The advantages of moving to Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solutions are well documented, spurring continued growth in this area of cloud technology. For 2017, Gartner research predicts that IaaS spending will grow by 36.8% to $34.6 billion.
Any technology solution has benefits and potential drawbacks, of course. With IaaS solutions, organizations can enjoy flexibility, lower costs, faster service and better business agility. Balanced against these advantages are potential data security and privacy concerns, business disruption and changes in architecture and processes.
Organizations considering a move to IaaS solutions need long-term thinking. What criteria should a company use to determine if an IaaS solution is the right decision for its current and future business needs?
Joint input from both IT and the business decision makers
As with most technology buying decisions, astute enterprises solicit input from both the IT and business points of view. When deciding to move to IaaS, examine an organization’s overall big picture goals and make sure the ultimate decision lines up with both IT and business strategies. From the IT side, the decision-making process takes into account not only costs, but should also include enterprise-wide considerations, such as the value of business agility and rapid go-to-market capabilities. On the other side, business units should look at whether a solution fits into the existing IT infrastructure, thus minimizing implementation costs and overall disruption, as well as thinking about new capabilities or competitive advantages.
Spiceworks research shows that IT and business owners often work in sync “to create a tech-decision duo.” Each side brings its unique perspective to the decision-making process. For example, IT researches compatibility with existing technology, implementation considerations and recommends optional solutions. The business side, which usually holds the purse strings, takes into account practical solutions, but also seeks innovation and technology advantages that will push the business forward.
Bottom line: IT brings deep insight to the buying decision and provides valuable input throughout the purchasing process. Meanwhile, the business unit looks at overall company strategy and adding a distinct point of differentiation, as well as improving customer service.
Build a trust with your IaaS Provider
An important part of any IaaS adoption is to have confidence in the chosen IaaS solution provider. Implementing an IaaS solution is not as simple as procuring additional processing or storage capability. Smart organizations also want a reputable IaaS partner that maintains the same levels of compliance, privacy and security when handling and storing customer data. Any agreements for IaaS solutions should include provisions for data privacy, security and governance that line up with the purchaser’s requirements.
Vendor lock-in is always a concern, too. Before signing the dotted line, determine how easy (or how difficult) it would be to migrate data and applications back to on premise or to another provider if the service level agreements are not maintained or costs no longer make sense. Take care to engage with an experienced IaaS provider who will work with you in the long term, particularly as business needs change.
Impact on in-house IT staff and resources
Saving on IT costs is one of the biggest advantages of an IaaS solution. However, most organizations will still maintain an IT staff that is responsible for managing the apps and determining how data are handled—either in-house or through the IaaS vendor or a combination of the two.
Organizations should consider which apps will move to the cloud, how application development and testing may have to be modified, and how new disaster recovery processes may affect liability and compliance. Keeping only core functions on premise enables the purchaser to focus on what’s most important to the business, while allowing the IaaS provider to manage capacity and handle more routine applications.
Cloud services must enable an organization to consume the right amount of the right IT services, on demand and at the right time. The ability to scale up or scale down is extremely important. An advantage of IaaS solutions is not having to worry about having too much or too little hardware on site as the business needs fluctuate seasonally, or even day-to-day.
Another important check point is to make sure the organization’s internal data communications resources allow adequate access to data and apps to and from the vendor site. It’s a real problem if internal and external clients can’t access IaaS because of internal internet service outages or clogged data pipelines.
Still on the fence? Check out Data Center Basics, Comparing Costs and Security.
Two questions to consider are “how much is it going to cost” and “what’s the pricing structure?” When purchasing IaaS solutions, determine if pricing will be pay-by-use or on a monthly subscription. Think about surcharges that occur during peak times, which can be costly depending on the type and timing of business transactions. A “try before you buy” pilot program is a good option to help a purchaser determine what it’s like to work with an IaaS solutions provider.
IaaS is not just outsourcing
Making the move to an IaaS solution involves more than a simple shifting of IT assets. The process affects an organization’s data and applications architecture, and will change the way IT work across all business and support functions. IaaS solutions impact security, compliance, customer service and even insurance policies, so these business components must be taken into account when making the move to IaaS.
Developing a strong relationship between the solutions partner and the purchasing organization can help ensure success of an IaaS implementation. Consider which applications to outsource and which to maintain in house. Take into account the organization’s big picture business strategy. Finally, to secure the best solution and provider for their organizations, wise IT and business decision makers need to work together to balance the benefits with any potential challenges.
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