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Cloud Hosting Best Practices for Business

Article Written By M. Adnan Raja, Vice President of Marketing, Atlantic.Net

When you are considering the adoption of Cloud Hosting for your business, you are in good company. Just consider the industry forecasts, revealing the volume of businesses that each made its own decision to deploy a Cloud, and subsequently, to expand that part of their infrastructure: 
  • Nearly three-quarters of IT-sector CFOs reported that Cloud would be the most significant factor influencing their firms in 2017.
  • The spend on public Cloud services is expected to expand from $209.2 billion in 2016 to $246.8 billion in 2017 (an 18% rise), according to Gartner.
  • The expansion of Cloud computing itself is predicted to develop even faster, improving from $67 billion to $162 billion between 2015 and 2020 (a 19% increase). [source]

How do you deploy Cloud in the smartest possible way for your business, though? Here are some general best practices, along with advice specific to Cloud-ifying mission-critical apps and managing hybrid Clouds.

Best practices for Cloud adoption

How can you move forward in the most organized, effective, efficient, and secure possible manner for your company?

Convert the naysayers.

It will be difficult for you to make much progress if your leadership and other essential players remain resistant to Cloud hosting. Key individuals that you need to convince, if they are reluctant about going in this direction, are:

  • C-level executives (CEO, CIO, CTO, etc.)
  • Business department and developers that own the applications
  • Individuals in SecOps, the CISO, and others responsible for security
  • Governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) professionals
  • Buyers, risk assessors, and holders of governance roles within finance
  • Current Cloud and data center architects
  • Data directors and database administrators (DBAs)
  • Heads of your central IT processes and systems, including network professionals.

From all of these interested parties, you can create a core team to build on your key objectives and make your plan (see next section) a reality.

Create a Cloud plan.

When getting all the ingredients together for your migration, it helps to explicitly define your objectives and considerations within a Cloud hosting plan. This document should describe the positives that you hope to gain from this model of computing, along with the control and regulatory needs that you have - both inside the organization and in the adoption of third-party services. A sound plan will be broad in its timeline (clear goals for both the near and distant future); it will also be adapted and refined as the market and your own organization evolve.

Scale from a small beginning.

Typically, companies that effectively build public Cloud hosting into their IT approach make the switch carefully - as Dr. Leo Marvin from the film What About Bob? would say, they take "baby steps." In other words, they iterate from small to large rather than immediately attempting something bigger that will inevitably involve higher risk. By going with a small and easy to manage project first, they can contain any problems that might arise: first isolation, then integration.

Eric Ries introduced the build-measure-learn feedback loop in his much-heralded 2011 book The Lean Startup. The essence of build-measure-learn is simple: test things out in order to learn from them so that you can develop your business in the most logical possible way. With the hypotheses that you have about what might happen or might work, you can develop small projects, measure the customer response, and use that information to enhance your offerings over time. 

Take a "Cloud first" approach.

Although you do want to start small, the process of creating your Cloud plan should include a range of positives that suggest this technology is not just a budget-friendly choice but also a preferable one. From that standpoint, "Cloud first" should make sense as an ongoing strategy: moving applications to Cloud standardly, unless there is a compelling reason to keep them in your own datacenter. The US government was central in popularizing this philosophy, with federal CIO Vivek Kundra noting in 2010 (when this plan was officially adopted) that the financial argument for it was incredible - realizing "up to 50% lower per unit cost."

While "Cloud first" may initially sound over exuberant, it allows you to commit resources to the degree that will allow you to experience the benefits this style of hosting has to offer. If you do move forward prioritizing Cloud in this way, you will also want to have personnel who are only working on securely transitioning systems to Cloud hosting.

Cloud approach for mission-critical apps

The above strategies are for a broader shift in organizational mindset and preparedness for Cloud. How should it work specifically to migrate a mission-critical app to a public Cloud?

Determine what you mean by mission-critical.

While you plan the move of a specific app, analyze the program and the information it contains. To determine if it is truly mission-critical, consider objectives for the application; resource consumption now and in the coming months; and possible issues with peak resource allocation.

Build a strong ecosystem by leveraging the right vendor relationships.

Cloud is not just about deciding between the public, private or hybrid variation. It is about working with a hosting company that keeps its hardware and software well-maintained. In that sense, you want to use a provider that has experience, credibility, and a strong SLA that respects your need for reliable and properly protected services. After all, when an application is truly critical to your company, you need to know it will remain live. You want backup options yourself, but you also want to be certain that the provider has multiple redundancies in place. Individual machines should contain redundant parts. You want to know everything you can about the hardware that will make up the architecture and how your partner will safeguard your applications from vulnerability.

How to handle hybrid Cloud deployments

Mission-critical app migrations are about proceeding with single pieces of software. What can you do to integrate these virtualized systems into a cohesive whole? To understand integration, let's look at steps you can take to interconnect a hybrid Cloud meaningfully.

Properly manage encrypted data flow.

Having a firm sense of the different security risks involved in the Cloud will make it easier to establish your defenses. With hybrid Clouds becoming more prevalent, application networking plans now must process a higher volume of encrypted traffic. If you use load balancers to decrypt inbound requests, make sure that they support elliptic curve cryptography and other innovative protocols. This hardware should be capable of horizontal scaling.

Integrate services throughout the hybrid environment.

It does not have to be difficult to manage services from various vendors with any systems you might be running in-house. The main thing you need for your network pros is a central management apparatus that applies to all systems regardless of their hosting specifics. Since private and public Clouds are fundamentally separate from one another, you must be able to send apps and data from one Cloud to another easily.

Turn to automation.

Use automated services to deliver features such as predictive auto-scaling based on real-time analytics. After all, hybrid Clouds "are designed to thrive on automation," says Avi Networks co-founder Ranga Rajagopalan. Management of hybrid Cloud traffic can deliver comprehensive automation throughout your ecosystem.

You can make the most of resources in this manner; plus, you can move workloads between systems more seamlessly.

Conclusion

The Cloud transition is the most fundamental technological adjustment your firm will make during the next ten years. Moving to the Cloud is not just about what you do (the best practices) but who does it (your core team). When you launch Cloud, do so with a team that has the background and direction to transition with confidence, so that you can integrate and operate with the best possible results.

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About the Author

M. Adnan Raja has been the Vice President of Marketing at Atlantic.Net for 14 years. During Raja's tenure, the Orlando-based, privately held hosting company has grown from having a primarily regional presence to garnering and developing attention nationwide and internationally. In collaboration with a skilled and dedicated team, Raja has successfully led a full spectrum of marketing campaigns, as well as handling PR work with major news outlets and the formation of key strategic alliances.

Published Tuesday, September 12, 2017 8:11 AM by David Marshall
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