How planning is the perfect tonic for avoiding the ‘cloud hangover’

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If there is one shortage we will never suffer in the technology sector, it is one of attention-grabbing sound-bites.

The latest one to do the rounds is the ‘cloud hangover’. It has been coined to describe the undesirable after-effects of a move to the cloud, the most painful of which is the significant unplanned for expenditure incurred by organisations in maintenance and support of their newly acquired cloud IT.

While you may wince at the phrase, the issue is an important one for any organisation thinking about any sort of cloud adoption.

If two of the top benefits of cloud IT are flexibility and the ability to reduce costs, no IT lead wants to end up in a place where their new technology infrastructure ends up being harder to manage and costing much more than was initially planned.

The good news is in my experience such problems are easily avoided, particularly if you accept that, like its real-life equivalent, you recognise that ‘cloud hangover’ is down to a series of poor choices.

So what should organisations be thinking about?

Invest time before you invest money

The first issue to recognise is that any move to the cloud requires an investment of time to map out your needs and create a plan for migration to the cloud. This should be aligned to and prioritised against business needs. It’s at this time when you should involve suppliers to help with your thinking.

A supplier should work with you to assess the costs, risks and rewards of cloud for your organisation, they can then create an implementation strategy roadmap. Of all the investments you make, this planning phase is the most critical because it sets the context for every other choice you make.

Avoid tactical cloud adoption

It is critical to resist the temptation to implement cloud solutions on the basis that they deliver quick cost savings or because they are an easy-to-implement replacement for existing technology - unless it is part of a wider plan. Going down this road can increase complexity and increase IT siloes in your organisation, embedding unnecessary costs or leaving you with a bigger clear-up job further down the line.

The first phase of cloud migration following strategy definition and planning should focus on putting in place the right IT infrastructure to enable future flexibility and cost savings. For many organisations, this may involve a co-location arrangement as a pre-cursor a fuller cloud IT estate.

Get a plan for your data

Understanding and assessing what data you have currently, how it needs to be used and its security requirements is critical to the success of a move to cloud.

Do this piece of work up front and you will ensure you don’t pay for data being held in a security environment which is more costly than what you really need.

An IT team which can deliver

Moving to the cloud demands a team with a different set of skills from the ones you have to manage and maintain in-house IT infrastructure.

Planning for a move to the cloud is as much about people as technology. Once you have identified the IT structure that you want to put in place, then you should be scoping and shaping an internal IT function that has the capability to support it.

Managing suppliers, service level agreements, change management and project management are critical skills for cloud IT, along with strategic planning skills. Keeping the right skills in house and ensuring there is knowledge transfer from your suppliers is critical to keeping a handle on costs and activity.

In my experience, organisations that invest in planning across all of these areas upfront are best placed to avoid nasty surprises, which may otherwise come further down the line. It also helps crystalise the real cost of moving to the cloud so that forecasts for potential like-for-like savings, return on investment and total cost of ownership can be made accurately.

Read more: Report reveals public sector fighting hidden costs of cloud computing

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Jos Creese, Principal Analyst
29 Sep 2015, 12:28 p.m.

Some great points here about planning - they probably apply to any IT change programme where you are moving to a new platform or service, but are key to successful cloud adoption.

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