Should I migrate my business to the Cloud?

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1 Should I migrate my business to the Cloud? Introduction There was a time when every household, town, farm or village had its own water well. Today, shared public utilities give us access to clean water by simply turning on the tap; Cloud computing works in a similar fashion. Just like water from the tap in your kitchen, Cloud computing services can be turned on or off quickly as needed. Like at the water company, there is a team of dedicated professionals making sure the service provided is safe, secure and available on a 24/7 basis. When the tap isn t on, not only are you saving water, but you aren t paying for resources you don t currently need. Vivek Kundra Federal CIO US Government It is nearly impossible to avoid the buzz surrounding the Cloud. It is a paradigm that we are exposed to as consumers (examples include Apple icloud and Facebook) as well as in business (examples include Salesforce.com and Microsoft 365). At first glance, it sounds like moving to the Cloud is a no brainer. But, what does that actually mean? For any business owner, understanding the linkage between the Cloud and your particular business model may be challenging. Vivek Kundra s quote above provides an excellent basic description of the benefits of the Cloud. If your business relies on any form of computing system or online application for its day to day operations, it is a candidate for optimization via the Cloud. Any business that would be drastically affected. Example: business loss or customer brand hit if such systems went offline for a day, should start investigating Cloud based IT strategies. 1

2 Why should I migrate to the Cloud? There are many benefits to migrating to the Cloud. However, if you look at it from a high-level all-encompassing basis, the following 4 benefits are likely to apply to most businesses: 1. Business continuity benefits 2. New features and functionality benefits 3. Pay per use flexibility, and 4. Business Agility Business Continuity Benefits Access to key IT systems or business applications has become a presumed necessity. Sales can t proceed if the sales team cannot place orders through their Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Inventory tracking comes to a standstill when key Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems go offline. Key intellectual property and private records are at risk if there is a site break-in. These scenarios are commonplace and can be caused by events as innocuous as a failed hard drive, regional power-outage, or lunch-room kitchen fire. By definition, a Cloud service is hosted in an Internet Data Centre (IDC). All the risk factors that apply at your premise theft, power failure, network failure, fire/water disasters no longer apply. The data centres are built with redundant power feeds, backup generators, auto-failing network feeds, and are secured and hardened to prevent un-authorized physical or network-based access. The IT Infrastructure servers, storage, network switches upon which the Cloud services are built, are carrier class and are designed with layers of automated failovers. Any individual component hard drive, server, network switch can fail, but three others will seamlessly step in to take its place. Your applications keep on operating without any performance blip or downtime. This level of fault tolerance is table-stakes for any reputable Cloud based service offering. High availability and business critical uptime is just part of the Service Level Agreement (SLA) that Cloud providers are contracted to deliver to their customers. The Cloud has leveled the business continuity playing field by allowing any organization to build rock-solid business systems while paying on a flexible pay-as-you-go basis. New Features and Functionality benefits In most cases, it is hard for businesses to justify upgrading to the latest and greatest features or improvements in productivity tools. Even when there are free or bundled upgrades. Example: enterprise licensing agreements the lack of in-house IT resource cycles, or the in-ability to take systems offline for upgrades, will act as a bottleneck to implementation. The end result is that these businesses go for many years without taking advantage of new technology capabilities, productivity tools, or performance upgrades. Staying stranded with old technology is a competitive disadvantage. As an example, many customer service departments are limited to dealing with customer issues via phone call. Others have boosted their customer service programs to include phone, webchat, social media, and videoconference as mediums to connect with their client base. In the past, these features would require large capital investments, complex technology integration, and risky project roll-outs. With Cloud collaboration services, such as TELUS Hosted Exchange, these features have become table stakes, are often bundled into the base subscription, and can be turned up in days. The market demands frequent solution updates, feature enhancements, and attractive bundled packages. Cloud providers must continuously increase the value-add from their services or they will not survive in such a dynamic marketplace. Businesses can leverage these frequent feature improvements and incorporate them into business processes aimed at improving customer service, operational efficiency, or employee collaboration. 2

3 Pay-per-use flexibility Cloud services typically have utility based pricing models. Like electricity, you pay for what is used and seasonal capacity bursts are easily accommodated. OPEX based monthly pricing can be preferable to the large capital investment required to build a new state-of-the-art IT infrastructure. The utility deployment model allows a business to scale up capacity and performance on an as needed basis. Contrast this to an in-house infrastructure where you pre-invest in capacity to match forecasted usage patterns. Often this entails buying an over-abundance of capacity in anticipation of future growth. Why pay upfront for IT capacity that sits idle in anticipation of business demands finally catching up? Cloud based services allow businesses to never run out of IT infrastructure capacity, but also to never pay for what they do not need. Business Agility Is your business challenged by seasonal or bursty demands? Do you face delays on IT system development projects due to the need to procure new development servers or storage capacity? These challenges are common, and unfortunately result in lost revenue, customer dissatisfaction, and delays in key business initiatives. Cloud services are purpose built with elastic automation to quickly increase or decrease your IT capacity on an as-needed basis. Imagine your key order processing systems automatically doubling in capacity as they face a sudden peak in customer demand. Once the demand subsides, system capacity reverts back to the normal subscription levels. This capacity bursting is an inherent feature on most Cloud services. Project based demand for new IT resources (Servers, Storage, Internet) is easily addressed through on-line requests via selfservice dashboards. With a few mouse clicks these services are automatically turned up in your Cloud service environment. In addition, non-critical servers (test and development servers) can be set up as best effort priority so they share excess capacity from your production environment. Projects benefit from immediate access to key IT infrastructure, and often piggyback on previous capacity investment. 3

4 Is my business ready for the Cloud? Based on the benefits outlined, the Cloud is promising and full of potential. But, how do you know whether your business can actually take advantage of these benefits? What if your business has some key practices that are not conducive to Cloud adoption? The following Cloud preparation checklist details key areas to investigate within your business before planning any Cloud migration program. 1. Where is the business in its technology refresh cycle? 2. Do I trust my Internet connection? 3. What components of my IT Infrastructure are suitable for the Cloud? 4. Are there security or compliance requirements that could affect the Cloud migration strategy? Where is the business in its technology refresh cycle? Then next time you have an upcoming technology investment, why not consider the Cloud? Upgrades are driven by end-of-life equipment, or from new systems projects that demand increased capacity. Often corporate initiatives such as Business Continuity Planning (BCP) drive the need for increased IT redundancy, and even off-site disaster recovery options. Whenever there is a planned technology investment it is worth assessing if a Cloud based deployment is a better model for this investment. If an organization has recently upgraded its IT infrastructure, it may be best to delay Cloud migration planning till there is more depreciation on the initial investment. However, as soon as this environment must be enhanced with business continuity or disaster planning programs, a viable option may be Cloud services. Do I trust my Internet connection? As a business increases its reliance on the Cloud, the corporate Internet feed becomes a critical life-line for the organization. It is important to consider the following factors: Is there enough capacity? Is the Internet access a single point of failure? How long can my business survive if the Internet feed is down? High capacity symmetrical bandwidth is needed for accessto Cloud based services. Many internet feeds, such as DSL, cable modem, or wireless based services offer high capacity downloads, but low bandwidth for upstream traffic. Cloud based services drive significant traffic in both directions, and will slow to a crawl if there is not enough upstream bandwidth. As such, fibre based internet connections are the best from reliability and a scalability perspective. The corporate internet connection can be a single point of failure for all enterprise access to the Cloud services. As such, network outages due to router failures or accidental cable cuts bring a business operations to a standstill. A diverse internet feed with automated failover is critical to mitigate this risk. Wireless (eg. cellular) Internet is often the best choice as it completely bypasses the underground ducts or conduits through which most internet services are delivered. The next consideration is how quickly the Internet connection will be repaired once it is down. Being the lifeline for your organization, a managed Internet service is important. Managed services include round-the-clock monitoring, remote troubleshooting assistance and business-level priority for support and trouble resolution. Most problems can be addressed remotely for quick resolution. Most service providers have rebatable Service Level Agreements stating a guaranteed uptime on their circuits. If service providers do not have SLA it is unlikely they have the IT support desk resources and out-of-band remote access required to quickly resolve your issues. 4

5 What components of my IT infrastructure are suitable for the Cloud? Some business IT environments are not suitable for the Cloud, and should be kept on-premise. Before making the leap, it is important to audit the current environment. Considerations include: Are my applications performance (eg: latency and bandwidth) sensitive? Do I have a multi-site or single site enterprise network topology? How complex are my application stacks (single tier or multi-tier applications)? Legacy client-server or terminal based applications can be performance sensitive and may not work well over a Wide Area Network or Internet connection. You will notice performance issues when application screens freeze or there is a noticeable delay between typing and the actual characters showing up on the screen. If employees are used to good performance as they work in close proximity to the application s servers or databases they may be disappointed if response times drop when the servers are migrated to the Cloud. Extra diligence is required to ensure Cloud migration does not result in a degraded user experience. Fortunately options such as WAN acceleration or optimizing application settings can be used to mitigate such issues. The current enterprise branch network topology also influences the ease of migrating key systems to the Cloud. In multi-site environments, branch sites are already accessing HQ-housed applications over slower (eg: 3-10 Mb/s) WAN links. These sites will benefit from performance improvements when systems are migrated to a high bandwidth (often redundant 100 Mb or 1000 Mb internet connections) Cloud data centre. In contrast, single site businesses, where local users have high bandwidth (eg: 1000 Mb/s LAN connections) to the onsite servers, may notice a performance downgrade due to the extra latency of sending traffic to and from the Cloud. Cloud based application deployment will work in both scenarios, but extra due diligence is needed to maintain user experience in the single-site topology. Your application architecture also affects the complexity of migrating underlying IT infrastructure (servers, storage, network) to the Cloud. Single tier applications all application logic is on a single server are easier to forklift for migration to the Cloud. Complex multi-tier applications that are composed of multiple servers (eg: applications servers and databases) and require tight server-to-server integrations will be more difficult. The complex application architectures need to be considered on a holistic basis to avoid any critical inter-server relationships from being missed. ERP systems typically have such complex application topologies and should be investigated thoroughly before planning a Cloud migration. Are there Security or Compliance requirements that could affect the Cloud migration strategy? Regulatory or compliance regulations may impede that adoption of Cloud based solutions. The hosting of corporate data in multi-tenant facilities or out-of-country data centres may violate regulatory or compliance policies. As an example, Canadian companies may have regulatory or personal brand requirements mandating that all corporate data be hosted in Canada. This requirement has become more common due to Patriot Act rules and the recent revelation that US based service providers are subject to US National Security Agency (NSA) data collection. It is therefore important to understand exactly where a given Cloud service provider actually stores the data and how the data gets to the storage site. Often the compliance regulations impact the depth of security or redundancy that Cloud providers must provide on their services. To illustrate, Cloud providers that host credit card data for e-commerce applications need to prove an added level of security protection and monitoring in order to meet Payments Card Industry (PCI) safe-zone regulatory compliance. Understanding the organizational compliance or in-house governance requirements is critical in choosing which Cloud service provider to choose if any and what depth of service offerings that will be required. 5

6 Common Uses of Cloud-Based Services Below are some use case examples of how different variations of Cloud services can help improve your business operations. Use case Challenges Cloud based solution Seasonal business cycles Require extra computing power at certain times of year (e.g. tax season or Christmas season for retail). Oversizing servers to meet periodic bursts in demand results in wastage and unnecessary costs. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): Pay per use pricing models Capacity bursting to meet temporary demands Ability to scale resources up or down quickly Temporary Project or Test and Development environment Projects delayed while waiting for procurement and set up of development environments. Security and outage risk when different teams test new software on production servers. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): Self-serve web portal for each project group to build segregated cloud computing environments speeds time to deployment. Flexible workstyles and employee collaboration Large capital investments are required for new employee collaboration, voice and videoconference systems. Unified Communications as a Service: Test new flexible work programs like work at home or mobile worker with appropriate employee roles. Deploy the latest communication / collaboration tools to select groups of knowledge worker employees: video conference, Mobile / tablet based clients etc. Customer Service Customers are demanding new ways to interact with the organizations they deal with and expect first contact resolution. Customer service demands can be seasonal and business continuity is critical. Cloud Contact Centre: Introduce new contact centre channels such as web chat or video communication without a forklift upgrade to your voice platform. Build business continuity plans or seasonal staffing campaigns by taking advantage of the location and phone system agnostic nature of the cloud. 6

7 Conclusion It is evident that most businesses can benefit from Cloud based delivery of business systems or the underlying IT infrastructure. Cloud service providers offer the value proposition of enterprise class IT infrastructure, guaranteed uptime, and frequent service improvements; all on a flexible pay-per-use basis. Despite these advantages, this journey should not be embarked upon without appropriate due-diligence. Part 2 of this White Paper series will detail how to migrate your business systems to the Cloud. It will help you identify low-hanging fruit for Cloud migration, and prepare for the complexities that can arise during a large-scale roll-out. This information will help to properly scope out your Cloud migration program to ensure you maximize the benefits based on your available resourcing, in-house technical expertise, and ultimate business objectives. About the Author Bryan Ting is a Customer Systems Engineering Specialist at TELUS and focusses on all areas of Information Technology: Networking, Unified Communications, Security and Cloud & Hosted services. With over 15 years in the IT services industry, Bryan has worked with clients ranging from large Enterprise and Government to Small and Medium Business. Bryan s passion is technology roadmapping with clients and performing live demonstrations of Information Communication Technologies (ICT) in the various TELUS Innovation Centres or Innovation Centre on Wheels demonstration centres. 7 TELUS and the TELUS logo are trademarks of TELUS Communications Company, used under license TELUS. 14_

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