Buying a Cloud is Not Like Buying a Car

Posted by Steve Knutson on July 7, 2016

The movement to the Internet of Everything (IoE) or the Internet of Things (IoT) has made more business tools available in the cloud than ever before. Almost anything can be put in the cloud these days, from voice and video to email and business applications.

cloud_migration_-_iceberg.jpgThe challenge is that they are not always in the same cloud or even in clouds that can work together. That has made the buying experience complicated.

The term “cloud,” also known as cloud computing, is broad and simply means storing and accessing data and applications over the Internet from a data center that is located offsite. As you can see from this definition, a lot can fall under the “cloud” concept.

Buying a cloud service is nothing like buying a car. The options are not straightforward and it can be cumbersome, if not impossible, to compare them apples to apples. Sometimes they are not even all fruits and they certainly are not all created equal.

As a technologist, I even have to step back, dig in and dissect what’s really included and if it will work the way it needs to.

Know What You're Getting

As you evaluate moving anything to the cloud, I recommend honing in on these three key areas:

  • Spend time on connectivity.
    Most of the failed cloud deployments I have seen are due to poor connectivity to the cloud resources. When the applications are on premise, people accessing them typically connect at 100Mbs through their internal Local Area Network (LAN). The LAN is a dedicated network with the ability to prioritize network traffic for quality of service.

    Although Internet speeds have been dramatically increasing, rarely are they 100Mbs. Even if the Internet pipe is fast, remember that no one owns the Internet and there is rarely any sort of guarantee of service quality. There are newer methods for bonding multiple pipes together and using them to achieve near LAN quality (see my last blog on SD-WAN technology).
  • Know your Service Level Agreement or Service Level Target.
    You need a Service Level Agreement (SLA) in place or established Service Level Target (SLT) to ensure your expectations are met. A 99 percent uptime may sound good, but it may not be enough for your organization. Do the math and know what you’re getting. Sometimes it is guaranteed. But most times it is just best efforts. The language matters.

    Focus on whether the SLA is referring to the providers’ equipment uptime or the connection to the resources. Typically the company providing the cloud resource is not also providing the connectivity to it. SLAs can vary greatly and be hard to understand. Get help deciphering, if you need it. This is critical.

  • Take an extended test drive.
    This has become increasingly important with the influx of migrations to the cloud. You don’t just want to know how the application runs. When buying a car you also want to see how it pulls your boat or camper and fits in your garage with your key items. For the cloud, take the application, put it in a test environment and have a select number of users test it out for a period of time before you fully implement anything.

    We’ve had instances where the software provider said the program would operate in the cloud, we moved it there for a client for a test and it didn’t work. Take the time to do a proof of concept.

Driven By How You Pay

It often costs less over the long run to develop an on premise solution and buy all the hardware. Yet, most organizations prefer the cloud option. It’s easier to budget for, the technology stays updated, it is scalable and your data is protected in case of a disaster (natural or virtual attack). 

In more cases, organizations cannot avoid the cloud because software developers are pushing the cloud through SaaS, known as Software as a Service. In this SaaS model, organizations subscribe to an application and access it over the Internet.

In some instances, purchasing the software outright is not even available – or you have to jump through a lot of hoops to get it. That’s making the on premise solution harder to implement for organizations. Yet sometimes it is still needed because some lines of business software custom applications do not work in the cloud. That currently leads more organizations to move to a “hybrid” model that allows them to have some applications and data stored in the cloud and some on premise.

Putting everything in the cloud may sound simple. But an integrated experience is complicated. Take the time to know what you’re paying for and how it will work before you buy.

At Marco, we have developed business analyst positions that focus wholly on migrating clients applications to the cloud. The time, energy and cost spent on the front side of any cloud migration will pay off with a smooth transition.

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Topics: Cloud, Cloud Migration