Marketlend Academy: 5 Questions Every Small Business Must Answer Before Moving to the Cloud

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Are you a small business considering Cloud services? With so many industries moving their workloads en-masse to the cloud, the question of risk versus benefit is more critical than ever for potential cloud migrants. As a business eyeing a higher level of IT infrastructure, you need to be aware of the dangers of public clouds and how you can avoid the pitfalls that have compromised so many companies. We now have more information than ever about the real value of moving to the cloud, and whether it really is the respite for on-prem IT infrastructure woes that it promises to be.

Before your company changes to a new, public Cloud, it’s essential to perform an evaluation and look at what works and what doesn’t. This list of questions will help you validate your cloud transformation strategies.

Will I Get a Tangible Reduction in TCO?

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is one of the most important pre-migration metrics to assess. Aside from the cost of the migration itself, what is the tangible cost benefit post transformation?

To properly evaluate this, you need to work closely with your finance team to come up with the right numbers. If a particular service runs 247, moving it to the cloud may eat up your profits.These cost dynamics will call on technical as well as financial minds, but the extra time will put the most transformative apps first in line for the migration.

Am I Prepared for a Major Cloud Outage?

Technology is susceptible to breakdowns and a cloud is no different. Don’t assume that a cloud provider made adequate provisions for redundancies in case of a widespread outage. Make sure you can still maintain the level of control that you have with your current infrastructure. One way to plan for such an event is to consider a multi-vendor approach so critical processes have a failover, or a backup system on standby, on a completely different public cloud.

Netflix offers a great example of proper planning. The video streaming service outage-resilient architecture is designed to handle the unexpected. The company admits that they spend more because of the redundancies they use, but that’s the price you must be willing to pay when one hour of service disruption costs you $200,000.

How much would an outage cost you in dollars, not to mention the loss of goodwill and possible customer exits? Building redundancies might cost more than you planned, but it could help you in the long run.

Will I be Locked Into a Service?

One of the biggest USPs of cloud service providers is the flexibility to scale up or down as required, but if the service doesn’t perform to your expectations or your monthly bill is higher than you expected, you need to be aware that migrating your data is expensive. Depending on what workloads you migrate, it could weigh down heavily on your IT budget if one vendor doesn’t work out and you want to move your applications elsewhere.

Technically, there’s no lock-in because all providers use a pay-as-you-go model. What they won’t tell you is that the cost of ‘pay-to-go-elsewhere’ can be prohibitive to smaller businesses and startups once the bulk of workloads are running on their cloud.

Consider using a multi-vendor approach. AWS offers greater ease of automation, while IBM SoftLayer’s bare metal offering affords more control over server configuration while eliminating the ‘noisy neighbor’ effect of multi-tenant servers. Can your business leverage these differences to get the best of both? That will not only increase your level of control, but it will make cross-vendor transitions more cost-effective because your workloads are spread out.

Will I Have the Same Level of Control as Before?

Control is about how much visibility and accessibility a cloud provider offers you. The multi-tenant model – where hardware, applications and compute resources are shared between several users or tenants – won’t allow you to customize your environment like you can with your existing system. A bare-metal server with the attached cloud, on the other hand, will give you more control over latency-sensitive workloads because the virtualization aspect that leads to things like performance degradation and the noisy neighbor effect are absent.

Bare-metal obviously costs more because it’s a dedicated resource, but it gives you more control over critical applications. An ideal middle ground would be to use bare metal servers to complement your virtualized services so you leverage the cost benefits of a virtual environment but safeguard your critical processes by using bare metal.

The question your business must ask and answer is, “how much control can we afford to give up so the cost benefit is still meaningful?” That will help clarify what type of public cloud deployment works best for you while retaining optimal control.

Other Questions to Ask Before you Decide

Assuming that public cloud vendors have adequate security measures can leave you exposed. Information systems security uses Confidentiality, Integrity, Availability, (CIA), as a framework of evaluation, but such evaluations often ignore the architecture element. Moreover, security, scalability and reliability are still major issues with the multi-tenancy model even when it is well architected.

Container technologies like AWS Lambda, a serverless computing system that runs your code on the cloud, can certainly help mitigate these problems, but it has limits. Have you planned for it or are you simply relying on the service provider’s features to provide the isolation and security that your customers’ data needs? Answering this is critical to deciding what type of implementation is ideal for your workloads and what specific applications can be entrusted to the cloud.

There aren’t any standard answers to fit every business, but answering these questions in the context of your business will give you a 360-degree of what to expect and what to avoid when moving to a public cloud. The risks are still there, as they are with an on-prem solution, but they can be neutralized – or at least minimized – when the planning involves foreseeing specific scenarios.

23 August 2018