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Cloud initiatives: Prioritizing what goes in the cloud

What you’ll learn in this tip: Undertaking new cloud initiatives is at the top of many data storage professionals’ to-do lists, but determining

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what information to place in the cloud can be overwhelming. We list a number of non-strategic applications that can be among the first items your organization places into the cloud.

IT professionals keep hearing about why they should be cautious before undertaking a cloud storage project. At the same time, any IT pro who has been paying attention has heard about the huge benefits of cloud storage. The result is often extreme: Some organizations avoid breaking into the cloud environment altogether, fearing a loss of control over data with a cloud migration or concerns with cloud security. Other organizations go all-in, only to find themselves locked into a multi-year contract with a generic infrastructure and customer service spread across customers just like the costs. Smart companies find a middle ground when it comes to cloud storage. Some people call it a Goldilocks approach -- nothing too hot or too cold, but something just right to get started.

This is done by classifying applications into two groups: strategic and non-strategic. Strategic applications are those that provide the organization with a competitive advantage in the marketplace. If the application contains any “secret sauce” (a process developed especially for the company), then it may not be a good candidate for cloud placement.

Non-strategic applications are necessary, but offer the firm no market advantage vs. competitors. These types of applications are ideal candidates for a cloud configuration. Here are some examples of non-strategic applications:

  1. Backup and recovery. Every organization needs to back up its data, but it’s rarely a differentiator. Off-site cloud backup can minimize tape usage, eliminate off-site tape rotation and provide a platform for disaster recovery. This is usually facilitated with backup appliances or virtual tape libraries that can deduplicate, compress and encrypt data. Find a cloud storage provider that supports your appliance of choice.
  2. Email. E-mail may be a mission-critical application to most organizations, but that doesn’t make it a competitive differentiator. Third parties can often host or provide email services at a substantial savings over in-house deployments. If uptime is a concern, most providers can offer uptime guarantees.
  3. Laptop backup. Similar to backup and recovery, but most organizations address laptop backup as a separate entity, if they address it at all. Numerous cloud providers offer laptop backup that's entirely self-service to the user, thereby relieving IT of the entire burden.
  4. Customer surveys. If your organization regularly surveys customers for market research purposes, numerous cloud solutions exist for this purpose. Only those organizations needing the most nuanced survey capabilities would consider an in-house solution.

By identifying non-critical applications, data managers can separate the associated data and then apply more “generic” data management schemes to it. This is an ideal environment to begin a cloud strategy. Routine data management practices provide all the requisite availability and protection -- frequently at a lower price. Standardizing non-critical data management practices means organizations can simplify operations and speed provisioning, which is typically a top priority for those tasked with managing data storage.

BIO: Phil Goodwin is a storage consultant and freelance writer.

This was first published in September 2011

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