Managing infrastructure can be like refereeing a children’s football game. Things change fast, you’re surrounded by clamouring voices expressing different needs, and while you pay attention to the offside rule, another problem springs up outside your line of vision. When you’re dealing with competing needs, it is near impossible to make strategic decisions, or to spot new opportunities.
Little wonder, then, that using infrastructure as a service (IaaS) that is managed by someone else seems appealing. IaaS can be an excellent solution, and one that saves the sanity of the IT department in much the way the final whistle saves the patience of the football referee.
IaaS has matured at much the same rate as the IT department’s function within the business has become more complex. From a necessary cost centre, IT has blossomed into an expanded role that is expected to forge a path into the digital economy. And that means diverting in-house teams to innovating with new apps and services – their skills are too precious to squander on the more mundane, everyday lights-on tasks. Throw in 24/7/365 business needs, and getting some help seems attractive.
Still, IaaS is not the only solution to freeing up time. It is certainly not always the right solution. There are five key considerations that any business should know before making so important a move.
Know what you want to achieve. It is advice that applies to any IT project, of course, but that makes it no less relevant. Focus on the outcome rather on the means of getting there. That means talking to others in the business and establishing their needs. We often find that our role as a technology partner includes supporting or facilitating those conversations, and gathering information before designing a solution. Not all situations are suited to IaaS, so it is important to assess whether options like managed services might ease the workload. When you have clearly established your direction, you have given yourself the best chance of success.
Data centre location, services and facilities. Our colleagues at data centre providers SAS IT say that it is especially important to know exactly where your data will be located, and what facilities are on offer. ‘If you need to physically access the facilities, or have data sovereignty concerns, location becomes important,’ said Ian Hight, SAS IT’s Sales and Marketing Manager.
Those facilities need to include a very high level of security, along with the flexibility to grow, and they must be dependable. Given the cost of downtime, Hight said it is worth seeking out a provider who can offer this.
The services on offer will vary, but just as with an on-premise set-up, you still need to manage operational aspects of the platforms. How will you handle functions such as monitoring, backups and applying updates, for example? You may want your staff to do some of this work, or you may choose to include it in your cloud service provider agreement.
Know who you are dealing with. You are entrusting your valued data, sometimes very sensitive information, to your cloud provider, so it is worth checking they will care for it as diligently as you do.
‘Given the importance of the service and therefore of the relationship, trust is paramount. Trust typically emerges from knowledge and experience of the people you deal with,’ said Hight.
Expertise. All cloud providers are not created equally, and some will have more expertise than others.
‘Not only must the cloud provider have knowledge of your specific platform and infrastructure components,’ said Hight.
‘When it comes to migration and implementation, there is also a real advantage to having ready access to people who understand your environment and set it up correctly – so an experienced technology partner is key.’
This is especially important where disaster recovery (DR) or high availability (HA) are part of the overall solution you’re building, since more than one location is likely to be involved, making migration more complex.
Getting it right in the planning stages saves a lot of headaches, so don’t be afraid to ask your technology partner to show evidence they have done this before. We welcome those questions in advance, because it helps us to understand the priorities up-front.
It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. While a few organisations operate solely in the cloud, most work with a hybrid mix composed of cloud and on-premise options – and that’s OK. Some workloads are just better kept close to home, while others are a natural fit. It really goes back to point 4. A partner who respects your world-view and understands your business will be best placed to help you to the right IaaS choices – part of the beauty of consumption models is that you really can design a combination that is a perfect fit.
If you’re not sure about IaaS, or want to get the best result while avoiding pitfalls, talk to the friendly Team professionals. They’ll be happy to offer you a free basic assessment of your IaaS options, including your readiness for the move.