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Cloud Expo: Article

Best Practices for Leveraging Cloud Technology for Business Growth

Start with small, low-risk applications that can be easily tested and improved through an iterative approach

As businesses look to leverage cloud technology to drive growth, many times the questions IT leaders within the company ask are: "Where do I start? What part of my infrastructure should I move into the cloud first?" IT leaders must pick a place to begin with cloud adoption. The decision becomes easier when teams focus on incremental adoption, starting with small, low-risk applications that can be easily tested and improved through an iterative approach before fully launching. Here are some best practices businesses should consider when getting started with cloud technology.

Identify the true problem and define a solution
The most effective method for getting started with cloud adoption is to identify the greatest pain point in a company's IT ecosystem. The cloud solution should be targeted and architected to ease that pain point. Often times identifying the biggest IT challenge requires a deep dive into the business and its IT systems. For example, NaviSite recently worked with a company in Syracuse, N.Y., to implement a technology solution to help solve its business challenges. The company's IT team perceived its infrastructure as the biggest challenge, and was eager to deploy a full Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solution. However, as the IT team took a complete and objective inventory to understand their challenges at a very granular level, they came to realize that what the business truly needed was an enterprise-class file sharing solution designed to meet their specific challenges. As a result, instead of starting with a full-blown IaaS, the team began with a file sharing solution, and was able to immediately solve some of their business challenge with less investment. The key was understanding the challenge at the core, and implementing a cloud-based solution to solve that challenge.

As part of defining the problem when implementing cloud technologies, IT leaders should also define what a solution looks like. A useful exercise is identifying what the IT ecosystem looks like when the pain point is solved. That vision of the solution will guide the cloud team during implementation until it has achieved its vision of success.

Think of cloud adoption in terms of out tasking
When businesses and IT teams are determining where to begin with cloud adoption, it can be helpful to view the process as the migration of bite-sized, discrete pieces of an IT system onto the cloud. It is more about "out tasking" than out sourcing.

When defining and understanding out tasking, IT leaders can take a step back and look at cloud computing as a loosely integrated suite of complimentary services, such as IaaS, Software- as-a-Service (SaaS), Backup-as-a-Service (Baas), Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS), etc. Building a cloud infrastructure to help a business grow, reduce costs and run more effectively is not a one time, all or nothing proposition. The most effective and low risk approach is to start with one solution to address one challenge. An IT leader is taking that problem, or ‘task', and solving it with a cloud solution. Once that solution is achieved, then an IT leader can take on a second challenge, or a broader area with high potential to drive efficiency, and out task that function of the IT system.

The approach of out-tasking lets each business and IT team strategically architect a cloud infrastructure that is highly customized to meet their unique business challenges. With the out-tasking approach, IT leaders can solve specific issues without needing to manage unnecessary aspects of a cloud infrastructure, and it avoids incurring costs for applications and infrastructure that is not being used. Out-tasking lets businesses solve pain points simply to begin driving value and seeing return on investment more quickly.

Unique solutions to solve unique problems
Take, for example, a large retail brand eager to solve its business challenges using cloud technology. The first step was identifying its pain points, which in this case involved a few different areas. First was managing a mobile, millennial and highly innovative and flexible workforce; the solution was implementing a virtual desktop infrastructure. The retailer tweaked and customized this solution so it met their needs. From there, the IT team identified a second pain point - the need to store and manage large image files for their design and branding work. Once that challenge was identified, the company expanded its cloud infrastructure to include storage so they could better store and manage their images and branding content.

From there, the retailer needed to ensure its systems had the resiliency in place so the files their teams stored and the virtual desktop their global workforce relied upon was secure and built to run through any disaster. The team was able to implement a disaster recovery plan architected to meet their unique needs using BaaS to ensure its global workforce would have uninterrupted access to their virtual desktops, and that the images stored and shared were secure according to the highest compliance and regulatory standards. This gave the global retailer the assurance it needed to continue to migrate increasingly larger workloads onto the cloud.

In this example, the business took an approach more aligned with out-tasking as opposed to a sweeping transition to an outsourced model. The team did not start moving into the cloud by turning their entire infrastructure over to a company with a 10 year contract. One of the benefits of cloud technology is that companies can choose one service to meet one need. Companies can apply that technology, evaluate the return, adjust course as needed, and move on to solve the next challenge. In the case of the global retailer, out-tasking allowed the team to grow accustomed to the new solutions, and for the technology to be absorbed by company culture to ease disruption.

Ultimately, the most important thing is simply that IT leaders take the first step in their company's cloud journey. Identifying the most significant pain points helps create a vision for moving ahead with solving one business challenge at a time. After determining where to start, teams can apply the out-tasking approach to refine their technologies, minimize risk, and arrive at a solution that truly solves a business challenge, drives growth and delivers value.

More Stories By Chris Patterson

Leveraging his technical background and consulting skills, Chris Patterson was a key player in building NaviSite’s cloud computing platform, NaviCloud, from the ground up and is responsible for overseeing its continual upgrades and improvement making sure it meets customers evolving needs from both a technical and business perspective. In addition he oversees the development and implementation teams for NaviSite’s Desktop-as-a-Service and NaviCloud Intelligent Storage solutions.

Prior to joining NaviSite, Patterson spent nine years at MTM technologies as the Director of Information Security Services, where he gained extensive experience developing and consulting on security policies in a variety of different industries including financial, retail, legal, health care, and public sector. Chris holds a Bachelors of Science in nuclear engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and currently lives in Delaware

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