Transitioning to one cloud service or platform carries plenty of implementation challenges. Can you imagine the complexities that can arise when you decide to leverage several cloud services for a multi-cloud approach?
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t opt for a multi-cloud strategy — it just means you may need some extra help to do it successfully. That’s where a systems integrator can come in handy. A systems integrator can oversee the entire process of procuring, provisioning and then managing your bundle of cloud services. Systems integrators procure and combine technology — usually software and hardware — from a variety of vendors to provide a more seamless, and sometimes more cost-effective, system or service. This focus ensures your multi-cloud services are consistently meeting your budget and business needs, even if that means switching to another cloud services provider to take advantage of lower prices or better application performance.
They have innate technology capabilities that lower risk
Using a systems integrator to architect a multi-cloud approach means your organisation gets to leverage key design and consulting capabilities already present in the provider’s scope. This includes creating your path to the cloud, ensuring all design, build, integration and testing is done correctly. As the systems integrator already possesses its own innate technology capabilities, you’ll lower the risks around multi-cloud implementation, integration and performance issues. If you work with a systems integrator with its own cloud capabilities, you can leverage deeper expertise, in addition to a potential extra cloud service, if you require it now or down the track.
They act as your mediator to ensure needs are met
Another key way systems integrators make the multi-cloud transition easier is by liaising with your multiple cloud services providers to negotiate pricing, service levels and security needs. Your systems integrator acts as your facilitator — and a translator of all technical cloud jargon that providers sometimes hurl your way — to ensure the cloud provider can meet your business needs and prevent lock-in. This includes deciphering which cloud might work best for a particular application or workload and helping you balance the changing needs of your business services against the right cloud service.
They manage your cloud services under one umbrella to save hassle
Not only will you save your organisation time in the multi-cloud services procurement step by using a systems integrator, you’ll also reduce billing and management hassles, as all your services will be centralised. This centralised approach to multi-cloud will help your organisation better deal with issues of security and latency between private and public clouds, ensuring the backend technical configurations guarantee performance. No matter how complex your multi-cloud arrangement becomes, your systems integrator will preside over its management so it continues to deliver what your business needs.
Cloud offers your organisation a lot of different hosting options and methods of delivery. Yet for years, many businesses have felt as if they are pigeon-holed into just one choice — one that can prevent your organisation from fully leveraging cloud to automate and optimise key business processes that can drive performance, productivity and innovation. Using multiple cloud services or providers could be the better option for your organisation, as it allows you to use different cloud services to map to specific budget, security and systems needs amongst your workloads. Consider if your organisation might be primed for multi-cloud by looking at these three key areas.
- You have varying types of workloads with different requirements
As cloud computing has evolved, organisations have gotten hip to the idea of best-placed workloads: that is, the cloud that is most suitable for the applications you are running. This concept accounts for changing workload needs or fluctuating levels of cloud performance, infrastructure and price. The portability of multi-cloud presents the option to benchmark applications and workloads across different clouds to see where they perform at their best. So if you have a mix of workloads that have low or partial utilisation levels, such as batch processing, and workloads subject to wild spikes in traffic such as public-facing apps, the ability to leverage and shift amongst different cloud platforms reduces the risk of downtime and helps control costs.
- You anticipate needing to bring a cloud-based project back in-house
A misconception with cloud computing is that once you migrate a service or application to a cloud platform, it should stay there forever. Cloud is meant to provide agility, and there’s no reason to believe you won’t have to shift one of your services to another cloud platform or provider or migrate it back on premise in the future. IDG Enterprise’s Cloud Computing: Key Trends and Future Effects Report found that 42% of cloud-based projects are ultimately taken back in-house. The reasons for this shift include security (65%), technical/oversight problems (64%) and the need for standardisation, or one platform, (48%).
A multi-cloud strategy — especially one overseen by an IT systems integrator — can help your organisation transition systems back on-premise as soon as you need them there. This multi-cloud approach will cut out the complexity of migration issues, service contracts and potential data loss as you already have a multi-pronged arrangement with multiple platforms and providers that understand your need to stay nimble.
- You want to avoid commitment to one cloud services provider
Organisations today are outsourcing to multiple providers for a range of business needs. There is no reason why this trend can’t extend to cloud. According to ZDNet, 39 per cent of IT decision-makers feel locked in with their current suppliers. With multi-cloud, you get more freedom of choice, allowing you to easily switch providers if their SLAs, costs or privacy guidelines change. In fact, the University of Sydney’s School of Information Technologies’ Centre says a hybrid or multi-cloud approach is the most cost-effective, efficient way to manage various cloud computing resources.
A multi-cloud strategy can work for a range of business types, whether you’re a local or multi-national organisation, an SME or large corporation, or one that is already using cloud computing or that is still ironing out a path to cloud. Remember to consider using an IT systems integrator to help make your multi-cloud implementation less complex and ensure cloud computing success.
In September, non-profit IT association CompTIA reported that greater than six in 10 cloud users have “made secondary shifts of infrastructure or applications following their original transition to the cloud.” This means these organisations are using a “multi-cloud” approach — leveraging at least two cloud services to reduce risk of data loss and performance issues. The idea is that organisations can choose the right cloud type and service to balance the varying needs of their systems and data. Here are some of the benefits of considering multi-cloud for your organisation.
Some notable cloud service provider failures in recent years have prompted many businesses to take a good, long look at the safety of their systems. A multi-cloud approach lets you put your servers in different data centres managed by different providers, so that if one provider fails, it doesn’t cause a catastrophic loss of service to your business. Distributing your servers across providers also reduces the impact of potential electricity and networking provider outages. You have the mobility to take your cloud servers from one provider and move them to another to protect your business.
There’s a standard rule to follow when pondering cloud services for business: What’s secure might not be the most cost-effective and what’s cost-effective might not be the most secure. Organisations might initially be tempted to drop everything in a seemingly fail-proof private cloud — but that can be mighty expensive. Yet there are data and workloads that absolutely cannot legally or compliantly go into the public cloud.
Having a multi-cloud strategy enables organisations to maximise costs, performance and security by switching between providers and cloud types or even moving applications or infrastructure back into their own data centres for security reasons. Organisations have become more opportunistic in how they evaluate cloud services, always looking for a better price, customer service and features, points out the CompTIA research. This approach also prevents vendor lock-in.
Appropriate application fit
Some tasks perform better on certain clouds. If your organisation has a need to deliver elastic services to a wider number of users over the internet, a public cloud option will work best. But even then, each public cloud provider offers different features. A Gigaom article from last year points out that organisations running certain frameworks for data-intensive-real-time apps might suffer from performance issues on more generic public clouds when they try to scale. A multi-cloud approach lets you move these applications to a different public cloud that might be better equipped to handle the latency of this intensive workload.
A multi-cloud approach may be where the future is headed, but it still takes strategic planning and a migration strategy. Enlisting the help of an IT and cloud service integrator can provide a whole-picture approach that takes into account system and application needs, compliance issues and budget to find the right mix of clouds for your business.
Business process outsourcing (BPO) is not a revelatory concept to the enterprise world. Organisations of all sizes have consistently increased their BPO contracts to preserve staff productivity and encourage internal innovation. With the advent of cloud computing, however, we’re on the brink of a “BPO 2.0”, otherwise known as “Business Process as a Service” (BPaaS).
In its simplest form, BPaaS delivers business processes through the cloud, streamlining back-office functions. BPaaS combines the individual strengths of cloud technology with the 30-year history of BPO to create an opportunity for businesses to purchase process outsourcing on a piecemeal, pay-as-you-go basis — making the technology more affordable and accessible to a wider audience.
The Rise of BPaaS
During the Global Financial Crisis, businesses faced the need to scale back significant enterprise costs in order to survive the economic downturn and set the stage for future growth. More and more companies chose to outsource non-critical business functions and processes to third-party service providers as a way to realise lower labor costs.
Over-reliance on traditional business models, outdated technologies and rigid contract and delivery structures, combined with the maturation of the BPO market, led customers to look for more flexibility, innovation and responsiveness from their outsourcing providers. The rapid evolution of cloud-based solutions, with their multi-tenancy, consumption-based use and pricing, has created a mass demand for BPaaS. This new model offers organisations the opportunity to get the business outcome they desire while paying only for the services they use.
Different types of outsourced services offered via the BPaaS model include HR functions like payroll and benefits administration, procurement, advertising, marketing and an array of other industry-specific operations.
Five Benefits of BPaaS
Organisations looking to optimise performance and free up staff to focus on their core responsibilities should start looking into capabilities they can leverage through BPaaS. Adopting business process management through a cloud solution offers companies several advantages, including:
1. Lower costs
Traditionally, overseeing and coordinating business processes includes purchasing and maintaining servers to handle the large volume of computing involved in everyday operations management. With a BPaaS solution, business processes are uploaded to a cloud service that performs and monitors them, so companies don’t have to invest in superfluous hardware and maintenance, significantly decreasing costs.
2. Risk reduction
The pay-as-you-go pricing model offered by BPaaS lets organisations choose which functions they want to use and when they want to use them, versus spending capital for a major platform overhaul which can be expensive and ineffective. Through BPaaS, companies have the option to implement a fully integrated suite of services or test stand-alone offerings. The flexibility offered by the consumption-based model helps mitigate the risks associated with large-scale technology purchases and long-term contracts.
3. Superior process efficiency
Uploading a business process to the cloud ensures that it is well-defined and consistent across the organisation. Within a BPaaS web-based platform, different processes can easily be linked and monitored as well. The BPaaS model provides automation, standardisation and repeatability in the way the services are used and delivered, thus cutting down on task training and execution time.
4. Organisational clarity of focus
Moving business processes to a cloud solution gives an enterprise more time and resources to focus on business growth, rather than having to worry about the completion of non-strategic activities. When implemented correctly, BPaaS creates a new sense of agility and innovation within a company, creating a higher-performing, more competitive business.
5. Revenue growth
When business processes are hosted in the cloud, employees can access them anywhere, at any time; with BPaaS creating a more mobile workforce, businesses have the opportunity to expand at an accelerated rate. This portability gives organisations the breathing room to take on more business and produce quality results faster — making for a much healthier bottom line.
Business Process as a Service is still a rising star, but its adaptability and benefits are rapidly getting the business world’s attention. Datacom has already developed several BPaaS offerings, including solutions for payroll and talent management as well as case management for local authorities. As organisations continue to seek scale and cost efficiencies, we are committed to staying on the pulse of the ways BPaaS can help our future and present customers.
Mark McWilliams has 25 years experience in the technology sector and is a Director of Datacom Investments.
He has detailed knowledge across the IT spectrum from data centres through to governance, with everything in between. He has also worked with organisations that have varying needs from a security standpoint, including those with advanced requirements such as banks and government agencies.
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 compliant 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.