A beginner’s guide to the cloud

CloudWe thought you’d like our beginner’s guide to the cloud as everyone seems to have their head in the cloud these days. Not in a ‘I’d-rather-be-on-a-beach-in-Mauritius’ kind of cloud (although, wouldn’t that be fantastic!) But rather in a ‘We-need-digital-transformation-and-we-need-it-now’ kind of cloud.  Migrating to the cloud is the phrase describing revolutionary and innovative organisations. It’s the phrase you may hear your 13-year-old daughter say when she doesn’t have enough storage space on her cell phone.  But many of us find ourselves asking, “what is the cloud and where does it fit in?”

Due to technological advances, rapid globalisation and the constant requirement of more storage, we find ourselves operating in a ‘digital ecosystem.’ This ecosystem is characterised by blurred lines between buyers, sellers, customers, competitors, partners, suppliers, friends and colleagues. Components of this ecosystem include mobility, social media, security measures, processes, technology, compliance, content management and our topic of discussion – the cloud.

In the pursuit to become digitally transformed, organisations assume migrating all their information to the cloud is all there is to it. It most certainly is not. Migrating to the cloud is an element of an overall digital strategy your company requires to digitally transform itself. Your organisation can only migrate to the cloud and achieve overall digital transformation if it has a culture conducive to change.

Digitally transforming your organisation is a project. One of these deliverables in this project is the cloud. Like most projects you need to assess it against three spheres of your organisation. Assessing cloud migration according to these spheres should be done as follows:

  1. Finances: How will the cloud impact on the finances of your organisation?
  2. Technology: Will the cloud make other technology redundant? Always remember that technology is a means to an end rather than an end in itself. It should be a means to achieve digital transformation and form part of your digital strategy.
  3. Organisation: How accepting will employees be of the cloud, will there be resistance? How can you involve employees in the migration and what sort of training is required?

After determining how migrating to the cloud will affect these three spheres of your organisation you will need to familiarise yourself with cloud terminology to position yourself to make informed decisions and educate your employees (remember effective buy-in of change starts with employee acceptance through education and information sharing.)

Terminology associated with the cloud

  1. Private Cloud – when a company decides to provide cloud-based services internally to their organisation with self-provisioning and chargeback services and they host the cloud within their organisation. i.e. the storage and computing equipment on which the service runs belong in-house to the company.
  2. Public Cloud – all services and storage are located in the WWW and a subscription to a service provider such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure or EMC Virtustream is required.
  3. Hybrid Cloud – some critical business services are run on a company owned private cloud and other less critical, such as development, backup or long-term storage may be hosted in public cloud.

Now is the fun part – migrating to the cloud. You will first need to assess how much cloud storage you require and what storage system you will use. A cloud specialist may assist you during your migration period. To protect yourself and your organisation always bear the following in mind:

Cloud migration precautions

  1. Your organisation may require an additional power source dedicated to running your online connection to avoid disruption in uploads which result in file corruption.
  2. Privacy is always a concern when uploading anything online that could potentially be hacked. Change passwords regularly and encrypt data where available
  3. If you plan on relying on the cloud to store all your information you are going to need an extensive internet package with reliable speed and connection.
  4. Be prepared to change your view of data accountability. You’ll no longer have the direct access of a party responsible for the integrity and safety of your information. Instead you will be dealing with a third party provider.

Although there is a lot to bear in mind when choosing to make the cloud part of your digital strategy, the benefits seem to outweigh any worries you have or precautions you may need to take.

Benefits of the cloud

  1. A hybrid cloud reduces overheads as you are not required to invest in your own IT department with human resources and infrastructure.
  2. A hybrid cloud releases developers from tedious configuration tasks by providing them with an intuitive solution allowing them to code more in shorter periods.
  3. A cloud increases an organisation’s flexibility allowing them to adapt and innovate faster.
  4. There is great ease of access to information where ever you are.
  5. Regular updates allow an organisation to stay relevant and on track with the latest technology and operating systems.
  6. Your data is secure from physical damage and internet security measures can be taken to encrypt information, maintaining integrity and privacy of your information.
  7. All information is already backed up to an off-site server.

Digital transformation is defining innovative, successfully competitive organisations. Don’t get left behind with your feet on the ground.

What have your experiences been with the cloud?

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