Taking It In Stages
Part of managing a move to the cloud may involve a series of stages to acclimate your staff to its way of life. This is what San Francisco-based Presidio Health did. "Presidio had to handle a 16 times increase in data volume in a year and replace some aging hardware," says its CTO Thomas Gregory. "We didn't want a lot of capital expense, and we wanted an environment that was safe and could spread our risk around." The healthcare software provider used a multi-stage approach in implementing cloud computing, by first keeping their data inside their data center but migrating their apps to the cloud. "We were able to increase our computing power by 70% without increasing our IT budget."
The next step was to move their data over to the cloud. "Having the first step of a hybrid cloud was more complex, but it gave us some experience with handling the cloud apps and understanding the security implications. It was a lot easier to leave our backend servers in our cabinets while we migrated the front end. And anyway, most of the cloud environment deals with the front-end interfaces so that gave us time to work on those."
What made this two-phase approach successful was that Gregory planned both phases in advance. "You need to take the time to analyze what you have and find a solution that will allow you to scale what you have and make the necessary adjustments along the way."
Three Steps to Take
Given this experience, what are the steps to take to make the move into the hybrid cloud?
First, make sure you bake in the right expectations and plan ahead. "It all starts with design," says Bryan Doerr, the CTO of Town and Country, Missouri-based Savvis. "Make sure you understand the performance and security characteristics of the cloud, so that you can achieve the levels you expect. Also, understand what kinds of support are possible in the cloud. If your own staff is not monitoring performance, you may need your service provider to do that."
Second, consider your bandwidth and latency requirements carefully. "Make sure your existing network is ready for the migration to the cloud and is fast enough internally and with a fast Internet connection. You need to have a sufficient network pipe to support your users so they don't perceive any performance degradation," says Dave Cutler.
Finally, realize that just because your apps are in the cloud doesn't mean that you can ignore what is in your office completely. "There is still a lot of local work that needs to be done when evaluating any cloud-based solution, says Tim Crawford, the CIO at All Covered, an IT services company to the SMB market that is based in Redwood City, Calif. "Desktops and networks need configuration, security has to be set up properly, hardware and firewalls need managing. Even if you move all your servers off site, there is still a lot to touch on-site."