Digital transformation is essential if any organisation is to remain relevant today and future-proof their foundation. Cloud platforms and services are part and parcel of this, and there is a general understanding that organisations 'must' migrate to the cloud. However, despite this, many businesses are still sitting on the proverbial fence about migrating to "the cloud".
The reality is that every business is already using cloud services to some degree, and without a formal strategy they could land up facing unforeseen challenges. Without cloud services, business is all but impossible, so organisations need to get up to speed or risk losing their competitive edge.
One of the biggest challenges around the cloud is to actually understand everything that it entails.
There are various levels of cloud integration that many businesses are using unknowingly, and this lack of knowledge could prove detrimental. For example, Gmail and the Google suite of tools are cloud services, and they are extremely commonly used by many people. If your employees access their Gmail account at work, whether for email or any of Google's productivity tools, then your organisation is using cloud services.
This is a basic example, but it demonstrates just how pervasive the cloud has become. There are a number of cloud applications that are all too easy to obtain by anyone with a credit card.
What often happens is that departments within an organisation do not go through formal procurement processes with IT and simply obtain services themselves. This might include accounting packages, marketing tools and more. So, any enterprise might in fact have several cloud services in use in their business, but these are outside of the control of IT and do not form part of any formal backup or disaster recovery solution. This can cause compliance breaches, lost data and business downtime to name a few challenges.
While it is impossible to entirely avoid the cloud, it is not recommended to simply move everything into the cloud either, especially not without a plan. Data is the critical thread that ties this all together. Data must be secured, protected, and recoverable. This means all cloud solutions need to be part of an organisation's overall digital / technology strategy.
It also means that before moving anything into the cloud it is absolutely essential to assess the entire business environment. The full implications, integrations and interactions must be understood before migrating anything into the cloud, and business requirements must be taken into account before any move is considered.
When done correctly, cloud migrations can deliver many benefits. For example, for many businesses their mail server is mission critical. Maintaining the level of availability and redundancy necessary in-house is costly. Migrating to a cloud-based mail server can ensure availability without the capital outlay and need for internal skills to maintain it. It provides the exact same service and functionality at a far more affordable monthly fee.
Conversely, if the organisation migrates components into the cloud and then wishes to remove this data, there may be hidden costs and processes involved, including egress fees to extract data and restore timelines which may jeopardise your restore time objectives.
Disruptive new entrants into the market, unburdened by legacy infrastructure and processes, have the advantage here and can easily steal market share from more established players. Without the cloud, businesses risk stagnation and dulling of their competitive edge. However, getting it right is crucial.
Organisations need to understand what systems they have in place, what data they own, what applications are being used, and how all of these integrate and interact both from a technical as well as from a business perspective. In addition, the organisation also needs to understand what to move to the cloud and what not to. Often, this means partnering with a specialist provider, who can help the company develop a roadmap to the cloud that works for the business.
The cloud is everywhere, and all organisations are using it in some form whether they acknowledge it or not. If the organisation does not embrace digital transformation and leverage the benefits of the cloud, it will lose the ability to maintain or improve competitive advantage.
* By Hemant Harie, Managing Director at Gabsten Technologies.