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10 Decision Points & Considerations for Cloud Migrations

In today's IT landscape we hear the term Cloud in most conversations, almost every vendor slick and the majority of advertisements. It is a term that is usually positioned to portray a sense of ease and simplicity for Cloud migrations. While there are many advantages to moving data to the Cloud, the decision to do so should be carefully considered and highly scrutinized.

This list of Ten items will start you on the journey of exploring a cloud migration.

1. Which business applications should you migrate to the Cloud – some or all?

2. What IT environments do you want hosted in the Cloud - Production and/or Test/Dev/DR? Besides Email and File Shares, a typical business will have multiple line of business applications (ERP, CRM, Databases, Web, etc.) some of which are custom applications that require ongoing development and testing. The data and servers required to operate and maintain applications requiring development adds to the total cost of ownership (TCO). Most Cloud hosting companies charge by resources utilized (CPU, Memory, Disk, Bandwidth, etc.). What about Disaster Recovery – the ability to fail over and fail back your IT environment? Many Cloud hosting solutions offer the option to replicate to another data center facility (e.g. Chicago fails over to Los Angeles). Again, these options are all possible, but does the overall investment and TCO make sense?

3. Physical or Virtual? Going to the Cloud typically means virtualizing your servers and maybe even your desktop computing environments whenever possible. Some legacy applications do not lend themselves to operating on newer operating systems and/or to being virtualized. Although not ideal, it is possible to co-locate physical servers at some data center Cloud hosting providers. The easiest and most cost effective solution is to first virtualize all of your servers on one of the top three hyper-visors VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V, or Citrix XenServer.

4. Company Owned or Provider Owned? Perhaps your firm purchased new servers and IT equipment in the last 2 or 3 years. Do you abandon that investment before the end of useful life? Or should you co-locate those machines? Or perhaps re-purpose those machines as part of your site to site DR solution. If you have older servers, then timing could be ideal to get out of the game of owning IT infrastructure by migrating to the Cloud on provider owned infrastructure, by renting.

5. What Tier Data Center (Tier 1-2-3-4?) is right for your business? A Tier 4 data center considered as most robust and less prone to failures. Tier 4 is designed to host mission critical servers and computer systems, with fully redundant subsystems (cooling, power, network links, storage etc.) and compartmentalized security zones controlled by biometric access controls methods. Conversely, the simplest is a Tier 1 data center used by small business or shops. Tier 1 = Non-redundant capacity components (single uplink and servers). Tier 2 = Tier 1 + Redundant capacity components. Tier 3 = Tier 1 + Tier 2 + Dual-powered equipment and multiple uplinks. Tier 4 = Tier 1 + Tier 2 + Tier 3 + all components are fully fault-tolerant including uplinks, storage, chillers, HVAC systems, servers etc. Everything is dual-powered.

6. Public Cloud or Internal Private Cloud? Most non-IT business people assume that migrating to the Cloud means contracting for hosting services at a third party provider’s data center. It is possible to leverage all of the same technologies like virtualization from your own server room or data center, in other words in your organization’s private Cloud.

7. Managed or Unmanaged? If Information Technology (IT) is not your organization’s core business, then often times it makes sense to outsource the ongoing support and operations of your IT environment to a qualified managed services provider (MSP). An unmanaged Cloud solution typically means that your internal IT staff remain responsible for IT administration.

8, Dedicated or Multi-Tenant? How important is it to your business that your data and applications are 100% physically separate from any other organization? In order for the Cloud hosting providers to offer an economical solution, they leverage the same IT infrastructure (Servers, Storage Area Networks, Switches, Routers, Firewalls, Backups, etc.) to host multiple companies’ virtualized environments. If architected and maintained properly, then a multi-tenant is usually an acceptable situation for most businesses. If your business has highly confidential information or regulatory requirements, then a truly separate and dedicated infrastructure may be necessary. The costs for a dedicated Cloud environment are significantly more costly.

9. Local Data Center or Distant Data Center? How far apart should you locate your primary data center from the recovery data center? There really is no official answer. The main concept is to have sufficient distance to reduce the chances of experiencing the same impact – power outage, natural disaster, terrorist threat, etc. 48% of businesses have datacenters between 25 miles and 250 miles apart. Typically, the bigger the company, the longer the distance required. If the recovery procedures require any staff to physically enter the data center, distance from headquarters can slow recovery procedures. During a large-scale disaster, your employees will most likely be most concerned with their families and property, and may not be willing to get in a car and drive several hours to reach the recovery site.

10. Do you have sufficient network and Internet bandwidth to migrate to the Cloud? If you migrate to the Cloud, you will need to consider having adequate bandwidth plus a buffer for peak times for Production IT operations, data replication and backups, remote computing workers, web traffic, and possibly many other requirements. The cost of circuits needs to be carefully calculated for current and future IT operations before signing any contracts with Cloud providers.

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