How to mitigate loss of control when moving to the cloud

How to mitigate loss of control when moving to the cloud Keith Bates has been Chairman of the Cloud Computing Centre since its launch at the beginning of 2010. Formerly Chairman of ESG Group, he has been at the forefront of the technology industry for over 25 years. Keith is driving The Cloud Computing Centre’s financial and technological future and is responsible for the development of its long term strategy and planning. Prior to ESG Group, Keith co-founded Concept Integrated Systems, the company that developed the Concept Agency Management system which is today widely recognised as the leading advertising and media agency management system deployed by more than 140 of the top tier communications companies. Prior to this Keith held a number of senior management positions in software and hardware companies including Unisys and NCR.

It is a common misconception that by moving to the cloud, businesses are relinquishing all control of their data. Generally speaking, many companies fail to take the time to fully understand cloud computing and in this vein, feel reluctant to outsource business-critical data to the cloud.

The question most organisations should be truthfully asking themselves however is whether they are actually in control of their data when it is held on-premise. For example, what accreditations do they hold to ensure their business-critical data is actually in safe hands?

While most wouldn’t be able to say exactly where their data is, even if it was held on-premise, in contrast with a cloud-based solution, this isn’t necessarily the case.

Where is my data?

It is safe to say that on-premise solutions provide comfort to companies who struggle with the concept of relinquishing control over their data.

For those who don’t fully understand cloud computing, the idea of trusting such business-critical data with a third party seems an absurd notion. However, there is no apparent reason why the location, safety and control of a business’ data should be in any way compromised when moving its IT infrastructure to the cloud.

By their very nature, private clouds are inherently flexible and as such, a customer can specify the exact details of their contract to suit their business needs.

Indeed, everything from the levels of security to the type of firewall can be tailored to the client’s exact specification. From the outset therefore, this naturally means the customer will have complete control of the data.

What should I move?

Running an IT department in-house arguably offers companies complete control of its entire IT estate, and it is a common viewpoint that by opting for a cloud solution, this cannot continue to be the case.

There is however, no hard written rule that dictates how much data should be hosted by a cloud provider and how much should remain on-premise.

Generally speaking however, there is never any need for  more than 10% of companies’ IT infrastructure to remain in-house and the way the industry is heading, this will almost certainly be the case within the next five years.

What about data downtime?

Many organisations worry about the amount of downtime they will face while in the process of moving from on-premise to a solution hosted in the cloud, yet many experience a near-seamless transition.

This is because more often than not, a parallel environment is built in the cloud prior to transition, so it isn’t a case of physically removing the on-premise kit and rebuilding it in a cloud environment over time.

It is a question of suiting a company’s needs – some like the idea of a gradual process and others prefer to have everything moved at once.

How flexible will it be?

Understandably, cloud service providers are going to demand a minimum contractual period. Indeed, it makes very little business sense for a cloud provider to set up £100,000 worth of equipment for the customer to leave six weeks later, but this isn’t to say flexibility isn’t an option.

Flexibility is a crucial element for any business and this shouldn’t be ignored when choosing a cloud provider. As with anything, it is imperative to get the contract right prior to signing on the dotted line.

Providing cancellation clauses are written into the contract, both the provider and customer can ensure that they are completely happy before any money, and more importantly data, is moved.

It is vital to sit down with the cloud provider, ensure that they understand the specific business requirements and can come to a contractual agreement that suits both parties.

What if my business grows?

Typically speaking, accommodating a growing business is easier in the cloud compared to an on-premise solution.

On-premise IT infrastructure is often tailored to a company’s individual and current needs and therefore any form of growth would not only require a significant expansion in processing power, but also the manufacturing and shipping of additional equipment.

Unlike an in-house IT department however, the cloud service provider has the equipment ready and waiting for an almost instant transition.

Dependent on initial negotiations, some companies opt to buy a pool of extra resource – removing the burden of additional expense should the company expand. If they find themselves requiring increasing numbers of servers and are within the realms of their ‘pool of resource’ it comes at no extra cost.

If the company grows to such a point that it is beyond the pool of resource originally purchased, then it is vital to know the cost of additional processing power, additional RAM and the implications that this may have on monthly payments.

Despite being a still somewhat new player in the industry, cloud computing is certainly on the rise. Whilst many companies are afraid to adopt the hosted approach, the majority of the fear stems from the unknown.

By fully understanding the location of their cloud solution and the flexibility of their contract, companies can embrace the cloud, whilst remaining reassuringly 100% in control of their data.

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