How to Choose the Right Partner to Manage Your Cloud Infrastructure

There are many benefits to using a partner to manage your cloud infrastructure, ranging from disaster recovery to cost control, and it’s a great idea to seriously consider using a Cloud Solution Provider (CSP). But how do you know who the right CSP partner is for your organization? What are some things to look for when picking one? In this article, we’ll cover what a cloud service provider is, the benefits and value-add of using one, and how to pick the right CSP for your organization. 

What is a Cloud Service Provider?

A Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) is an accredited partner who is an active participant in a program that enables them to manage cloud customers’ software services. In particular, they aim to accelerate the customer’s digital transformation journey as an advisor. 

What Are the Benefits of Using a CSP?

Account Management

Account management is a practical upside to using a CSP. Because your CSP partner is responsible for your billing, you get a monthly invoice for the cost of your subscription (the same amount as you were previously paying with pay-as-you-go), instead of paying for resources from a credit card.

Technical Support  

CSPs are a great resource for technical support. Because they are usually in the same time zone and region as you, they can quickly use targeted problem solving to help with any issues that may arise. Then, after the situation is assessed, if it’s surmised that Microsoft intervention is needed, your CSP partner will help those communications along, allowing for a smoother resolution process. 

Costs Control

CSP Partners are incredibly proficient in all things Microsoft Azure; they are very familiar with the ins and outs of the system. Along with this knowledge comes the ability to optimize costs. Those without a CSP Partner often pay much more for the same resources or experience accidental runaway costs. 

What Value Can the Right CSP Add To Your Business?

Speed & Agility 

The valuable knowledge that CSP Partners hold is in part due to extensive experience deploying similar projects for different customers. When you need help deploying Azure resources, you avoid wasting time hiring new team members or upskilling your existing staff. 

Disaster Recovery 

A CSP Partner is a massive asset when disaster strikes. Although experiencing a big disaster is usually far and few between, when it does happen, data recovery needs to be swift and done with confidence. If you’re in a disaster situation, having a CSP Partner who is an expert in disaster recovery techniques, and can mitigate losses as well as looking after customers is a big win. 

Change Management 

Digital transformation is not a one-and-done project.  It’s a continuous process of understanding Cloud technologies and modernizing and optimizing your systems and processes. Having a CSP Partner can help you understand the changes that need to take place in order to maximize the benefits of Azure. This is an incredible resource that will save time and costs in the long run.

Security Monitoring

Security is a priority for many organizations. Sometimes you might not have the budget or capacity to do it in house. CSP Partners can help monitor critical Cloud assets such as production environments in Azure, Cloud email filtering, SaaS Platforms and more. They can assess credential misuse that can put your data at risk and jeopardize the future of your business. As well, when using a CSP like Optimus, experienced security analysts will be a natural extension of your team, and will triage, report, and investigate suspicious event sources. After doing so, they can provide advisory services based on results from these detailed investigations in order to strengthen your security system and defend from future potential malicious activities.

Value-of-a-CSP-e1619673590265 How to Choose the Right Partner to Manage Your Cloud Infrastructure

How to Pick the Right CSP to Manage Your Cloud Infrastructure:

It can be overwhelming trying to narrow down on the right CSP for your organization. Luckily for you, we’ve outlined a few things to keep in mind when vetting a partner. Firstly, look for a CSP that you can trust. It’s important that they have the expertise to provide guidance and mitigate bumps in the road. They become your first-tier support, so you want to make sure that they are reliable and responsive. 

Here are some more questions to ask yourself when embarking on a cloud managed service partnership:

  • Does this partner have good customer service? 
  • Do they charge additional costs for simple questions or support tasks? 
  • Are they offering monitoring services to reduce risk and proactively optimize?
  • Are they providing regular recommendations?

Not all cloud managed services partners are the same, and although some of these services may not apply to you, it’s important to look at what your needs are and whether the partner can meet them.

Questions-to-ask-CSP-e1619673641240 How to Choose the Right Partner to Manage Your Cloud Infrastructure

Optimus as Your CSP:

At Optimus Information, we understand how important cloud management is to your business. That’s why we automatically provide all our clients with our basic Cloud Managed Services free of charge.

We hope that this article cleared up the benefits of a CSP and how to choose the right partner to manage your cloud infrastructure. If you have any questions about our services, feel free to reach out to us here.

Cloud Migration: Common Challenges and Recommendations

SL-101820-36860-11-1030x687 Cloud Migration: Common Challenges and Recommendations

Introduction

It is estimated that today more than 90% of companies are already using some form of cloud services, while by 2023, the public cloud market is projected to reach $623.3 billion worldwide. These statistics highlight the consistent emerging pattern of businesses migrating their infrastructure from on-premises to the cloud. Industry pundits also claim that it’s no longer a question for companies to ask if they should move to the cloud but rather when.

There are several reasons to it. Adopting the cloud offers improved data access, scalability, and application security while achieving enhanced operational efficiency. A projection by Oracle also predicted that companies can save up to 50% on infrastructure expenses by deploying workloads to a cloud platform. 

However, transitioning to the cloud comes with its own set of challenges, with a disclaimer that not every cloud migration project goes as smoothly as intended. While there are a number of factors to failure, a lack of planning and insight before cloud migrations are one of the most prominent reasons for an outright failure. This not only means that the organization’s long-term goals to improve operational efficiency goes for a toss but also result in wasted effort, time, and money.

This article addresses the most common challenges to expect when moving from an on-premises setup to a cloud platform, and how to overcome them.

Common Challenges of an On-Prem to Cloud Migration

As an essential best practice, organizations are required to diligently research and assess the most suitable processes, methodologies and plan every step of the migration to ensure the right decisions are made, and costs are controlled. Here are some key considerations that should be followed as the rule of thumb. 

Choosing the Right Model and Service Provider

Choosing the right cloud model for a business and the right service provider can not only make or break the migration project, but also affect its future maintenance and sustainability. 

There are 3 cloud models that require an assessment to ascertain the best fit for the company:

  • Public Clouds are the most popular choice where a service provider owns and manages the entire platform stack of cloud resources – which are then shared to host a number of different clients. Some common examples of such managed service providers are MS Azure, AWS, and Google Cloud.
  • Private Clouds, on the contrary, don’t share computing resources as they are set up specifically for exclusive use by a single organization. Compared to public clouds, such a framework offers more control over customized needs and is generally used by organizations who have distinct or specific requirements, including security, platform flexibility, enhanced service levels, etc.
  • Hybrid Clouds are a blend of a public/private cloud used with an on-premises infrastructure. This allows an organization to interchange data and applications between both environments that suit its business process or technical requirements. For businesses that are already invested in on-site hardware, a Hybrid cloud model can ease a gradual transition to the cloud over a long-term period. Additionally, for businesses that are too reliant on Legacy applications, a Hybrid cloud model is often perceived as the model that provides the leeway to adopt new tools while continuing with traditional ones. 

Challenges-of-Cloud-Migration-e1617044236232 Cloud Migration: Common Challenges and RecommendationsImage source: Intel.com

Apart from the cloud model, when it comes to selecting a service provider, there are key factors to consider such as 

  • how the data is secured, 
  • Agreed service levels and the provision to customize them, 
  • a guarantee of protection against network disruptions, and 
  • the costs involved. 

It is important for an organization to be mindful of vendor lock-in terms, as once the transition starts with migrating data, it can be difficult and costly to switch providers.

What is recommended?

Plan exhaustively on analyzing the current and future architecture, security, and integration requirements. Be clear about the goals of migrating to the cloud and identify the vendors that will most likely help in achieving them. A best practice of choosing the preferred service provider often starts with evaluating the proposed Service Level Agreement (SLA) for maintenance commitments, access to support, and exit clauses that offer flexibility.

Engagement and Adoption from Stakeholders

When introducing changes within an organization, it is often met with resistance by multiple stakeholders, which can thwart efforts for a smooth switch. This can be explained by scenarios where – the finance department may oppose the transition because of cost, the IT team may feel their job security is threatened, or the end-users won’t understand the reason for the change and fear their services might get impacted. Though such resistances are usually short-term, such factors may often compromise an organization’s immediate goals unless stakeholders are onboard.  

What is recommended?

Dealing with stakeholder resistance requires a holistic change in mindset across all levels of the organization. While hands-on training and guidance may provide support for users in adopting and using cloud-based services, preemptively addressing any resistance is a start on the right foot. Additionally, as an advisory for various organizational units, it is suggested to build a compelling business case that highlights current challenges in the organization with clear explanations on how migrating to the cloud will resolve these issues. 

Security Compromise

Whether the underlying architecture relies upon on-premises or the cloud, protecting a company’s data remains a top priority for any organization. When migrating to the cloud, a large part of the organization’s data security is managed by the cloud service provider. As a result, it is vital to have a thorough assessment of the vendor’s security protocols and practices.

This also means that organizations remain in control of where the data is stored, how incoming/outgoing data is encrypted, what measures are in place to ensure software is updated with the latest fixes, as well as the regulatory compliance status of the provider. Certain enterprise cloud providers like MS Azure take a holistic approach to security and offer the highest industry security standards that are aligned with regulations like PCI and HIPAA. 

What is recommended?

Define in-house security policies and explore the available cloud platform’s security tools. As a result, it is critical to proactively consider: 

  • authorization & authentication, 
  • audit lifecycle, 
  • application and network firewalls, 
  • protection against DDoS attacks and other malicious cyberattacks. 

Besides, a secure cloud migration strategy should administer how security is applied to data in-transit and at-rest, how user identities are protected, and how policies get enforced post-migration across multiple environments. 

It is important to note that administering security across all layers and phases of implementation requires much more than using tools. This usually begins with:

  • an organization to foster a security mindset
  • adopting security as part of the workflow by embracing a DevSecOps model, 
  • as well as incorporate a robust policy and audit governance through Security-as-Code or Policy-as-Code methodologies. 

Avoid Service Disruptions

Legacy models that rely extensively on third-party tools which are through with sunset clauses, or in-house developed applications, require special provision for a smooth transition. More so, frameworks involving virtual machines that include hardware-level abstraction are practically more complex that syncs and maintains abstraction layers through pre and post-transition phases. Unplanned migrations for such setups may often lead to performance issues including increased latency, interoperability, unplanned outages, and intermittent service disruptions. 

What is recommended?

Replicating virtual machines to the cloud should be planned based on an organization’s workload tolerance, as well as its on-prem networking setup. It is advised to make use of agent-based or agentless tools available by service providers, such as Azure Migrate that provide a specialized platform for seamless migrations. 

As for legacy or sunset apps, organizations are advised to plan for Continuous Modernization that provisions regular auditing of such apps, while planning for a phased retirement in the longer term. For setups where an immediate Lift and Shift isn’t an option, the organization should recalibrate its migration strategy by considering Refactoring or Rearchitecting strategies, that reimplements the application architecture from scratch. 

Cost Implications

Accounting for near and long-term costs during cloud migration is often overlooked. There are several factors that require consideration to avoid expensive and disruptive surprises. As migration from a legacy to the cloud is gradual, in the immediate term, organizational units often need to continue using both on-premises as well as the cloud infrastructure. This implies additional costs towards duplication of resource consumption such as – data sync & integrity, high-availability, backup & recovery, and maintenance of current systems

What is recommended?

Over the longer term, using a cloud platform is more cost-effective. Though there is very little that can be done by an organization to avoid most of such expenses during migration, what is required is to include these within its financial projections. While doing so, expect there to be upfront costs related to the amount of data being transferred, the services being used, and added expenses that may arise from refactoring to ensure compatibility between existing solutions and the cloud architecture. 

Benchmarking Workforce Skills

A migration plan that doesn’t benchmark workforce skills is often considered flawed. Cloud migrations can get complicated with customized requirements, using new technologies, and assessing what systems and data will be moved. During this, a good chunk of the effort goes towards the analysis of existing infrastructure to establish what will work on the cloud and identify the future gaps with respect to in-house workforce skills. 

What is recommended?

Migrating to the cloud is a complex process that requires a unique set of soft and hard skills. Before transitioning, it is essential to understand what practical knowledge the team has with cloud platforms, and then take the necessary steps to upskill in relevant cloud technologies and security. An important consideration around this should also factor in the allocation of contingent funds towards setting up a consistent framework of skills upgrade for seamless adoption of emerging tools and practices.

Key Takeaways

Adopting a cloud framework today is more a necessity than a projected goal. While migrating to the cloud, an organization’s goal remains equally important to develop a migration strategy, that sets realistic expectations by undertaking thorough due diligence. Being aware of the challenges and how to address them, not only minimizes immediate risks, but also prevents the project from becoming a disaster in the longer run.

By the end of it all, the successful strategy determines how efficient the migration is, without a noticeable impact on productivity or operational efficiency.