Tag Archives: cloud

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.

5 Key Elements of a Reputable Cloud SLA

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Evaluating a new cloud application for your company? Before you sign anything, make sure to review the vendor’s SLA, Service Level Agreement, for all the essential components. In our latest and greatest eBook, “The Five Key Elements of a Reputable Cloud SLA“, we highlight the 5 key elements of a reputable cloud SLA to assist you in your evaluation process. The report outlines the critical SLA components to look for when assessing cloud apps for your business.  

5 Key Elements of a Cloud SLAA cloud application Service Level Agreement (SLA) is, at its core, a formal method of setting expectations between a vendor and a customer. No service is perfect, and SLAs spell out exactly how a vendor will plan for and respond to interruptions in cloud application access or downgrades in cloud service performance. Below is one of the critical components you should look for in a cloud SLA. For all 5 components, grab the free ebook here.

Service Credits

Virtually every cloud application service provider uses service credits as the primary method of compensation under a SLA. A service credit is free use of the cloud service for a certain period of time. Typically, service credits are measured in days of service, such that particular violations of the SLA earn you a certain number of days to use the cloud service free of charge.

When examining a cloud SLA, pay close attention to the definition of a service credit so you can evaluate competing cloud offers side-by-side. If Vendor A defines a service credit as “one day of service” and Vendor B defines a service credit as “1/30th of a monthly subscription charge”, you may need to do some quick math to determine the relative dollar values of these credits.

Along with the definition of a service credit, an SLA should explicitly describe the uptime thresholds that entitle you to receive one or more credits. Does a monthly uptime of 99.8% get you one service credit, or three? At what uptime measure do you get additional service credits: 99.5%, 99% or 90%? The SLA should make that clear.

The SLA will likely include a cap on service credits available within any given measurement period, usually around half of your total possible subscription charge. For example, a company that has a monthly uptime guarantee will likely cap your service credits at 15 days per month, or half what you would pay for a month of service. It’s rare for any SLA to go above a 50% compensation level.

Finally, the Service Level Agreement should define the process for requesting a service credit. Unless a cloud service suffers a massive, public outage, it’s unusual for a vendor to automatically grant a service credit in response to an SLA violation. You’re going to have to ask for service credits, and the SLA should tell you how. In particular, the SLA should spell out the acceptable methods for invoking service credits, as well as the acceptable window of time for making a request.

Want more cloud SLA evaluation tips? Download the free ebook below.

5 Considerations Before Moving to the Cloud

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According to a Gartner report, the worldwide public cloud markets will top $131 billion by the end of 2013, an 18.5% increase from 2012. However, before your organization can join this cloud revolution, there are many considerations to discuss with your team. In today’s post we highlight five of the key points your business needs to consider before moving to the cloud.

Top 5 Cloud Considerations

1. Data Security

Research from OnlineTech states that 74% of cloud consumers believe their cloud provider is responsible for protecting their data. However, in the same report 63% of respondents admitted to not knowing what their providers were doing to protect their data. These conflicting stats illustrate that many of the organizations moving to the cloud do not have a clear grasp of the security considerations that come with a cloud migration.

By moving your data to the cloud you won’t necessarily be opening it up to new security threats. However, as more people have access to your data, the risks of data loss or tampering increase.  Be sure to consider how your data will be stored regardless of the system you are considering. Is the data encrypted? Make sure that only your team will have ready access to your data prior to making the move.

Takeaway: Ask your potential cloud provider how your data will be stored, is it encrypted and what is the process for retrieving data should there be a data loss?

2. Cost

One of the main benefits of moving to the cloud is the potential of reduced IT costs. While it’s true that costs can be lowered, don’t go into your migration assuming that will be the case. You have to take into account the costs of switching to a new system – something to plan for ahead of time. Speak to different vendors and ask them about their pricing, specifically:

  • Are there any hidden costs my organization should know about?
  • Will the architecture of the cloud cause me any additional costs in the future?
  • Often there can be a data migration cost to. Is this is included in the stated price quote?
  • Support time: Does 24/7 support come with the package or is that an added cost you need to plan for?

Takeaway: Dig into the potential for hidden costs associated with a move to the cloud and ensure all details are listed in your contract or SLA.

3. Uptime & Service Level Agreement (SLA)

A Service Level Agreement is part of your contract and formally details the services you are signing up for. You can think of it as the fine print on any contract. And like a contract, you should be sure to consider every detail of the SLA for each cloud provider.  Review the SLA with your team. Here are the basic areas that should be clearly stated:

  • Responsibilities of the provider and the consumer in the agreement.

  • A set of services with details about such things as guaranteed up time.

  • Metrics so you can identify if the cloud service provider is providing service that matches the agreed to SLA.

One key area to focus in on is the stated uptime of the provider. This is the stated amount of time that your data will be available to you. If your business plans to move mission critical data and systems to the cloud where you could not operate with a 5 minute outage, an SLA of 99.99% might sound perfect. However, 99.99% measured monthly has a very different effect than if it was 99.99% uptime measured over a 12 month period.

Takeaway: If your cloud provider’s SLA does not meet your requirements, you need to ask them to make edits or find a provider who is in line with the requirements of your business and your industry.

4. Which Apps & How to Decide?

Deciding which apps to move or not move to the cloud comes down to careful planning with your team, well before you speak to a salesperson. We suggest auditing all potential apps that you could move to the cloud. Are there any that have significant interaction with third party apps or services? These are good apps to consider moving because they may already be interacting with other services hosted within the cloud, making the transition smoother. Additionally, if you have an app that is not a clear differentiator between you and your competitor, you could consider moving it. Since it’s not critical to the business, any downtime would not be catastrophic.

Takeaway: Deciding on which data or apps to move to the cloud depends on your business needs. Consider moving apps that do not have a mission critical effect on your business, should they go down in the early days of the migration.

5. Compliance

Chances are you are already well aware of the compliance standards that govern your industry. Part of your due diligence when considering the cloud will be to research the compliance guidelines that need to be met on your company’s behalf. Some of the most common compliance requirements we see include: HIPAA, GAAP, SOX and PPI.

Takeaway: Know the compliance requirements of your industry and ask any potential cloud provider to confirm their services meet those requirements.

What other considerations should organizations consider before moving their data to the cloud? We would love to hear about the points you and your team have taken into consideration in the comments section below.

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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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”.