Use strategies from cloud storage companies to your advantage

What you'll learn in this tip: With many organizations beginning to implement cloud storage in their data centers, IT could be deluged with questions from department heads. We list four ways to

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settle "cloud" jitters and provide quality service when moving to the cloud.

Many corporate IT organizations investigating cloud storage companies come up against a hard reality: senior business-side stakeholders may see the cloud as a way to cut IT costs and staff.

But IT organizations can beat the cloud crowd at their own game if they adopt some of the same strategies the vendors use and distinguish themselves as team players who can make a real difference during a move to the cloud.

What follows is a list of ways your IT organization can steel itself against the inevitable questions about whether a cloud storage implementation should mean a shift in IT resources.

1. Develop a service-oriented attitude. Listen to the business owners and treat them like a customer. Ask what their pain points are and, above all, what you can do to help them be more competitive. Sound too soft and mushy for your IT discussion? Well, that’s exactly what the cloud sales reps are doing and business leaders appreciate the attention. What can you do differently? For starters, IT people have the advantage of seeing the business leader -- the point of contact -- anytime they want. As a result, your IT team should have a far deeper understanding of the business; but this is only an advantage if the IT department uses it.

2. Establish concrete metrics. Cloud providers clearly state their uptime objectives, recovery objectives, provisioning objectives and other policies. There’s no reason why IT organizations can’t do the same thing. Of course, that means they have to be measured and managed. Often times, IT can serve as the voice of reason. If there are latency issues or legacy application concerns, these could be glossed over in some higher-level vendor meetings. Knowing your data storage needs better than the vendor will help you work with them, not against them.

3. Virtualize. The only way to spin up an application environment on short notice is through virtualization. A virtual machine and a logical unit number (LUN) can be provisioned in a matter of minutes compared to weeks or months for a physical server. Sound change control, security and systems management must still apply, but satisfying users’ requests within a matter of hours will have them singing IT's praises. Besides, that’s the way the cloud guys do it.

4. Provide cost certainty and predictability. Business units love having a rate card. It gives them a way to know in advance how much an initiative will cost and to budget accurately. There’s no reason why IT can’t publish its own rate card. This requires IT to adopt infrastructure standards and have a strong understanding of their cost structure. It’s also a way for IT organizations to avoid runaway costs and unreasonable user demands. When users clearly know how much they’ll be charged, they'll demand only what they need.

There may be numerous reasons why an organization would choose to host its applications in the cloud, including up-to-date facilities, pay-as-you-go models, and unlimited scalability. But poor IT service should never be among the reasons. Solid IT groups can provide valuable service to the business regardless of where the infrastructure is.

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

This was first published in September 2011

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