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Entering the Cloud-First Race? Consider These 5 Things

The onus is on companies to become cloud-first, to move away from the traditional on-premises model as technology evolves. But this requires a strategic plan, and it needs to be put in place quickly.

Many companies see the migration from on-premises to cloud as something they only need to do on a program-by-program basis, as vendors fully commit to a SaaS model for their applications over the next few years. Others may be holding out because of compliance concerns, or they are reluctant to let go of their capital investments. If you're among these groups, it’s time for a reality check. The only way to thrive in a cloud-dominated future is to adopt a “cloud-first” approach.

Companies can avoid a slew of logistical challenges by designing apps and environments to live on the cloud and allocating enough time for a thorough planning process.

Here are five key considerations that companies should keep in mind as they begin to adopt a cloud-first strategy:

1. Cloud platforms redefine what is possible

Organizations that build apps and environments for the cloud gain substantial benefits from working with the most advanced technology companies in the world. While this may seem obvious, it’s a major boon for any company. The most popular enterprise cloud providers, e.g., Amazon, Microsoft, and Google, invest enormous time and effort in building and improving their cloud architecture. Their customers reap the rewards of those efforts in terms of security, resilience, raw compute power, and expertise.

2. Vendors begin to force cloud transitions

The same can be said for SaaS platforms like Office 365, which are more scalable and secure than their on-premises equivalents could hope to be. Software vendors are continuously moving customers to the cloud versions of their products, and they have taken steps and built tools to make the process as painless as possible.

Companies that choose to hold out with on-premises products until support stops will find themselves at a sizable disadvantage. They’ll be saddled with aging architecture that demands huge amounts of resources to maintain. And this isn’t a concern for the distant future -- it’s very possible that within five years, most vendors will only offer SaaS versions of their products. If companies can migrate away from on-premises software, rather than being forced to, they will have more control over the process. They will have a better chance of avoiding internal oversights and logistical errors that might occur if the migration were rushed.

3. ‘Cloud-first’ as a collaborative process

Given that “cloud-first” is a strategy, rather than an outcome, companies need to consolidate support from stakeholders throughout the organization. This can also help to bring teams closer together and make it easier for the company to achieve its goals.

To truly become “cloud-first,” a company needs to unify around the approach. If every department and executive is on board, then every work process can be carried out with the goal of making cloud-first design a business as well as a technical strategy. This includes planning for upcoming projects and upgrade cycles, which often afford ideal opportunities to transition from on-premises to cloud.

It’s important to acknowledge that designing applications and resources to the cloud will require new skills. Whether re-training current employees or hiring new ones, it is essential to plan for these changes to ensure your company can carry out and benefit from a cloud-first strategy.

4. Understanding company assets and resources

In order to ensure business continuity and adequately prepare to be “cloud-first,” companies first need to know what they have. Resource modelling and discovery tools can help to identify all aspects of architecture, so it is easier to plan and understand where refresh cycles sit. This is a critical step, as most organizations do not have a complete picture of their asset inventory. Often, undocumented alterations or temporary fixes have been made that are not accounted for and aiming to move to the cloud without a full picture can have catastrophic effects on migration as well as deployment efforts in the future. Although this is an important first step, companies must acknowledge this isn’t a one-time-only project. Infrastructure, especially cloud-based technology, is always changing; therefore, this evaluation needs to happen on a recurring basis.

5. Prioritizing security and minimizing disruption

Adopting a new design philosophy should never come at the expense of security. An essential part of “cloud-first” planning is ensuring that cloud access is secure, and corporate data remains safe. Of course, this requires careful advance planning.

It’s critical to adopt a zero-trust stance to defend people and data against bad actors, especially with a more distributed workforce. Whether data resides on-premises or in the cloud, the company needs to authenticate employee attempts to access it. Following the principle of least privilege is also essential.

Moving Forward With a Cloud-First Strategy

One way or another, companies will be forced to continue their journeys to the cloud over the next few years. With the proper cloud-first approach, this is something to celebrate, rather than dread. With proper planning, the cloud journey is one that will allow companies to be more agile and innovative, and benefit from the considerable expertise and capabilities of major cloud providers. By engaging your entire company with a cloud-first mentality, you can start the cloud journey with minimal disruption and gain major competitive advantages.