While we need to be realistic about what is involved in cloud migration and digital transformation, it is an exciting time in the evolution of IT Infrastructure.

Well before the pandemic entered our lives and forever changed workplace operations, a move to the cloud was underway. Enterprises were intrigued by the prospect of minimizing the costs of on-premises server maintenance, reducing infrastructure complexity, and gaining greater flexibility. The promises of the cloud were big and bold to be sure — a whole new way to consider infrastructure.

Despite the excitement building around a theoretical transition to the cloud, there also was a hesitation when enterprises broke down what wholescale digital transformation would mean for them practically. There were existing, deep investments in on-premises data centers and the reliability they offer to consider. It would not be easy for enterprises to just walk away — especially from something proven to work exceptionally well despite cost and constraints. Tack on the very real concern of not being able to distribute software and updates at scale without impacting network performance, and enthusiasm waned for the massive IT undertaking of cloud migration. It was put on the back burner.

Then Covid-19 hit, and entire workforces were sent home indefinitely. The strain of remote work was considerable, and the digital transformation movement dramatically accelerated. It jumped to the forefront of IT imperatives, particularly as enterprises witnessed other organizations benefiting from the agility, flexibility and innovation opportunities cloud-based environments offered. These benefits were real — proof of concept in action within a new world necessitating new IT demands.

This quick summary brings us to today, when the moment for cloud migration becomes inevitable. Given this backdrop, let us consider the pitfalls as well as the other factors organizations should think about as they move their IT strategy into the future.

 

Connections 

Employees, wherever they are, need access to their core business data and applications. That’s a given and one of the biggest motivators for the move to the cloud, but with so many different digital platforms being leveraged across the enterprise, it gets complicated. Workflow management issues continue to surface, and it’s been challenging to reliably and rapidly transfer files or send updates.

Companies have tried to separate workflows and processes in different ways to serve as a bit of a band-aid during the course of their cloud migration — keeping some applications on-premises while moving others to the cloud. This is often a very practical solution and can offer relief over the near-term, but other issues arise if you’re not careful, such as applications and workloads being unable to talk to one another if they reside in different environments (cloud vs. on-premises) or even in different public clouds if providers are not compatible.

Not quite locked down 

Perhaps the biggest issue though is one of security. We live in a time when network security risks are at an all-time high. In April, the FBI disclosed that reports of cybercrime increased by 300 percent since the start of the pandemic. Stunningly, Cybersecurity Ventures recently noted that if cybercrime were measured as a country, its costs would be equivalent to the world’s third-largest economy, behind only the U.S. and China. The firm went on to project that cybercrime costs will:

“… grow by 15 percent per year over the next five years, reaching $10.5 trillion USD annually by 2025, up from $3 trillion USD in 2015. This represents the greatest transfer of economic wealth in history, risks the incentives for innovation and investment, is exponentially larger than the damage inflicted from natural disasters in a year, and will be more profitable than the global trade of all major illegal drugs combined.”

If that is not terrifying for business leaders, I don’t know what is.

But what does this have to do with the move to the cloud? Plenty! Since the shift to remote work, there has been considerable strain on corporate networks as employees attempt to connect over VPNs. Because of this strain as well as many other IT issues that popped up with regards to remote work, critical updates, patches and software delivery have not happened as regularly as is required. This leaves the door open for vulnerabilities.

Complicating matters further was the fact that no cloud-based method existed to reliably push content to the 10,000+ machines and devices connected to corporate networks with any kind of speed or scale (at least until recently). So, despite the intense and growing desire to move to the cloud, it simply wasn’t practical.

 

Getting there 

The bottom line today is that enterprises have to have environments that can adapt and grow to meet ever-changing needs without compromising security. This is no small task, but it starts with finding ways to work across platforms and being able to access content from anywhere, on any machine or device, without exposing corporate networks.

To accomplish this, it means identifying vendors who don’t just have the coolest sounding technology, but rather they have the technology that meets your present and anticipated future needs. This ranges from cloud services to security to content delivery and endpoint management.

Before you go out and sign new contracts or begin replacing pieces of your infrastructure, however, take inventory of what your current environment consists of, noting where you’ve made the most significant investments as well as what’s working well for you today and where you are experiencing some hiccups, pains or stress. Next, envision where you want your environment to be. What components are there? What new capabilities will you gain? What will you give up to get there? How long will it realistically take, and what impact will this process have on your business?

Once you have a thorough understanding of where you are and where you want to go, then engage with the vendors who can make it happen according to your vision and your timeline, working with what’s already in place. Such partners should be committed to developing robust, automated management solutions with sophisticated monitoring capabilities so that IT staff know what is happening where at any given moment across the corporate network and its endpoints. Additionally, partners should understand the current limitations of the cloud and be able to develop strategies that help your organization migrate safely in a manner and at a rate that are comfortable for both IT and the employee base — and they should be persistently innovating in order to lead you into the future.

 

A new day is dawning 

Given that we are facing so many novel realities in business, vendors are rising up to tackle new pieces of the cloud puzzle to make digital transformation a reality for the enterprise. For example, new, highly secure peer-to-peer content distribution solutions address scalability and reliability concerns across any environment — cloud, hybrid or traditional on-premises — while solving compatibility issues to deliver the flexibility long promised. Solutions to other issues will continue to surface to meet key needs as well, so try to keep a pulse on what those needs are and where they fall on your migration plan.

It is also important for both leadership and IT staff to recognize that digital transformation doesn’t end once you’ve made the move to the cloud. Management responsibilities change; they don’t evaporate simply because you’ve found an awesome automated solution. As Accenture’s Emma Roscow recently pointed out, “Through all this, it is crucial to remember that cloud integration is a means, rather than the end goal. It is the first step, not the last, in the innovation of a business.”

While we need to be realistic about what is involved in cloud migration and digital transformation, it is unquestionably an incredibly exciting time in the evolution of IT infrastructure. Hurdles are being cleared, and despite the bumps along the way, the cloud will help enterprises operate with a new level of efficiency and flexibility.

 

As first published in IT Pro Portal.