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Look - and plan - before you leap into the cloud

By Heather Wright, Mon 6 Nov 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Given the vast opportunities for digital expansion presented to all kinds of organisations, it comes as no surprise that Cisco's Global Cloud Index predicts more than 83% of data traffic will be based in the cloud by 2019.

Closer to home, recent reports by Telsyte indicate that more than half of all CIOs surveyed expect to increase their cloud spending in 2017, with the local market for Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) expected to reach $1 billion by 2020.

Further to that, more than a third of Australian businesses now have a ‘cloud-first’ policy, driving further growth in infrastructure.

This mass migration to the cloud will revolutionise the way some businesses work, but for others the cloud will present certain challenges that could put their business at risk.

Although most executives are aware of the operational and security implications around hosting data and core systems in the cloud, these can largely be safeguarded by sensible measures. However, there are multiple considerations, which can make the difference between a successful move and ending up in an untenable position.

Firstly, it is important to understand the full possibilities that cloud hosting presents, not just in terms of storage but also functionality: as an organisation is freed from the constraints of physically hosting its IT system and data, upgrades and innovations can be implemented far more quickly and easily.

Of course, to do so executives must be able to reliably control and link all aspects of the group's digital infrastructure, seamlessly connecting new additions to older legacy systems and formats.

In order to do this, advanced enterprise information capabilities, which bring all formats together in an information hub, are required.

The good news is that these, too, can be installed as part of a move to the cloud, and indeed will negate many of the potential problems associated with the move.

Once in place, the information hub enables an organisation to address all of its information management needs from a single provider, which increases efficiencies in processes and operations.

Choosing that provider wisely will be one of the most important tasks for executives, looking to leverage the advantages of the cloud while avoiding the pitfalls.

It is not enough to simply trust that a cloud provider will keep a company’s data secure: it is important to thoroughly evaluate key aspects – such as the provider's infrastructure and security provisions, alongside their track record and industry reputation. Cloud providers are rapidly becoming crucial elements in many businesses' supply chains, and as key partners they must be vetted carefully.

Does the provider have the scope to cater for your longer-term needs? What are the security provisions and is there adequate provision for disruptive events, such as outages? What will happen to your data in the event that the cloud provider doesn’t perform its duties or is no longer needed?

All of these scenarios can be avoided or suitably mitigated, but they must be considered at an early stage - not when they happen unexpectedly and leave a company unable to use its essential IT infrastructure.

A successful transition to the cloud includes migration of any-and-all end-user content. With content volumes across all industries growing, providers must offer ever-increasing capacity. Already, terabyte and petabyte volume models are being pursued, especially by those organisations looking to deploy an enterprise-wide solution based on a content management platform.

Once a cloud provider has been selected, putting an effective contract in place is the next important step: a common pitfall is becoming locked into contracts that can hold a firm's data hostage.

Another area that requires particular attention is how data is transferred at the end of the contract, and what would happen to it in the event that the provider ceases trading. The contract should be clear about what would happen if there were difficulties with any third party involved, where responsibilities lie and what compensation would be payable in the event of outages.

The continuity and sustainability of business processes requires uncompressed access to mission critical data.

A cloud provider that boasts significant availability of data, and robust redundancy and replication policies, is a strong partner for ensuring the ongoing operational capabilities of an organisation. Information that is stored in privately-managed, secure, audited and certified clouds is generally also better protected against natural disasters and data outages.

If the partner organisation involved in the data hosting is reliable and the contracts have been carefully put together, there should be no barriers to organisations relying fully on the cloud. In the future, the rapid rise in data volumes across all industries means effective cloud storage will be key to harnessing the power of data.

By Bob Dunn, Australia country manager, Hyland

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