.
Sometimes, it does make sense to move your entire network to the Cloud. Other times it makes sense to move only a few key applications and files. This is what we refer to as a Hybrid cloud- where some of your applications and functionality are in the cloud and some are still hosted and maintained from an in-house server.
You do not need additional backups if all of your files are hosted in the cloud.
This is is a common misconception that many cloud vendors will try to sell you on. "Since we have a copy of your files, you do not have to worry about backing them up.” While it may be true that they are backing up your files, there is always the possibility of a security breach that could wipe out or corrupt your data. It has happened to the biggest companies like Dropbox, and even Google. You can probably get by without backups for your non-critical data, but for those mission critical business files, an image-based backup system ensures your files are retrievable no matter what happens.
Since the cloud is a fairly new concept, experience is not important when searching for a reputable cloud integrator.
The term cloud computing may be a fairly new buzz word, but the Internet, and the security concerns surrounding the Internet, have been around for decades. Unfortunately, the IT consulting industry (along with many others) has its own share of incompetent or unethical people who will try to take advantage of trusting business owners who simply do not have the ability to determine whether or not they know what they are doing. Sometimes this is out of greed for your money; more often it’s simply because they do not have the skills and competency to do the job right but won’t tell you that up front because they want to make the sale.
You don’t want someone practicing on your network. At a minimum, make sure they have at least 10 clients in the cloud. They should also provide at least three options for cloud-based services. Make sure they are not trying to pigeon hole you into their “one and only” solution that may not be a right fit for you. Many times we see companies only offering a single cloud solution and this “one-size-fits-all” approach can be disastrous or way overpriced.
Make sure you can contact at least 3 cloud references before committing to a solution. Most references will tell you the pros and cons of the service if you ask the right questions. Here are a few examples: How long have they been using the cloud? Would they move to the cloud again if they had the chance to do things over? What challenges did they face that they were not prepared for?
Moving to the cloud is not safe.
With all of the security breaches we have seen over the last year, we can understand this concern. That’s why it’s so important to find out where your cloud integrator will store your data, how it’s encrypted, who has access and how you can get it back.
When you choose a reputable cloud integrator, moving to the cloud is generally much safer than keeping everything in house. Your files are backed up redundantly on servers that are safer than any regular office building could provide. As long as the cloud services you used are well-vetted, you can rest assured you are making a safe choice.
Moving to the cloud is easy.
When done right, a migration to Office 365 or another cloud solution should be like any other migration. There’s planning that needs to be done, prerequisites that have to be determined and the inevitable “quirks” that need to be ironed out once you make the move. While moving to the cloud shouldn’t be a painful experience, it does need to be well-planned.
Every company has its own unique environment, so it’s practically impossible to try and plan for every potential pitfall; however, here are some BIG things you want to ask your IT consultant about BEFORE making the leap.
- Downtime. Some organizations cannot afford ANY downtime, while others can do without their network for a day or two. Make sure you communicate YOUR specific needs regarding downtime and make sure your IT provider has a solid plan to prevent extended downtime.
- Painfully Slow Performance. Ask your IT consultant if there’s any way you can run your network in a test environment before making the full migration. Imagine how frustrated you would be if you migrate your network and discover everything is running so slow you can barely work! Again, every environment is slightly different, so it’s best to test before you transition.
- 3rd-Party Applications. If your organization has plug-ins to Exchange for faxing, voice mail or integration into another application, make sure you test to see if it will still work in the new environment.