QA | 14 December 2015
Migrating to the Cloud: 4 skills your business needs
Whilst the advantages of cloud computing are clear, the process of migrating to the cloud from an on-premises environment is not always straightforward. The greatest benefits of using the cloud come when you can embrace the flexibility and agility of cloud services, and fully use your cloud provider’s services. This calls for a range of new in-house skills to highlight these tangible benefits and ensure your business successfully transforms along the way.
Business and financial
Why are you migrating to the cloud? You’re probably looking for a solid return-on-investment (ROI), but you might be more concerned about agility, or about freeing up mind-space in your team by off-loading dull and repetitive tasks to a third party. A surprising number of customer success stories don’t lead with the cost savings, but with sentences like, "it used to take us three months to provision resources for a project, and now it takes one day", or "the whole team can now focus on adding value, because all the dull stuff has been either offloaded or automated".
You must first decide what your business wants from migrating to the cloud, and then make judgement calls based on the usual key metrics: costs, performance, agility, availability, capital vs operating expenditure, etc. Predicting total cost of ownership and ROI on cloud projects is tricky, but most providers (and some third parties) offer tools to help. You’ll also need to understand, and possibly negotiate, the details of your contract with your cloud provider. What service-level agreements do they offer? What support is available, and on what terms?
Cloud migration must be managed strategically. Some applications will migrate easily, some will be far more challenging. Others might never migrate at all, for a variety of reasons typically including compliance, licensing and ROI. You will need to have project management capabilities and resources who will be able to keep the project under control and deliver it within scope, time and budget. You’ll also need to ensure that your chosen project management tools and methodology are flexible and agile enough to be a good fit with cloud services.
Security and compliance
Migrating to a public cloud will present a different balance of threats, vulnerabilities and risks than your on-premises environment. Understanding this, and putting a solid cyber security plan in place to protect your assets, is essential. Large cloud providers have dedicated teams with tremendous experience in securing and managing their infrastructure, so there’s no reason why the cloud shouldn’t be as secure as your own premises. You’ll need to understand the precise division of responsibilities between your cloud provider and yourself, and to take full advantage of the security-related services that your provider offers.
Knowledge of virtualisation will be useful in ensuring a successful transition, but you also need to understand your provider’s offering in depth, and have a clear idea of what it does and does not offer, and how to use its component parts to best effect. If your on-premises servers are already virtualised, you may be able to simply 'forklift' them into the cloud, but that isn’t usually the end of the process. Many providers offer some managed services that will allow you to offload the tedious tasks of backing up, replicating, replacing failed servers, and so on.
How to acquire these skills? Cloud services evolve quickly, so printed materials will usually be out of date. You could read the online documentation, but that can easily run to tens of thousands of pages. There are blogs and videos, but (again) there are thousands of them, of highly variable quality and often outdated. In my opinion, a good training course with a skilled instructor is the most effective way to get up to speed and get your questions answered, so you can start your journey to the cloud.
For more guidance browse our Cloud Computing training courses page.