Whether it's Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) or Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), cloud services have become more viable options for the enterprise in recent years. Even when outsourcing management of your infrastructure or software to a cloud services provider, organisations still retain the responsibility of ensuring these services remain compliant. If a cloud services provider stuffs up, it's most often the responsibility of the organisation if customer data is compromised or the provider breaches Australian data sovereignty laws. Following these points can safeguard your organisation as a whole from cloud services compliance violations.
1. Demand full disclosure of all data centre locations and how data is stored. To remain compliant to your local and industry data regulations, you need to know what type of data is going into the cloud and where exactly it’s being stored. The onus falls on your organisation, not the cloud services provider, to know what data and server restrictions apply. Is your data being kept down the road, across the country or on another continent? Even if your cloud services provider offers local data centres, you might decide certain confidential data remains on your internal network. In addition to checking data centre locations, review whether your cloud services provider can host your environment across multiple, geographically disparate locations to boost availability of data, provide failover capabilities and transfer workloads cross-country. If your industry is highly regulated and you need strict data privacy and sovereignly requirements, seek applicable industry associations and consultants to guide IT through the cloud services adoption process.
2. Ensure you can get your data back if you need to. There might come a time when you are legally required to obtain access to data stored in the cloud — for instance, in a court case. To ensure you can produce this data, you should build an incident response plan into your contract with your cloud services provider. This should include a clause indicating how quickly you can retrieve the data and exactly what data you can retrieve.
3. Validate a cloud service provider's security monitoring claims. Are the same people who are managing your cloud infrastructure, if in an IaaS setup, also monitoring for security? Or is there a third-party security team for which the cloud services provider contracts out? Request and review security certifications in detail and contact the certification company to verify certificates are current. If the data is particularly sensitive, negotiate for audits conducted by your IT team and independently-chosen third parties. Red line the SLA to include an opt-out in the event the cloud services provider's security certifications lapse or are proven false.
4. Check their network security standards: The human element of securing the cloud is just one piece of the overall approach to protecting your data. Make sure the technical security aspects are up to snuff as well. Ask your cloud services provider if your data will be kept separate from other organisations’ data. Also ask if your network connection for your cloud services will be configured via secure VPN or private WAN connections to prevent external parties from accessing your data. Will your provider configure your firewall or will you? What type of anti-virus and virtual machine protection is there?
As cloud services become dominant and the industry matures, these compliance considerations will be concerns of the past. Until then, make these concerns top priorities when you speak to prospective cloud services providers to stay complaint with laws and industry expectations.
According to a recent industry white paper by IT web site CIO, 60 per cent of organisations report lengthy delays implementing the initial phases of cloud computing services, such as standardisation, consolidation and virtualisation. Of organisations that do make it past these initial stages, 47 per cent face “significant roadblocks” transitioning from virtualisation to the Holy Grail: automation — the shift from manual, human processes of IT to literal “hands-free” automatic electronic procedures. Here are some of the reasons why organisations hit these cloud computing roadblocks — and how they can overcome them.
Cloud Computing Obstacles to Overcome
The majority of IT executives and project owners want the same capabilities from cloud computing services, specifically IaaS solutions: 90 per cent seek solutions designed to anticipate growth and assess bandwidth as well as physical infrastructure. Every organisation works toward the same requirements and each trips up for the same reasons, namely:
- Lack of skilled IT employees to see implementation through and maintain a relationship with the cloud computing services provider
- Poor infrastructure readiness for cloud computing services
- Inadequate budget for size of implementation
Qualified cloud computing services providers can pinpoint the right technology and systems to help customers achieve their goals. And they can work with organisations through much of the planning and testing. They cannot, however, create the organisation’s momentum and internal resources that help organisations cross the chasm from cloud computing services initiative to reality.
Steps to Success
Addressing roadblocks before you’ve started on your cloud computing journey is the key to actually seeing through every step of the process. With preparation for each step, you will have the tools, processes and buy-in in place to execute all the way through to complete cloud computing implementation. Include these steps as you plan to make cloud computing services a reality:
- Recruit talent now. InfoWorld reports that many IT managers encounter difficulty with the limited market of cloud computing developers and administrators available — and the salaries these technical experts expect. Start looking for these individuals now to include them in business cases and budget projections.
- Assess infrastructure readiness. More than likely, your organisation must upgrade areas of its existing network to perform adequately with new cloud computing services. A good cloud computing services provider — one that has an IT and a managed services background to handle your technical and management needs — can conduct an audit of your infrastructure to point out which areas might need to be replaced, upgraded or retired before you implement cloud computing services. They will also give you a reasonable timeframe for cloud migration that addresses these potential infrastructure concerns.
- Build the case for automation. Many cloud computing services initiatives stall before the automation phase because executives find virtualisation “good enough." Demonstrate why the status quo doesn’t cut the mustard. Build realistic budget predictions and business impact analysis so you can demonstrate ROI for full automation.
- Identify and nominate an executive sponsor. Like any large initiative, an executive who “gets it” can prove to be your most valuable asset in achieving the goals of your cloud computing services. These individuals might be the CEO, the CFO or the Sales Director — anyone who can see the ultimate business drivers of cloud computing services. Find one early on. Demonstrate the tremendous value his or her division can expect from the solution.
- Test the solution. Every successful technology project comes by way of testing, documenting and validating before launch. Plan to validate network, capacity and storage requirements and test all systems, especially for that final automation phase. There will most likely be hiccups, but you’ll be able to address and correct them before cloud computing launch to avoid an outage or other disruptive incident.
Has your organisation stopped short of going “full cloud”? Which of these tips have you used to overcome your cloud computing obstacles?
Mix a creative spark and a natural disaster, and a plan to completely revamp a staid IT environment is born in Queensland.
Previously constrained in the adoption of new technology and suffering business ICT inflexibility, Queensland Theatre Company sought a new partner in mid-2012 to overhaul its IT environment and establish a more reliable hosted platform that would protect its data and systems from future natural disaster risks. After surveying responses from five IT providers, QTC chose Datacom for its complete, well-rounded solution offering, and local presence.
The infrastructure upgrade and cloud migration was completed in less than a month under the guidance of Datacom’s Managed and Professional Services teams. QTC had been keen to transition quickly to begin taking advantage of the scale and rapid provisioning available through the Datacom cloud. The new fully managed, hosted environment utilises Datacom’s local help desk and field support services for maintenance and monitoring. Datacom also upgraded and extended the network environment at QTC’s South Brisbane office to provide wireless services to end users.
The business impact of Datacom’s overall IT solution has been felt in QTC’s newfound ability to operate under highly available, secure systems and ability to scale rapidly. QTC’s IT infrastructure is now better protected in an enterprise data centre, providing a resilient infrastructure platform that minimises business risk from potential natural disasters or outages.
The cloud platform has enhanced server availability during ticketing and continuity of systems during theatre performances. Instead of internal IT staff trying to support systems that might not fall under their areas of expertise, QTC now leverages Datacom help desk experts for end-user and server computing support, freeing onsite staff to shift to creative and strategic efforts. A productivity boost has also emerged from QTC’s new wireless environment, allowing staff to work from anywhere and no longer be desk-bound.
Financially, Datacom has provided an in-kind partnership that enables QTC to achieve critical ICT expenditure savings and transfer all remaining ICT capital expenditures into operational costs.
QTC was pleased to receive the total IT solution they sought to the scope, budget and timeframes they outlined, says QTC’s Finance & Operations Manager, Nicola White.
“The transition has, from our perspective, been quite seamless,” she says. “Datacom’s professionalism and pragmatism contributed to the successful outcome of this project.”
As Datacom Australia/Asia CEO Peter Wilson said in a 2012 blog post, the IT department no longer controls all technical knowledge in organisations. Employees are more tech-savvy than ever, thanks to cloud computing services, mobile solutions and access to collaboration software that enable them to do their jobs just as well — if not better — than solutions the IT department can provide.
In Datacom's experience, organisations that align certain employee requests for new software and services with business goals make more informed IT decisions. Here are some of the technology requests you might hear from your employees in 2013. The right IT outsourcer can help you determine which ones will drive the most business value for your specific organisation.
1. BYOD for all. Employees are tired of carrying two smartphones, not being able to work on a home laptop and — most importantly — not having the flexibility to complete their work because IT presents a roadblock. At the end of the day, your department must continue to uphold policies that protect the security of your organisation’s data and content. Those policies, however, should at least consider BYOD.
For instance, could allowing specific employees or departments to bring in home laptops that run faster and have more memory cut down the time it takes to do certain tasks, such as running reports? If there is a need that could be filled or a productivity gap that could be corrected through BYOD, it's worth a thought. You can quell security fears by enlisting the help of an IT provider with an end-to-end mobility service that covers device management, app management and app development.
2. Cloud computing services. As employees search for new ways to alleviate their workloads and improve operations, they’ll naturally turn to cloud computing. This doesn’t mean they should circumvent the IT department by signing up for public cloud computing services. Rather than determining the technology necessary for on-premises implementation, prepare to spend time vetting private cloud computing providers and cross-referencing other departments’ cloud business needs. Signing up for managed cloud computing services can enable you to leverage productivity-boosting software whilst your infrastructure is protected in a local data centre.
3. Online help that works — and can be easily located. Between flexible schedules, improved user interfaces and a tech-savvier workforce, employees are more interested in fixing minor problems themselves than having the help desk spend hours to fix a simple problem. Staying abreast of common technology issues and offering relevant help documentation and videos will be imperative to helping your employees perform their jobs and freeing your staff from the phone lines.
You can work with an IT provider to develop, implement and support self-service tools that enable your end users to solve problems themselves. Or consider leveraging online remote desktop services from a managed IT services provider so you can utilise a "shift-left" strategy that also empowers your end-users to solve their own problems in less time.
As more and more employees bring technical and process knowledge to the game, IT must strike a balance between security, reducing risk and enabling success. Make 2013 the year to strike that balance.
Organisations rightly focus mostly on technology processes and business factors when preparing for cloud computing. Even if you have these areas fully-scoped, your enterprise cloud computing endeavour can fall apart if you've haven't established a realistic time table for migration or addressed the cultural changes necessary for a successful implementation. In Datacom's experience, organisations that take a phased approach to moving to cloud computing and fully prepare the IT department and the rest of the business get the most out of their technology investment.
1. Prepare for migrations on a realistic timetable
Organisations often believe they can have cloud computing solutions up and running in no time. But there are several steps that need to happen before you can take advantage of your cloud solution. Your cloud computing provider will need to provision your infrastructure in the cloud, install the core operating system and validate network, storage, security and capacity requirements. Then your provider will test the solution before allowing our organisation to test it and give final approval so you can begin installing your applications in the cloud computing platform.
While it is possible to do a rapid cloud computing implementation, Datacom doesn't recommend this approach, as it means more of your business will be offline at once, which increases business risk. We recommend a phased approach to migrating to a cloud computing platform, guided by an estimated time frame that keeps only portions of your systems offline at the same time. A good cloud computing provider will work with your organisation to determine which workloads can be taken offline, for how long and which additional workloads might be affected.
2. Prepare for cultural resistance and change
Obviously, adopting a cloud computing platform will require training the trainers as well as applicable employees. And any new hardware will require training technical specialists in repair and maintenance. With cloud computing, you’ll also want to impart a valuable lesson to IT employees: "You’ll need to change your approach."
When your IT team begins working with cloud computing, it might not have quite the amount of control it's accustomed to having. IT staff will still need to be technical experts, but the amount of technical work they actually undertake will decrease as cloud fills the gaps in certain processes. Your direct reports might find their jobs shift to developing appropriate policies (like BYOD) that guide employees at large about the rules of engagement for cloud computing.
With cloud computing's rapid scale and provisioning ability, your IT staff will begin taking up more special projects that focus on innovation to drive business value. This is obviously not a bad thing, but after years of making sure everything runs smoothly behind the scenes, this cloud computing perk will certainly take some getting used to amongst your IT staff.
All data centres are not created equal. Some offer unacceptable security measures. Others might not provide adequate failover ability. Others might store your data offshore, which breaches federal, state or industry privacy regulations.
Vetting a data centre is, simply put, one of the most critical IT decisions your department will make, one that affects nearly every business unit. Ideally, your data centre will provide a secure, central location so your organisation can access, store and use data that’s available anywhere. As you research data centre providers, whether it's for Infrastructure-as-a-Service cloud or disaster recovery, keep these things in as top priorities.
1. The data capacity to meet your organisation's evolving needs: Consider how your business planning may affect data needs over the foreseeable future. For example, is your business planning to launch new products or services that will require operational changes? Can you think of a handful of departments yearning for a data solution to solve their problems? What is the data transmission capacity? Your provider should ensure it can properly forecast capacity to prevent issues with rapid scaling and make it easy to scale from both technical and financial perspectives.
2. Multiple hosting and storage options and room to grow: The rack space you need on Day 1 of your data centre service contract likely won’t be the same as on Day 403. Your data centre should allow room to expand and offer a range of hosting and service options to enable business growth and agility. This might include an ability to go from co-location to a fully-managed cloud infrastructure environment if you wish, or setting up a disaster recovery or production site.
3. Support 24 hours a day, every day: How would you feel if your data was essentially abandoned after hours? A critical test of your prospective data centre provider is whether they provide hands-on maintenance monitoring around the clock to protect your infrastructure and applications.
This extends beyond simple phone support to encompass a 24x7, purpose-built data centre facility with backup power generation, uninterruptable power supplies, and redundant systems for cooling and telecommunications links. And the operations team doing the monitoring support must be actual IT professionals, not security guards. A data centre provider with local, accredited IT technicians who can maintain and troubleshoot the data centre environment will help you sleep better at night.
This list many not cover the gamut of data centre options potential providers must meet. But if they can’t pass these initial tests, they’re in the wrong class.
According to VMware's Cloud Index for 2012, Australia remains the Asia-Pacific country with the top cloud computing adoption rates for the third year in a row. While the top two factors driving cloud computing adoption are pretty standard — optimise and simplify access to IT —, the third reason supports another trend technology experts think will fully crystallise in 2013: mobile solutions. Aussie organisations also want to adopt cloud services so they can support a mobile and flexible workforce. Here's how the intersection of cloud services and mobile solutions could play out in 2013.
Mobile apps integration with cloud computing
Industry analysts have predicted that cloud computing and mobile solutions will separately be big technology trends in 2013. A marriage between mobile solutions and cloud services has been mentioned by industry leaders such as research firm Forrester, which believes 2013 will be the year mobile apps integrate with cloud services. The boost in adoption rates of both mobile solutions and cloud services are increasing the need for mobile application platforms, especially in countries like Australia, according to the IDC.
Enterprise app stores via cloud services
With nearly a third of employees claiming they use public cloud computing apps such as Dropbox at work, more and more organisations are establishing enterprise app stores of their own to thwart these unsecured, random downloads. Offering a range of selected business productivity apps through a private cloud computing database allows the IT department to better control what employees are downloading and using on either company-issued or personal devices. This move also enables enterprises to develop customised apps for the business or outsource the work to trusted app developers.
Cloud computing-based mobile solutions management
Not only do mobile apps themselves stand to be increasingly cloud computing-based — so do the tools used to monitor your mobile solutions. These solutions will enable IT staff to control deployments, security and applications being used across different devices and operating systems. They will also provide reporting capabilities that can add valuable business intelligence.
Do you think mobile solutions and cloud services will collide in 2013?
"Managed cloud" isn't a term that's caught on as much as IaaS, SaaS or hybrid cloud services. Maybe that's because it isn't offered by straight-up cloud services providers — it's supplied, more often than not, by managed services providers, whose longer list of solution offerings might overshadow their ability to deliver secure, custom-fit cloud services. A few key reasons exist for adopting cloud services through a managed services provider.
1. They know about more than just cloud services
IT providers that supply managed services know how to make sense of disparate IT environments, legacy applications and old infrastructure. Their technology knowledge will extend beyond cloud to unified communications, mobile solutions, desktop optimisation and additional solutions that you might want to integrate with cloud services. With a managed services provider, you will likely get a more available, reliable cloud, in addition to best-practice, enterprise-level technology and delivery methods. Think about it: Does it make sense to deploy your cloud services through a cloud company that's only been around for two years, or a full-scale IT provider that's been around for 20?
2. Support from experts
Your cloud needs monitoring, maintenance, security checks, patches — and the list goes on. Who better to provide these services for you than a managed services provider with certified, experienced security experts and its own local data centres? A managed services provider with multiple solution offerings also means you can leverage an array of skill sets when needed. Perhaps you want to wrap a larger managed services contract around your cloud service and take advantage of desktop support and volume licensing. A cloud services provider can't do this; a managed services provider can.
3. Integration, not interruption
Pure cloud services providers might know how to design and deliver your cloud, but not much else. Without a holistic approach to implementing cloud services, you might introduce serious business risks into your deployment. You might even wind up with the wrong cloud delivery model if you go with a cloud services provider that hasn't taken the time to get to know your business and understand the full IT picture. A managed services IT provider, on the other hand, will do this work and offer a cloud solution that folds into you overall business-IT strategy.
4. Customised, scalable solutions
Many cloud services providers only offer off-the-shelf SLAs and contracts. That's not the best way to keep your business agile. The way to get the most out of your cloud is through the ability to leverage economies of scale and on-demand resources with a tailored contract. Features such as flexible contracts with 90-day exit clauses and customisable SLAs are offered through the best managed services providers.
There are even more benefits to be had when electing cloud services through a managed services provider. When considering cloud, shop carefully before you buy, and linger in the aisle where the managed services providers are on display.
Cloud computing has naturally made the lists of 2013 technology predictions floating around the web. But how will organisations in Australia specifically be affected by this transformative technology? Here are a few happenings and trends the Australian enterprise might see when it comes to cloud computing in the new year.
Moving off-premise for cloud computing
Will nearly 80 per cent of Australian organisations having some portions of their onsite servers virtualised, it makes sense that many businesses have held on to their on-premises "mini-clouds" for this long. But technology industry analysts predict 2013 will be the year organisations finally start moving some of this infrastructure offsite, with Infrastructure-as-a- Service (IaaS) spending to reach $385 million — an increase of 55 per cent — in Australia, according to Gartner. With managed cloud services providing one option, moving to off-premise means organisations can take advantage of lower monthly costs, streamlined IT and on-demand, rapidly scalable resources.
The National Broadband Network meets cloud services
The NBN's roll-out of hotspots around Australia combined with cloud services in these areas can enable a faster and more accessible cloud computing experience for organisations large and small. While the NBN timeline might be affected by the 2013 political landscape, the continued movement toward a full-scale, national rollout will ultimately let organisations tap into a more vast amount and array of data through cloud services. Adoption rates for cloud computing will only soar, and organisations will be able to choose the different cloud models that best suit them.
Continued interest in cloud services for government
Events like the third annual Cloud Computing Forum taking place next month in Canberra represent government's increased interest in the potential of cloud services. It was only in mid-2011 that the Department of Finance and Deregulation released its Cloud Computing Strategic Direction Paper, which painted a very wary government stance on adopting the technology. As these and successive guidelines are transformed into actual mandates, organisations around Australia may soon be able to have a clearer roadmap to cloud services that is formed by government-supported, industry-leading practices that address security and data sovereignty concerns. More concrete direction would also help in establishing Australia as a true leader in cloud computing.
What do you think 2013 will bring for cloud services in Australia?
It’s been a big year for some of the technologies that Datacom offers solutions and services for, such as cloud, mobility and unified communications. And if they hold true and keep expanding, most of the facts and figures point to an exciting 2013. Here are some of our favourite statistics from the biggest tech trends of 2012.
1. Enterprise cloud increased in adoption amongst Australian enterprises from 43 per cent in 2011 to 58 per cent in 2012. (VMWare and Forrester Consulting)
2. Australia was ranked No. 2 out of 24 countries in terms of preparedness for cloud technologies. (BSA)
3. Amongst buyers of cloud, 65 per cent feel the technology has met their business aims. (Everest Group)
4. By close of 2012, more than half of workloads in enterprise data centres will be virtualised. (CloudFX)
5. By 2016, 40 per cent of workers will be mobile. (Gartner)
6. By 2014, the cloud-based mobile apps market will increase by 90 per cent. (Thinque)
7. Nearly three-quarters of companies allow BYOD in some form. (Enterasys)
8. In the past three years, 300,000 mobile apps have been developed. (Digital Buzz Blog)
9. Sixty‐one per cent of organisations that are starting a unified communications project hope to increase productivity. (IDGE Enterprise)
10. Organisations focused on reducing complexity in their unified communications deployments saved as much as $3 billion. (Aberdeen Group)
11. In the next 12 months, 75 per cent of organisations will boost their spending on managed services in Australia or keep budgets the same. (IDC)
12. Thirty-five per cent of enterprise IT costs will shift to another department's budget instead of IT's by 2015. (Gartner)
Add your favourite technology facts and figures in the comments.