When it comes to upgrading IT to meet the challenges of the future ,the questions really are endless: should companies go cloud-first, or even cloud-only? Or should they adopt cloud on a rolling refresh basis?
Even if a decision is made on this, more questions follow: should you focus on public cloud or private cloud? Which public cloud? Will a multi-cloud strategy bring flexibility or complexity? While leaving everything down to the server cabinet in the basement might lower decision stress levels, it will also, in the face of ongoing disruption, guarantee future gazumping by competitors.
Global IT services provider Damovo advocates what it calls a “cloud smart” approach.
John McCabe, managing director and executive vice president of Damovo, said this meant using IT to support the business rather than the business spending its time supporting IT.
“A cloud approach enables whole operations to be stood up in record time. Equally, they can also be decommissioned when no longer required,” he said.
In today’s fast-paced world this kind of agility, which is impossible to replicate with capital intensive on-premise IT, is essential, he said.
“We have all learned that life can turn on its head in a blink of an eye, and no one really knows what is ahead. As a result, contingency planning is now much less abstract, and more critical than ever to plan for future global events.”
McCabe is, of course, referring to the Covid-19 pandemic that turned the world upside-down. An indelible mark has been left, and the scars will take a long time to heal, but looking at the positive side, IT at least enabled economic life to continue.
Remote working is the most obvious aspect of this, and though many are returning to the office, demands for hybrid remote and on-location working have grown. This drumbeat will only grow stronger in the face of the housing crisis.
Demands may grow for other reasons, too: governments, including in Ireland, France and Britain, recently hinted at renewed restrictions, and Russia last month went back into a quasi-lockdown. While few expect, and fewer want, a return to quarantine, this uncertainty does bring one certainty: remote working will be a part of the mix for years to come.
McCabe said those companies who adopted cloud will be best-placed for this as time marches on. “Now, more than ever, organisations need to be able to give employees access to the tools they need to do their jobs – where and when they want them.”
A cloud smart strategy, aligned to the needs of the business, enables them to do this, he said.
“In previous times, it was a difficult task setting up a remote worker with everything they needed to do their jobs. Now, it is a very simple process to set them up securely with the latest tools, and then turn them off again as required,” he said.
Beyond the pandemic, though, digitalisation or digital transformation was already underway. Everyone agrees the pandemic accelerated this, though arguably in a haphazard fashion. Cementing these gains with a long-term strategic plan for cloud, or rather for using cloud to drive business goals, is now on the corporate agenda.
Instead of simply responding to circumstances, McCabe said he saw hybrid cloud solutions as driving innovation: making it easier for organisations to build new services, and to empower them to better meet the needs of their customers.
“Having said this, it is not always possible to shift everything to the cloud. Most organisations have applications that are not cloud-ready, or suitable to be placed into the cloud.”
A typical migration path would be to move select applications from on-premise to the cloud while simultaneously beginning a long-term application modernisation process.
“However, this creates new challenges in terms of complexity and breadth of skills that many internal IT organisations are still not well-equipped to handle,” McCabe said.
“This is where a service provider can help – working with you to develop your strategy, design the migration path, and then support it [to] deliver security, scalability and continuous innovation.”
Of course, security is central, and something of a crisis without end in today’s connected world: attacks are on the rise, creating risk for everyone.
McCabe said that, generally speaking, data stored in the cloud is more secure from loss and theft than data stored locally: even a highly-skilled internal IT team is unlikely to have the same security expertise as a team of cybersecurity pros.
“These professionals have spent their careers learning how to avoid and defeat cyberattacks, securing client data, and setting up air-tight networks. Large cloud providers may have hundreds of these professionals with thousands of man-years of combined experience,“ he said.
“All this expertise goes into ensuring the security of their network, and in turn your data.”
Equally, compliance needs to be factored in. McCabe said that, historically, one of the largest inhibitors of cloud adoption was concern about data privacy, and, indeed, many countries have passed data localisation laws that require organisations to store personal customer data in the same country where it is collected.
This is no longer the headache it one was, he said, as hybrid cloud solutions give organisations greater flexibility when it comes to securing their data.
"They can store locally gathered customer data in public cloud regions that comply with data localisation requirements and protect their customers’ privacy as required by law,” he said.
Ultimately, said McCabe, a cloud smart strategy that is aligned to the needs of the business will deliver a more modern environment, improve system reliability, support hybrid work models and ultimately make the organisation more secure.