Your Cloud Christmas List, 2016

Justin Giardina, CTO, iland Cloud
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Justin Giardina, CTO, iland Cloud

Cloud is one of those holiday gifts that require a million add-ons. It’s like getting a proper bicycle for an upcoming long ride, only to realize you probably need bike shoes, biking attire, water bottles, spare tires, and a host of other stuff to properly use your bike.

So, as someone who has spent the last decade building clouds and helping customers deploy cloud strategies, I thought I’d simplify things a bit with a cloud wish list of sorts.

The Cloud Part: Storage, Memory, and CPU. You need the actual underlying resources. This is the piece no one forgets. But, they do often opt for instances, which can be more rigid and can result in underutilization than pools of resources (which can be allocated and re-allocated between VMs.)

Backups: Most IT folks are beyond diligent with their backups’ on-premise. It’s the first line of defense against botched patches, corrupted disks, and data loss. So, it’s a little surprising how often backups are forgotten in the cloud. You almost want them to be automatic—every new workload gets backed up for at least 7 days.

 ‘Cloud-to-cloud’ recovery often center around cyber attacks and human errors associated with patch updates and configuration changes, more than hardware failures 

Management Tools: You’ll need to manage performance, capacity, and configurations of VMs in the cloud just as you do on-premise. But, management tools rarely span the chasm, and the stuff cloud vendors provide isn’t always intuitive. Think how often you’re fiddling with those tools for your existing systems and select a cloud management tool that provides the simplest and cleanest management experience with the most visibility.

You’ll want to see granular performance data, capacity information, billing data and all the other settings and features you might be using, baked into the same environment. The alternative is a host of different tools, logins and headaches or worse, a lack of visibility into your cloud environment that makes effective management impossible.

Security: Most IT groups these days are keeping a close eye on their security vulnerabilities, ensuring all systems are protected with the greatest tooling from antivirus to file integrity monitoring. So many companies are targets of nefarious online behavior including ransomware that basic security hygiene is critical.

When moving systems to the cloud, it’s essential to ensure the same precautions are in place. That means either sorting out your own software, deploying and updating it – or working with a cloud vendor who can provide the security technology, with the appropriate remediation, alerting and reporting, within their cloud.

Window Licenses: This feels like a mundane item—like remembering the WD-40 for your bike—but Windows licenses need to be purchased for all Windows workloads in the cloud. For some clouds, these are an up-charge and for others, they are bundled in.

Firewalls and VPNs: Sometimes people have very specific VPN needs. Usually, the normal options for firewalls and VPNs are more than sufficient. You’ll want to ensure you can get the security features you need from your cloud provider—or bring your own. I’ve heard customers lamenting that they hadn’t gotten around to setting up a VPN to the cloud for many moons, much to the chagrin of their user base.

Compliance Reporting: For many organizations, they need to meet the requirements of compliance auditors, regardless of whether their workloads are on-premise or in the cloud. It’s easiest when the cloud portion of compliance reporting is straightforward, on-demand and complete with assistance from the cloud provider—rather than requiring complex request processes, waiting periods and iterations.

Customer Support: Perhaps the most cliché IT complaint is about customer support, and that hasn’t changed with cloud. Exorbitant prices often make this wish-list item nearly as costly as the cloud service itself—but some vendors include phone support—in addition to email and chat—in their pricing. Most customers have to work with support at least once a quarter to get the best from their cloud, so it’s worth adding to the requirements list.

Friendly Sales Process: Shopping can be fun—but it can also be very frustrating, depending on the sales process and people involved. The sales process is usually reflective of the service you’re buying, so consider your experience as input into the buying decision. You’ll want cloud—but with a side of customer service, flexibility and trusted advice that starts up front.

Bonus Points - Disaster Recovery: There is always one item on the wish list that represents a bonus—an extra item, if the foundations are in place. That item, for cloud, is Disaster Recovery. I’m not referring to DRaaS here—on-premise workloads protected in the cloud— though that’s a very worthy end-of-year budget item. Rather, protection for the workloads in the cloud, should something go awry, enabling them to failover to a secondary cloud location.

The use cases for this ‘cloud-to-cloud’ recovery often center more around cyber attacks and human errors associated with patch updates and configuration changes, more than hardware failures that are typically accounted for by cloud providers themselves. We’re seeing more and more customers opt for this feature, keeping systems in-country but providing protection to another location.

It’s a long wish list. Like with most holiday lists, it’s helpful to spread the giving between multiple family members. In this case, risk management and audit teams may have more interest in security and compliance functions, while procurement folks might be motivated by smooth sales and billing processes. Once your company begins using cloud, it touches far more than the systems administrators. Perhaps this is a fine year for the whole group to go in on one big cloud present.

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