Before migrating to the cloud, consider this...

After reading my last 2 posts about network management – the differences between on-premise and cloud hosting and between public and private cloud solutions – you may be ready to shut down your server room and migrate your infrastructure to the cloud. But first, can you make a compelling business case for moving to the cloud?

Before educating your leadership about the advantages of the cloud, prepare your argument. What problems will a cloud solution solve? What opportunities will it create?

Do an economic analysis so you can show existing infrastructure inefficiencies to your leadership as well as the expenses and missed opportunities that result. Take into consideration the benefits that a cloud solution would provide that you don’t have now:

  • Faster systems
  • Better integration
  • Business continuity
  • Security
  • Scalability
  • Staff convenience and productivity
  • And, most importantly, outsourcing network management to experts so your IT staff can focus on more strategic tasks

Bring in an outside consultant to assess your existing network infrastructure and other IT resources – people and technology. For example, you’ll need 2 paths to the Internet to ensure redundancy. The consultant will help you build your business requirements for a cloud solution.

Moving to the cloud will change the types of skills required in the IT department. Do you have the right people to step up into more strategic roles? Their new focus will require a mix of skills – no longer just technology system administrators or supporters, they’re now technology advocates managing relationships with outside vendors and focusing on the needs of their “customers” – staff and members.

10 questions to ask your potential cloud solution provider

  1. With all the new players in the cloud market, you’ll benefit in the long term by asking prospective cloud hosting providers these questions. 
  2. How long has the company been in business? Are they solid, with meaningful client references? Can they provide assurances of their financial health? The last thing you need is to hear that your cloud provider is bankrupt and you have to move your data pronto.
  3. How long have they been cloud providers? Did they jump on the cloud bandwagon in the past year or two, or have they been providing cloud services for several years? 
  4. Do they have an understanding of the association workplace? Can they help you comply with regulatory, privacy, or other governance requirements that your applications and data must follow?
  5. Where is your data held? How strong, reliable, and secure is the provider’s infrastructure? Are their data centers SSAE16 certified? What’s their back-up strategy? 
  6. One of Verizon’s data centers recently lost network connectivity because of an outage during planned maintenance – an outage that resulted in headline news since it affected one of their biggest clients, Healthcare.gov. What’s the uptime guarantee of your prospective cloud provider? Will your network be up even when they’re doing maintenance?
  7. Is your data in more than one data center in different parts of the country to ensure your systems never go down? During Hurricane Sandy, many cloud hosting clients learned this wasn’t the case with their providers.
  8. Who do you call when you have a question or problem? Do you have to wait days for someone to answer your plea in a web forum, or can you pick up the phone and talk to someone you know? When HHS Secretary Sebelius makes a call to her hosting provider, you can bet they pick up the phone. Even though your network is in the cloud, you want your cloud support team to be very real and reachable.
  9. If you decide to switch cloud hosting providers, how do you get your data back? Is it painlessly portable? Make sure your contract has provisions for sufficient notice of service termination and assistance in moving your data out of their servers per a timeline and format that meets your needs.
  10. How comfortable are you with the Service Level Agreement (SLA)? Do you understand all of it? If not, does the provider help you to understand?

The cloud represents a great opportunity for many associations, but it shouldn’t be confusing. If you have questions about the cloud or our own private cloud hosting solution, Cloud Connection, come to my session – The Three P’s of Cloud Computing, Wednesday, December 4, 11:00-12:00 – at the ASAE Technology Conference or visit us in booth 501.