The only way to make cloud a net benefit to your business is to have a strategy. Without one, it’s easy to get distracted by all the bells and whistles and “as a Service” offerings. You can end up with a mixed grab bag of technologies that’s as difficult to manage as what’s currently in your own data center.

Thinking through your strategy before making use of cloud makes sure you get the maximum business benefit out of the cloud, along with buy-in from all your business and technology stakeholders.

Which Applications Should Use Cloud?

The first cloud strategy revolves around deciding which of your workloads belong in the cloud. To reach that decision, first you need to identify and understand all your workloads. Each workload should be evaluated with respect to several criteria, including:

  • maturity: if the application is no longer being enhanced and retirement is scheduled, migration to the cloud is not appropriate.
  • scalability: if the application needs to grow to handle sudden spikes in demand, cloud bursting can offer the application the flexible capacity it needs.
  • security: if the application handles sensitive data, it may not be appropriate for the cloud, or it may require a specialized cloud environment that meets specific industry requirements such as HIPAA and PCI DSS.
  • management complexity: cloud offerings of subscription-based software can reduce the time and complexity of managing and supporting an application internally
  • cost: the cost of running an application may be lower in a cloud environment
  • criticality: you may prefer to keep business-critical applications within the corporate data center

Based on this evaluation of your application, you can create a strategy that defines which applications should preferentially run in cloud, which should never run in cloud, and which can potentially run in cloud based on the characteristics of the specific service offering. Most businesses will end up with a mixed environment based on their applications and the capabilities of their internal teams.

Which Cloud Should Applications Use?

The second major cloud strategy you need focuses on deciding which cloud you’ll use for your cloud-based applications. This isn’t about deciding which cloud provider you’ll use, but rather whether you’ll use public, private, hosted private, or hybrid clouds.

Public clouds are offered by cloud service providers in a shared environment; you run in a virtual machine (VM) that may run on a server running VMs for other companies. Because this is a shared environment and data is usually accessed via the public internet (unless you arrange a dedicated connection or virtual private network), public cloud isn’t usually used for confidential data. Use it instead for applications that handle low-sensitivity information and aren’t mission critical, as they can be impacted by the workload on the shared servers. Development and test environments are example use cases that are suited to public cloud.

Private clouds run either in your own data center or hosted by a service provider. Unlike public cloud, the servers and network in private cloud are restricted to your VMs only. Private cloud is appropriate for applications using confidential data and mission critical applications that require high performance.

Hybrid cloud is the situation most companies end up with by default. Though the strict definition of hybrid cloud requires both a public and private cloud sharing data and applications, in general usage, the term simply refers to an environment where some applications and data are in the public cloud and some are in the private data center, whether in private cloud or traditional infrastructure. Cloudbursting, or acquiring extra capacity in the public cloud during a spike in demand, is an example use case for hybrid cloud.

In addition to being suited to different kinds of workloads, public, private, and hybrid clouds require different levels of effort to create and manage them, which may also be a factor in planning your cloud strategy.

How Will An Application Get to Its Cloud?

Once you have a strategy for how applications will use the cloud and which cloud the applications will use, you also need a strategy for getting the applications to the cloud. Successful cloud migrations require careful planning, execution, and validation to ensure that no data is lost.

Your strategy also needs to address how you’ll monitor the application’s usage and performance in the cloud, to make sure its environment continues to match its needs. A final strategic concern is how you’ll get the application out of the cloud if it becomes necessary to resume operations on site or switch to another cloud provider.

Develop A Smart Cloud Strategy

Developing a smart cloud strategy takes careful analysis and consideration of your current and anticipated business needs. dcVAST offers professional services to help you think through these decisions, as well as managed services to oversee and manage your cloud services, whether in public, private, or hybrid configurations. Contact us to learn more about creating a cloud strategy that helps you get to the cloud and succeed in the cloud.