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Baby Steps to the Cloud


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You may think your company is behind the curve because you are not 100% in the cloud. Very few companies are there, and most won’t make it all the way to 100% due to security, performance, or other strategic reasons. Most, however, are at least getting some workloads into the cloud for price, scalability, and competitive advantage. If you are just starting your journey, here are a few things to consider.

Challenges

Identities

Are you going to use a directory of some kind, or are you going to create your identities in the application? If you are going to use a directory, are you going to replicate the usernames, attributes, and passwords, or are you going to expose a service that can validate the login? This is usually the first hurdle you will have to overcome. The easiest way is to replicate everything, but it can open you to security holes if not done correctly because you are putting passwords outside of your firewall.

Bandwidth

When looking at a cloud service, the compute power and storage may look very cheap. How much does it cost to transfer the data there or to retrieve it? That is normally when the costs really start to add up. If you can, try to keep the data transfer within the cloud and then bring back only the data that you need. Co-locating applications in the same cloud can really reduce this traffic.

Your data or their data?

When using a cloud service, make sure you find out about how your data is stored, who has access to it, and what happens if you leave the service. Do you have access to the data at the end? What kind of format is it in? How secure is your data? Are you exposing yourself to a data breach? Your data is the most important asset of your company; do not put it in jeopardy because you didn’t read the fine print.

Licensing

Does the vendor allow you to run its product in the cloud? Does the licensing change based on where it is running? Does the vendor charge you more if it runs at another cloud provider versus its service? You need to read your contracts carefully, and, if necessary, get a third party involved to help you understand what you are allowed to do.

Starting Simple

Start with IaaS

Instead of running on virtual machines in your data center, try running them in one of the cloud providers data centers. You will be able to install your applications, and they will look like the ones you are running currently.

Less-critical applications

Don’t take the most critical application for your company to the cloud first. There is a lot of learning you will have with your first applications. You want to only move the big, critical applications once. Get some successes first and then go for the challenge.

Backups

One thing you are probably already doing is sending your backups offsite. There are cloud-based services with major vendors that  allow you to accomplish the same thing. These will have less of an impact on a user than moving the actual application. Just make sure you understand your read/write frequency and how much that will cost you.

Overall, the best thing that you can do is talk to someone who has been through it. If you are looking at a specific vendor, then ask for references. Join a user group, and talk to companies like yours. Educate yourself, and then work your way in.


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