Tag Archives: Cloud computing

5 Tips to Improve Your Cloud Strategy Today

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Today’s guest post is brought to you by Matt Johnson, VP of Global Cloud Advisory Services at Cloud Sherpas. You can find more of Matt’s work on the Cloud Sherpas blog.

Moving to the cloud? It all starts with developing a strategy. Here are five tips to get started: CloudyDay

1) Ensure business and IT alignment

It’s essential to have the business and IT agree on the details of your cloud strategy. Remember that the cloud, and therefore your cloud strategy, isn’t just for IT — it’s for the entire organization, which means the business needs to be involved too. Plus, when the business and IT are working together you’ll see true innovation.

2) Identify which technology to take to the cloud

While the cloud offers significant benefits, don’t just overhaul everything you have. Instead, decide which applications and infrastructure make sense to move to the cloud and which don’t. To make that determination, follow these criteria:

    • Contract renewals: If you have a package that’s old, clunky and expensive to maintain, it usually doesn’t make sense to renew the contract when the time comes.
  • End of lifecycle: Many businesses have packages that were written years ago and no one left in the organization knows the language, making it difficult to manage. This end of life software is prime for cloud migration.
  • Agility: Sometimes the software itself is fine — it’s not up for a contract renewal and isn’t end of life — but IT simply can’t keep up with the pace of change of the business or takes too long to modify. In this case, the business is potentially losing money, making agility critical in evaluating what to bring to the cloud.

3) Architect your cloud for high availability; backup & DR are the next phase

Your cloud strategy must be all-encompassing, and maintaining high availability should continue to be your priority. Review your cloud backup and disaster recovery strategies from the standpoint of maintaining optimum data integrity and by analyzing the opportunity cost advantages it represents. Although something like backup may not be in the spotlight in the same way as something like security, the arguments for examining new ways to perform backups now exist to enable greater IT focus on innovation as an example.

4) Re-examine business processes

Moving to the cloud is an opportunity to update business processes, which is critical to achieving a true transformation. Therefore, an essential component of any cloud strategy needs to be rethinking existing business processes. Let’s say you’re moving from a legacy mail system to Google Apps. If you simply recreate old processes in Google, you’ll still see some benefits, for example anywhere access to email, but you won’t realize the full potential of the solution. You’ll probably still be emailing documents back and forth rather than truly collaborating.

5) Determine cloud readiness

Assess different dimensions of your program to see what might not be ready for the cloud. It’s common to focus on one aspect of the migration at the expense of another, which can lead to issues. For example, you might be so focused on configuring the new solution that you pay little attention to data. Now you have a great app but there’s no quality data inside of it, rendering it useless. To determine readiness, map out the maturity of each capability — if maturity is low, it adds risk to the success of the cloud program. One great way to manage this readiness evaluation as well as ongoing success is to establish a Center of Excellence.

About the Author

Matt Johnson is the Vice President of Global Cloud Advisory Services at Cloud Sherpas. Matt is an executive-level management consultant with 30 years of experience in the fields of sales and marketing effectiveness, strategic planning and business transformation. His background includes a career-long focus on managing changes surrounding the introduction of new technology into the organization. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from the University of Vermont and a B.S. in Biology and Psychology from Valparaiso University.

Clouds Can Vanish: What it Means for Cloud Providers and Cloud Customers

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Clouds can VanishAs GigaOM’s Derrick Harris notes, cloud computing companies are not much different from other types of companies. And with a startup failure rate of 75%, many of the cloud companies today are bound to vanish into thin air.  There are many examples of vanishing cloud companies:  in 2011, 4 cloud storage providers shut down, in early 2012, Megaupload shut down, and even early this month Xeround closed its doors. While it’s nice that some closing companies give users a warning to remove their data by a particular date, others will not be so considerate.

What does this mean for Cloud Providers?

Security is one of the biggest concerns companies have about adopting the cloud.  And with the understanding that a cloud service can easily vanish into thin air, this concern is likely to remain.  So what can you do as a cloud provider to give your company an edge?  The Answer:  Secure your own cloud & mitigate that risk on part of customers.  This means either building your own backup solution or partnering with a backup company in order to provide the full package from the start.  Either of these strategies is bound to increase adoption of your services and decrease hesitation around the cloud.

What does this mean for Cloud Customers?

The possibility of cloud services vanishing means one thing for customers of any cloud-based application – it is crucial to protect critical information ahead of time.  Whether it’ll happen to your cloud provider or not, we cannot say.  But there are ways your company can mitigate the potential risk. TechSoup’s Jim Lynch suggests that a hybrid cloud model could be the answer and that it is important to understand fully a company’s Terms of Service.  A cloud-to-cloud backup solution or a different manner of securing a second copy of your information can protect your company no matter what happens.

Learn more about hybrid clouds.

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How to Secure Rogue Clouds

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Rogue CloudsZDNet defines rogue clouds as public cloud applications that are not managed by or integrated into a company’s IT infrastructure.  Some call it BYOA (bring your own application), as employees are deploying their own clouds without consulting with IT.  Rogue cloud deployments are usually not done maliciously but rather are done to save time and avoid cumbersome processes.

More common than you may think

Symantec’s survey of 3,236 companies in 29 countries late last year showed that 83% of enterprises and 70% of SMB’s encountered rogue cloud deployments.  In India, the numbers were even higher where 89% of enterprises and 92% of SMB’s found rogue clouds.  

Why It’s a Problem

When employees circumvent IT and deploy their own cloud solutions, the chance they take proper IT precautions are low.  Often they incorrectly configure the cloud and can easily make data available to the public as a result.  Symantec found that 40% of companies had confidential information exposed because of rogue clouds.

What You Can Do About It

The trend of BYOA seems to be similar to BYOD in that companies are no longer trying to resist or avoid it, but rather they are (perhaps forced into) embracing it.

To secure rogue clouds at your company, consider the following options:

  1. Security & Privacy Audits:  Eric Friedberg compared the rogue cloud phenomenon to the early days of corporate Wi-Fi when employees similarly set up unauthorized and unencrypted hotspots that exposed internal information to people on the street.  He credited security and privacy audits to solve those problems and thinks they can solve these problems as well.  Understanding what data on your servers is available to the public is important and such audits can help you keep a pulse on this.

  1. IT Policies:  Maintaining best IT practices when it comes to the cloud is important.  That might mean educating employees on the risks of deploying their own cloud solutions, or training them on the proper way to do so.  That may mean setting rules such as requiring the internal control of encryption keys.  Just remember that the reason employees engage in rogue clouds in the first place is to save time and avoid cumbersome processes, so figure out how to balance your employees time with the security needs of your company.

  1. Cyber Liability Insurance: To protect against lawsuits that may arise from a security breach, some companies purchase cyber liability insurance.  While this is not a solution per say, it might be worth considering to prevent potential losses if something does happen.

  1. Backup:  Aside from the other ways to mitigate risks, having a second copy of your information is certainly a great idea, so that if hackers to get in and your data is deleted or corrupted, you still have it when you need it.

We suggest a balanced approach including education, training, putting into practice the right policies and procedures, and a proper backup solution.  Have any more ideas to add?  Let us know below!

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Google Apps vs. Office 365: An Objective Perspective

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Google Apps vs. Office 365Earlier this month, BetterCloud wrote an article about how Google will win the Enterprise game when it comes to Google Apps vs. Microsoft Office 365. Four reasons were cited declaring Google Apps the winner:

  1. A generational shift wherein students coming out of university are already using Gmail and other Google products in their personal lives. Thus, Google Apps will be the preferred system in the corporate setting when this cohort assumes management control.
  2. Microsoft’s long-standing involvement with on-premise solutions and channel partners who push on-premise solutions, which will slow the necessary shift in Redmond’s core business operations to the cloud.
  3. Microsoft’s preference for complicated pricing scares off buyers, whereas Google has a much simpler pricing plan.
  4. Google’s competitive advantage with regards to timing as they came to the market just as web apps were coming out, while Microsoft is dealing with 20+ years of providing on-premise software.

While all of these points, particularly the third point on pricing, are interesting, we think the situation is a bit more complex. In fact, we at Backupify wrote a whitepaper about this particular topic: “Office 365 vs. Google Apps: Which is right for your business?”.

What it boils down to is that there are different situations in which either solution might be better for a company moving to the cloud, and each solution is superior on different features. Here is a summary on our conclusions found in the whitepaper:

Google Apps wins on:

  • Price
  • Online collaboration & file storage
  • User interface & ease of use

Office 365 wins on:

  • Instant messaging, web conferencing, voice chat & voice features
  • Intranet integration
  • Active directory integration
  • Offline support

Google Apps and Office 365 Tie:

  • Email & email archiving
  • Mobile device support
  • System setup & administration

Aside from these feature differentiators, we see the major difference in terms of business process improvement (BPI) vs. business process engineering (BPE). Instead of declaring a definite winner in all cases, we think different companies can appreciate one solution over the other depending on their preferences, reasons for adoption, and business needs.

BPI has to do with tweaking existing business practices to make them more efficient, while BPE involves dissecting a business’ existing workflows and redesigning them from the ground up. We consider Google Apps more of a BPI solution that replaces a current system with a cheaper one, and Office 365 more of a BPE solution that brings new processes to a company.

So as a company considering the cloud, ask yourself: Are you happy with your existing practices but want to transfer them online in order to save money? Or, are you unhappy with your current practices and want a new solution to provide new tools to employees? If the former, then Google Apps is probably your answer. If the latter, then Office 365 with its robust and customizable set of tools that may be worth the extra money.

For more help deciding between the two solutions, check out our blog post on the Top 10 Google Apps vs. Microsoft Office 365 Comparison Guides.

Related Articles

11 Stats on Data Loss You Need to Know

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data loss

According to Symantec’s 2013 Report “Avoiding the Hidden Costs of the Cloud“:

  • 47% of enterprises lost data in the cloud and had to restore their information from backups
  • 37% of SMBs have lost data in the cloud and had to restore their information from backups
  • 66% of those organizations saw recovery operations fail

According to The Aberdeen Group’s Report “SaaS Data Loss: The Problem You Didn’t Know You Had

  • 32% of companies surveyed lost data from the cloud.

Of these instances,

  • 47% were due to end-users deleting information
  • 17% were users overwriting data
  • 13% were because hackers deleted info

According to the Cloud Security Alliance’s Top 9 Cloud Security Threats in 2013

  • Data Loss is the #2 reason for data loss (up from #5 in 2010)

According to the Boston Computing Network’s Data Loss Statistics

  • 60% of companies that lose their data will shut down within 6 months of the disaster

According to CloudBackup’s Facts about Data Loss

  • 20% of small to medium businesses will suffer a major disaster causing loss of critical data every 5 years. (Source: Richmond House Group)
  • About 70% of business people have experienced (or will experience) data loss due to accidental deletion, disk or system failure, viruses, fire or some other disaster (Source: Carbonite, an online backup service)

You may notice that some of these stats actually contradict others. It may depend slightly on the number of companies surveyed, but in general, companies are not usually eager to admit they have suffered from these kind of hiccups. Telling the world that you accidentally deleted really important information just does not happen unless one’s hand is forced.

But regardless of whether it is 32% or 47%, up to almost half of companies have lost important business information in one way or the other — and oftentimes it was accidentally deleted.

Protect your business from these threats. If your data is on the cloud, then let Backupify help prevent you from becoming a statistic.

For more information on SaaS Data Loss, check out the Aberdeen Group’s Report“SaaS Data Loss: The Problem You Didn’t Know You Had”.