Cloud computing is on the uprise and already on its way to playing a huge role in IT. Some say that introducing the cloud will solve all of our IT problems by providing simple and flexible mobile working for employees without the need for access to a company’s servers. But keep in mind: For sensitive data to make it safely into the cloud, it requires extensive preparation and stock taking as well as a smooth-running process throughout the entire project, which is why it is so important to ask yourself the right questions beforehand. I spoke to Philipp Kraft, IT consultant for the Modern Workplace at Bechtle Hamburg about these questions and the precautions that have to be taken before migrating to the cloud.
Philipp Kraft: How can a cloud environment actually benefit me? This should be the first thing you ask yourself. To answer this, we will consider three aspects of a cloud: Scalability, performance and availability. The main objective of implementing a cloud environment is to enable my employees to work remotely—or to make them “agile”, as we say. This means that performance and availability have to be able to scale dynamically, as this is the only way to combat resource and software bottlenecks, keep failure rates low and balance the load. This leads to a better user experience, as the customer will rarely feel the impact or even notice issues.
This is where the service scalability plays an important role. Making resources available where they are actually needed is essential to reducing costs. It enables companies to make sure that they have chosen the right package and that it meets their actual requirements. There are a lot of solutions out there. So it’s worth finding out which one suits you best individually, because then migrating into the cloud can offer a lot of advantages.
You gain extensive transparency into all your data—from the palm of your hand. New users can be added and start working on a whim. Complex hardware and software administration become a thing of the past.
You gain extensive transparency into all your data—from the palm of your hand. New users can be added and start working on a whim. Complex hardware and software administration become a thing of the past. With a cloud environment, IT staff can focus on more urgent issues than storage, upgrades and maintenance. Your data is stored safely in the most modern and secure data centres. Providers such as Microsoft make a distinction between their European clouds and their American cousins, and adhere to the GDPR and German data protection legislation. You no longer have to invest as much in IT infrastructure. The costs for cloud services are transparent and can be scaled easier and more use-oriented.
Kraft: You might find yourself using several different cloud services in daily business—which is why you should think about contracting several different cloud providers. There is no one “best cloud provider” or an out-of-the-box solution for choosing the right provider—it will always remain an individual choice. There are a lot of providers that offer a heap of options and may have optimised their portfolio in one area or another, be it platform, infrastructure or software services. This means that we have to ask the same questions for every use case and choose the right provider individually.
Once we’ve chosen the right provider, we will be faced with the question of how to handle our existing applications. Can they be integrated into the future environment? The answer to this is usually yes. There are different possibilities here, one being lift and shift, which means to migrate the application to the target environment as it is. Depending on what you are using, be it software-as-a-service or platform-as-a-service, another possibility would be to only migrate the content data into the solution, while using a completely different application in the target environment.
Kraft: There are quite a few things to consider, especially the GDPR and Germany’s Federal Data Protection Act (BDSG). Before we get started—cloud solutions must meet the requirements of various certifications—be it EU or global standards. Most global players such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services have these certifications.
And yet, this is something we have to think about. As a general rule, cloud service providers are data processors. They handle and store sensitive content and personal data. But usually, company-internal processes can be married quite well with the required services.
So which data can go into the cloud? First of all, the data’s purpose must be analysed and classified with the data protection officer, management and perhaps even the worker’s council. The parties must then decide on a storage location and communicate this location to the employees. If there is any data that may not be migrated into the cloud, there are legally defined procedures that must be checked in advance.
Kraft: Ideally, processes are analysed before the migration to find weak spots so they can be patched and improved on with the help of cloud services. Cloud computing aims at automating subprocesses and accelerating processes overall. Therefore, it makes sense to analyse processes that are slowing you down. This also allows us to eliminate single points of failure, with our goal always being the improvement of the overall business process.
A crucial point here is to not disregard your employees. Any changes to structures or functionalities must be clearly communicated and employees instructed on how to use them effectively. Ideally, you explain to the workforce where and how they can access company data, where they are allowed to safe it, which tools are used for which purpose and how to collaborate effectively within the company.
It often makes sense to include the needs and expectations of the individual departments into the decision-making process. This is the only way to ensure that migrating to the cloud becomes a profitable and efficient process.
Any changes to structures or functionalities must be clearly communicated and employees instructed on how to use them effectively.
Kraft: A cloud services is always run by the respective service provider. Company-internal IT, and an IT partner, if you have one, are responsible for the operation of areas not covered by the provider, as well as for the development and continual optimisation of the environment as a whole. A strategic IT partner such as Bechtle can help you simplify the process and support you in the best way possible to avoid any potential pitfalls.