Cloud Infrastructure Strategy: Laying the Foundations for Success

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LeaseWeb mei 2015, Hannie Verhoeven Fotograaf

Click to learn more about author Lex Boost.

Historically it was a heavy lift for many businesses to embrace cloud services. Obviously, that’s no longer the case – most businesses do not need convincing. In fact, users now require in-depth arguments why not to push everything into a flexible pool of resources.

But an optimal solution often requires more careful consideration, and service providers are a vital piece of the puzzle. Asking some key questions of them can help to lay strong foundations for cloud infrastructure planning and can have a huge impact on long-term success, supplier relationships, security and ROI.

What Business Trends will Affect Your Cloud Infrastructure Choices?

In an ideal world, tech strategy will follow and support specific business objectives. But in the real world, organizations often bend and adapt to meet the performance capabilities of what their budget or providers can deliver.

Cloud is predicated on the idea that users have the luxury of opex-funded flexibility, and that, in contrast to traditional IT spend, they can shift focus according to changing priorities and circumstances. It is at its most agile and effective when businesses can identify the short- and medium-term trends that will require changes to tech infrastructure.

By building these into infrastructure planning and choice of service provider partner, users can minimize the ‘retro-fit’ approach to cloud that characterizes so many deployments. If there is a major trend that is not immediate, but will play a significant role in your organization down the line, build it into your infrastructure planning early and work with cloud provider partners to plan for this.

Are You Asking the Right Questions when Choosing Your Service Providers?

Cloud has always been about choice, and its success has delivered an abundance of technologies and services. And what many organizations find is that their choice of partners and service providers plays a huge role in their cloud ROI. So, choice is really empowering for customers, but it’s really important to ask probing questions when putting your trust in a cloud partner.

So, for example, what is their direct experience in your market? Do they have relevant, happy customers who will support their claims of excellence? What commitments will they make to quality of service and support? What formal standards and accreditations do they work to, and what processes do they have in place in the event of service outages or unexpected downtime?

There are many more, but the fundamental principle to follow is that the service provider should be in a position to deliver services that meet customer need. Customers should not be adapting their business practices to meet the limitations of a service provider. If that ever happens, the best approach is to look elsewhere – there is lots of choice.

Are Your Providers There for You When You Need Them?

There are a lot of good cloud providers out there, delivering high performance, good value services for many customers. As a result, the customer/provider relationship can become comfortable and is only put to the test when there is a new or unexpected challenge.

That’s when quality of service separates the good providers from the excellent. Working with providers that demonstrate an understanding of your specific needs, supported by the right levels of personalization and urgency can have a very positive business impact.

One of the most effective – and traditional – ways of assessing this is to ask for references. Any company that is proud of its customer service record should have no difficulty in quickly providing a list of happy, talkative customers who will endorse them. For you as a prospective customer, it’s worth the investment of time and effort – don’t just rely on website quotes or review sites, try to have some conversations to build the confidence you need long term.

Where is Your Data?

No matter how your cloud infrastructure strategy develops in the future, one thing about it will remain constant – the vital importance of your data. 

The moment you entrust your data to a third party, you are making an enormous commitment to the supplier/customer relationship. So, you need to be clear about where your data resides and how well it is backed-up and protected. If data sovereignty is high on your list of priorities, make sure you check with your service providers about where their data centers are located and how they can guarantee your data will remain in the locations you need.

How Confident are You About Security, Backup, and Disaster Recovery?

This brings us onto the central question of security. There isn’t a single cloud provider out there that doesn’t claim to offer effective security – what customers need to look for are proof points. What is the security track record of the provider? What recognizable accreditations and certifications do they have? What specific, documented levels of protection do they offer?

And, while no-one out there can promise a 100% secure cloud environment or service, how service providers deliver backup and recovery is just as important. What are their published recovery times in the event of a security issue, hardware or software failure?

Let the Cloud Adoption Begin

Getting this group of fundamentals together should be part of a coordinated and well-planned cloud infrastructure strategy. Cloud services are all about ease, versatility and value but that shouldn’t be at the expense of effectiveness and really great services. Cloud customers who know what they want and are suitably demanding of suppliers will always get a better outcome than those who leave any of these ideas to chance.

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