Migrating Network Operations to the Cloud? Here’s What to Consider

I recently talked to an IT infrastructure manager at a global software company who told me that one of his main goals for 2017 is to move his company’s network operations into the cloud. When I asked him if his company leaders have expressed concern over the cost or security of migrating his network operations to a cloud environment, he said they hadn’t. “The cloud is the way to go,” he said, “and I think everyone is beginning to realize that.”

He’s right. IT operations are only going to get more cloud-based over time. Even if most of your network equipment, servers, and applications are on-premise today, you’ve probably already rolled out a smattering of cloud technologies across the business—your email, file storage, or CRM application, for instance. Maybe you have a couple virtual servers. So what’s the benefit of moving network operations to the cloud? What about hybrid environments? What’s ultimately right for my business?

As the cloud continues to transform IT, here is what network teams should consider.

The Future of the Network is in the Cloud   

First and foremost: the cloud isn’t going away. Forrester predicts a major move by enterprises to the cloud in 2017, in what they call the “second decade” of cloud computing. A recent survey of IT and security decision-makers by IDG found that hosted, on-premise systems and applications will be the minority (just 40%) for the typical IT department by 2018. Not surprisingly, Millennials in IT especially want their organizations to adopt the public cloud faster.

HelpSystems recently conducted a cloud migration survey in which 69% of IT professionals surveyed were already operating partially in the cloud, and 86% said they plan to move some systems/applications to the cloud in the next year. As organizations takes a more cloud-based approach to their IT and business operations, it’s only a matter of time before your organization follows suit.   

So Why Not Make the Shift… Now?

In our survey, it was interesting to see that only 16 of 254 organizations surveyed were totally operating in the cloud. When it comes to migrating network operations, for the most part I’ve observed that enterprises are the ones making the complete shift to cloud, while many small- to mid-sized organizations are operating partial or hybrid cloud environments.

Probably the main reason that we’re not seeing more organizations migrating their IT operations to the cloud is the extensive cost associated with a cloud migration. Many smaller companies are counting the cost and can’t justify the benefits just yet.

Other reasons why we’re not seeing more widespread moves to the cloud:

  • Complexity of IT operations – managing cloud-based technology introduces new challenges to your day-to-day operations.
  • Outage prevention – the belief that outages are easier to control/prevent in an on-premise environment
  • Control concerns – having another company (e.g. ISP, MSP) control your access to your equipment
  • Security/compliance – making sure devices are secure and only accessed by the right individuals
  • Equipping IT with the right skills – the cloud requires different skills and strengths from your IT team, and not every team is equipped today with people who are familiar with the cloud.
  • Concern over bandwidth requirements – making sure that your chosen provider will be able to give you the bandwidth your network needs for smooth operations

On the flip side, there are plenty of upsides to hosting equipment in the cloud. Despite the initial cost of migration, cost savings over time is one of the biggest reasons to host your network operations in the cloud. Other compelling cases for the cloud:  

  • More streamlined business operations
  • Flexibility in network infrastructure management
  • Easier technology upgrades
  • Saved space and consumption of physical resources, e.g. power, A/C

Cloud Network Migrations: Where to Start

Even the most traditional of IT teams should be sensing that the tides are turning. As time goes on, having all of your network equipment on-premise will cease to be the norm. Here’s how you can move forward with the times while doing what’s best for your business today:

Create a device inventory

As you take stock of what’s in your network currently, think “cloud-first” when it comes to updating old technology. Could that outdated server be replaced with a virtual server? If there’s a viable cloud alternative, making small replacements here and there will help you introduce cloud elements as it makes sense to your business.

Find the right cloud provider

One of the biggest requirements for moving your network operations to the cloud is finding the right cloud provider—one who supports best practices and can be trusted. Your business functionality will rely on them. Make sure you choose the right one.

You also have to ensure that your provider will be able to ensure ample bandwidth to get the performance you need out of your cloud solutions. You have to be able to convince your boss that moving applications to the cloud will still provide your business with the same dependable performance as when technology was on-premise. If it won’t, you have to be ready to defend the trade-offs.

Go hybrid

Many companies are operating in hybrid environments, in which some equipment is on-premise and some is in the cloud. Know that this can make your day-to-day operations more complex, but that it’s also a way to migrate gradually.

Monitor cloud metrics closely

As you move network elements to the cloud, make sure you’re employing close network monitoring and mapping so you can visualize all your network components and monitor performance to keep everything running smoothly.

You may not be feeling the pressure to move entirely to the cloud now, but I predict that 10 years from now it will be a different story. By staying on top of the trends, reviewing the costs vs. benefits, and starting to adopt a cloud-first mentality, you’ll set yourself up for success in the future.

Are You Monitoring Network Performance?

Don’t wait until a cloud migration to start. By visualizing and monitoring your network as it stands today, you’ll know what “normal” looks like and how much bandwidth you actually need for smooth, uninterrupted performance.