Cloud Migration With Less Risk

Cloud Migration With Less Risk

Cloud and ERP Systems Expert Trevor Ward explains how to reduce the risk in cloud migration in the next of our series of interviews:

Neil- One of the key perceived challenges that small and medium sized businesses face is data security. Why do you think they perceive things like this?

Trevor - For businesses, numerous surveys have shown that their number one concern about moving to the Cloud is security. How secure is my data going to be when it’s no longer under my control? For SMEs, who are used to controlling every aspect of their businesses very closely, it’s a particularly tough choice. How can a Cloud Service Provider (CSP) secure my data? How can they maintain data confidentiality and integrity? How will I be able to comply with audit requirements, and data protection, payment card industry and other legislation? These are all common concerns.

Neil - With all the talk of a move to the Cloud won't security become a bigger risk?

Trevor - In reality, although moving to the Cloud introduces new risks, such as database sharing and remote access, it can also reduce risk. A CSP provides services to many clients and therefore employs many IT specialists, a few of whom are dedicated to security. What SME can afford to employ in-house a data security specialist? Furthermore, the CSP will have a rigorous backup and disaster recovery processes. Does your SME have the same? In many cases, no. So, although the Cloud introduces new risks, it also reduces others.

Neil - How should companies thinking about Cloud migration plan for their security?

Trevor - In order to move to a secure Cloud service, a business must plan its Cloud migration very carefully. It needs to determine what its Cloud strategy is going to be, what the critical risks are for the business and what security measures the CSP has to have in place in order for those risks to be adequately addressed. Then, only select a CSP who meets those requirements and ensure they are enforced through the Contract, Service Level Agreement (SLA) and Compliance Certification that the CSP offers.

Neil - The media are looking for great Return on Investment examples to help tell this story. Do you have any?

Trevor - The biggest benefit of Cloud computing is cost. It’s rather like leasing instead of buying. There’s no upfront cash purchase, just a regular service charge. Best of all, it’s pay-as-you-go, you only pay for the services you use. The less you use, the less you pay and vice versa, so it’s scalable enabling your business to grow as quickly or slowly as you wish. Unlike normal software purchases, there’s not even an annual maintenance fee. It’s all built into the service charge. As a result, Cloud computing costs up to 50% less than normal computing. What business can afford to ignore that cost saving?

Neil - With business change comes inherent discomfort. What are the things that IT Managers and Heads of Finance should be looking out for?

Trevor - Change is always uncomfortable, but some businesses have already made the change to Cloud computing and not looked back, so it’s worth the effort. IT Managers can make the change less discomforting by planning it carefully, controlling what, when and how the change takes place. Finance Heads should make themselves aware of the benefits that Cloud computing offers and be evaluating Cloud Financial and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. The benefits must not be ignored.

Neil - It all sounds quite positive and manageable. Where does a company begin this process?

Trevor - Many businesses will ask their IT supplier for advice but as a CSP is an alternative supplier, the advice they get is unlikely to be unbiased. Turkeys are unlikely to vote for Xmas. Instead, seek unbiased, independent expert advice and assistance. Businesses need to know not only the benefits of Cloud computing so that they can build a professional business case, but also the drawbacks and which CSPs provide the best products and services. Getting help from an expert is the first step.

Neil - Managed services come as part of the deal with many Cloud providers. Are these kinds of services cost effectively outsourced or should they remain in-house?

Trevor - For SMEs, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is the obvious Cloud computing solution because the CSP provides the most comprehensive Cloud computing service. The SME does not have to worry about providing either the hardware or the software. The aim of the SME therefore should be to find the best CSP for the software service that they need and to negotiate the best possible contract terms. Getting the best CSP is not an easy selection and evaluation process because not only do the SME’s business requirements have to be satisfied, but also security, reliability, service level and other requirements. Sometimes, it will be better to pay more for a higher quality service.

Neil - So finally, what are your top 5 tips for an IT Manager looking to test a migration to the Cloud?

Trevor -
1. Develop a Cloud computing strategy – decide what can and can’t be migrated to the Cloud

2. Determine a CSP evaluation and selection process – make sure the CSP you select is well qualified, certified, secure and reliable

3. Plan your migration to the Cloud very carefully – spend 80% planning, 20% doing, not the other way round

4. Make sure that specialist lawyers negotiate the contract and SLA with the CSP with you

5. Try before you buy – there’s nothing better than being able to test a CSP’s product and service before committing your business to buying.

Trevor Ward is founder and managing director of ERP, Cloud and financial management system specialists CSL Business Advice