Moving to a cloud infrastructure — or making the cloud part of the infrastructure for key systems — is one of the smartest moves a business’s IT team can make, assuming it has the right goals in mind. The problem? Many people dive in without a complete grasp of what they want, which is like navigating a minefield — or at least a floor covered in Lego bricks, shoeless. Next thing you know, things are broken, processes are 10 times harder than they used to be, and the well-meaning IT team finds itself dealing with a two-extra-beers-at-dinner-level of stress from its rash decision.
In other words, developing a cloud infrastructure can be the best kind of disruptive, but only if you know what you’re doing, what you want, and how you plan to achieve both beforehand. If you’re implementing a strategy, make sure the following five pieces are in place:
1. Know What Your Business Wants and Needs Today…
The biggest no-brainer advice here is also the most important. Knowing exactly how your organization currently utilizes technology can help you implement your plan to the best possible effect. In turn, this ensures you avoid the two most harmful words in all of cloud implementation: “Just because.”
Start with the stumbling blocks departments frequently face. Consider the ones that could have the most positive impact on operations if cloud infrastructure took a central role. Which parts of your infrastructure need to be improved to make that happen? What can you do with relative ease, at least in terms of the near future? Which pieces will require a little more planning, adaptation, and forethought? Getting these proverbial ducks in a row will help you figure out what needs to be done — and more, what can be done — now and what needs to wait until the next wave of improvements.
2. …But Don’t Focus Too Hard on the Present
With that said, you risk painting yourself into a corner if you’re only worried about how your infrastructure enables people to work today. The flexibility, scalability, and simplicity that make the cloud a must-use are best harnessed with a long view.
You’ve probably got a grasp on the demands your new cloud solution will place on your infrastructure, but you now need to think a little further ahead. For instance, adding remote offices in the future or developing new work-from-home policies could play a big role in your post-implementation planning.
Long-term IT plans should also get serious consideration here. For instance, if you know you’ll be moving to virtualization or replacing a crucial system in the next few years, your strategy should account for that change. It may feel like you need a crystal ball and a solid Miss Cleo impression, but try your best. You’ll appreciate it when you aren’t rushing to put out fires you inadvertently set a year or two prior, or trying to shoehorn new policies, practices, and features into a box of tools and services that no longer fits your needs.
3. Account for Legacy Infrastructure
Maybe your accounting department needs access to some esoteric custom program a former employee built from scratch. Perhaps engineering relies on solutions from a vendor that’s been out of business longer than you’ve been with the company. Whatever the case, most businesses have some level of reliance on legacy tools that aren’t easily replaced or modernized.
The trick here is understanding what is sacrosanct and what, with a realistic view of the situation, can be replaced by more modern tools. Take inventory of your legacy systems and figure out what’s truly indispensable. Chances are, more than a few things can be replaced by newer, more modern, and altogether better tools — assuming the company at large is willing to adjust to the change.
4. Plan for Automation
A big part of embracing the cloud is automating everything you can. Tasks that used to take an inordinate amount of time — think setting up or provisioning a server — can now largely be handled by the system itself through templates and other types of snazzy technology. Cloud infrastructure takes this idea further by letting IT professionals handle their end remotely from a central console without bouncing from box to box or site to site like a caffeine-propelled pinball.
Note here that this process is less about machines taking your job and more about letting them make it easier, not to mention more efficient. When your infrastructure is designed to self-update through the cloud, or you can push code to dozens of machines through a cloud infrastructure instead of configuring each manually, you suddenly have more time to handle tasks that truly require people. And besides, you’re implementing a system to make everyone else’s job easier — might as well take care of yourself in the process.
5. Mind the Infrastructure
Ultimately, adopting the cloud is all about simplifying your infrastructure. Getting there can be a challenge, though, and that statement only gets truer if you come in without vision. Keeping the pieces that comprise your current business/IT infrastructure in mind as you implement your plan is one of the smartest moves you can make, and this fact holds true for both the company’s performance and your mental health.
Happy — or at least less stressful — upgrading!
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