Tyler Cairns |

The business world is moving to the cloud and while this isn’t big news, adoption rates might be surprising to some. Experts initially predicted much more rampant adoption. Take your own poll on why this might be and you’re likely to get a myriad of answers. What is telling about the responses is that cloud is still a large unknown, and to many this translates to real and imminent risk.

The cloud means different things to different people and therein lays the first, and largest, problem with organizations’ reluctance to move to the cloud. Cloud, Hosted Solutions and Software-as-a-Service models are more than a decade old, even older in some industries. Technology and IT Infrastructure are being increasingly commoditized and the cloud is an integral part of that transition. Considering a move to the cloud? Check out the following Dos and Don’ts to ensure a successful deployment.

Don’t Assume Anything
This is a solid approach across the board and when it comes to the livelihood of your business and moving to the cloud, it’s imperative. Explanations for errors and costly mistakes are riddled with conversations that start with “I assumed.”  Due diligence is critical in order to eliminate the unknowns and reduce the number of expensive “gotcha” moments in the project.  Pre-project planning is an investment that all major endeavours, not just cloud implementations, should have and if this isn’t a step that is part of the process for a vendor or project manager, I would have concerns and expectations for the project to go over budget, run long and have a low adoption rate.

Do Assess Your Cloud Appetite
With the wide variety of meanings associated with “the cloud,” you will need clear definitions of the business needs that you’re looking to address with your team or vendor in order to determine the best means for achieving them. Companies that are risk averse tend to approach the cloud in manageable bites, for example moving their email server into the cloud first, followed up with the second step of moving their backup and recovery plans into the cloud, and so on.  More aggressive organizations are flipping their entire IT Infrastructure to the cloud and using current onsite hardware as their backup and recovery environment in the case of an interruption.

Don’t Forget the SLAs
Apple-to-apple comparisons are very difficult in the cloud business.  Service providers all compete to find the unique advantage that will set them apart and provide not only a competitive advantage, but also generate maximum revenue or margin. Service Level Agreements are one of these areas.  The average customer would think that the 24/7/365 support model is standard and for the most part it is, sometimes at an extra cost, sometimes blended into the overall cost – but it’s available. The areas in which vendors are setting themselves apart are those that put skin in the game.  I recommend asking a prospective vendor, “What happens if something you manage goes wrong?”  Top vendors will have a penalty against themselves for a variety of those instances, they will vary and the importance will come down to your own decision criteria but vendors willing to sacrifice profits to help resolve a problem are more attentive to your environments and are more likely to be proactive on notifying, fixing and communicating with you about your cloud environment and the services associated.

Do Include Your Staff
We’ve all been there. The meeting or discussion where the person that you least expects to stand up wholeheartedly promotes or resists the idea. Cloud implementation discussions are no different. Enterprise organizations are too large to be inclusive of everyone in the decision process but there should be a good sample of stakeholders to assess the benefits and risks of each project. The majority of projects fail to gain adoption because this step isn’t taken in advance and change management becomes a swimming-upstream scenario.

Don’t Ignore Big Data
Big Data is still a buzz word that may have lost some of its allure, but it remains a catalyst that tips the scale when it comes to considering a cloud implementation. The increased use of mobile devices, social media, customer information, business intelligence, marketing restrictions, and the ability to maintain security and trust is exploding at exponential rates. Proactive organizations are realizing the costs associated to maintaining these environments in house and are finding cloud providers to offload these data storage demands and regulatory requirements too.  Those that have not come to this point as a business, are finding out the hard way how expensive it is to maintain, or worse, how valuable other people find data and have been victim to a malicious attack on their database, firewall, and more. According to a recent Forbes article earlier this year, Forrester reported that the estimated “minimum cost of a data breach is $10 million.”

Do Understand Where the Cloud is Located
Initially the cloud was inexpensive and the location was not that critical. This just isn’t the case anymore. Canadian organizations are leery of the Patriot Act and want their data to remain in Canada. US organizations are no longer outsourcing all their data to any offshore service provider as the risk is too high.  Companies are paying attention and now looking to find the right combination of offshore, nearshore, best shore, onshore and onsite options before moving forward.

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