Thinking a move to the cloud might be the way to go for your company, but you're not exactly sure if such a move is right for you? There are a few questions you should ask yourself about your organization to understand the context of what a migration to the cloud would mean for you. As you're navigating the pros and cons associated with migrating from an on-prem solution to a cloud, you have to understand that how these factors are weighed largely depends on the context of your organization. Asking the following questions will help you establish that context:
Why move to the cloud?
For context, the term 'Cloud' can be somewhat ambiguous, so if not otherwise stated I'm referring to cloud in the SaaS sense (Software as a Service), that is, maintained by a 3rd party and available in a cloud setting, such as the Atlassian product suite. There are other flavors of cloud out there, but the SaaS model is where we'll maintain our focus. The first question you want to answer is why? Why are you considering moving to the cloud in the first place? Are there any specific pain points you are feeling in your current setup that you think might be alleviated by moving to the cloud? Understanding what your potential need is for cloud migration will help you to develop a business justification for the endeavor, as well as allow you to start to build the context of your specific situation. If the reason is "We're spending too much time on maintaining infrastructure for our on-prem solutions" then something like having no maintenance in a cloud environment would be weighed very heavily in your case.
What are you moving?
What are you going to be moving? What does your current on-prem setup look like? How big is your user base? What 3rd party add-ons or apps are you using? Are you using a single instance and are wanting to consolidate in addition to migrating to the cloud? How much historical data do you have? These questions can help to establish the potential complexity of the migration you're looking to perform. One of the major considerations that has to be factored into a cloud migration is the cost of entry. This extends from just the literal monetary cost to include time and human resources as well. If your company can't afford to divert labor to perform a migration, is it worth it for you to contract the project out to a 3rd party? Having an idea of what you are migrating will help you weigh the various options and give you perspective to consider the impact.
Now that you've established the context for your migration, let's take a moment to talk about the potential pros of migrating to the cloud. When comparing the cloud to an on-prem solution, you can really break down the pros into four main points:
Let's take a look at the first point, Accessibility. One of the great things about the cloud is that it's accessible from almost anywhere in the world right out of the box. You don't have to configure any VPNs or allow lists, no special permissions groups to modify, all the data replication and content delivery is managed for you and has a low cost to entry.
Scalability is another major pro in favor of a move to the cloud and falls along similar lines as Accessibility, and typically goes hand in hand with Maintenance. The infrastructure behind the application or service is purpose-built on a platform intended to be scalable in order to support multiple customers.
Add to this the fact that you no longer have to be responsible for maintaining that infrastructure, you can focus efforts and resources elsewhere in your organization. If maintaining infrastructure is something, in particular, your business struggles with, making a shift to the cloud can have a huge positive impact.
This leads us nicely to the topic of cost. Depending on the specific context, the cost can sometimes go either way: I'm including it in the pros section because I think in most cases, especially if you factor in the long term, your costs overall will be lower with a move to the cloud. Figuring costs in a cloud move takes some doing because there can be differences in the types of costs you'll encounter in a cloud setting vs. an on-prem. Again, because this can be pretty heavily dependent on the context of the specific situation being analyzed, I'll throw out a few common factors but I don't want to give any potentially wrong impressions.
Cloud Costs vs. On-Prem Costs
In the table above I've done a quick breakdown to illustrate the basic differences between Cloud and On-Prem, and I've added another column to include the option of moving to cloud as SaaS model vs self-hosted cloud. Cloud-hosted and On-Prem hosted have some similar cost categories (licensing, infrastructure) but there is some reprieve you get from the cloud specifically around the depreciation of hardware and maintaining the infrastructure. In a cloud model, this is mostly tied to licensing and the monthly cost operating fees associated with the virtual hardware you have allocated for your purposes. Versus the more traditional model of maintaining physical servers, the personnel costs associated with that upkeep, and the cost you incur with depreciation. In a SaaS model, this is all mostly wrapped into the licensing cost, which is typically why licensing for the cloud is both more expensive and more complex.
There are of some potential tradeoffs and downsides to consider as part of a move to the cloud. The biggest areas that might cause you or your organization trouble include Control, Security, and Flexibility.
When you break it down, the concepts of control and security almost go hand-in-hand. Control is probably the hardest thing to overcome when talking about moving your data to the cloud and understandably so. The bottom line of operating in a cloud environment is your data lives somewhere outside of your organization and the infrastructure is managed by another entity. You're putting your data and your trust into someone else's hands. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it can take some getting used to, and some adjusting of your internal methods or practices. Being familiar with the support process can help with this as knowing what information you can request and how to get it will help to alleviate some of the disjointed feeling when attempting to manage your application.
On the security front, if your company has very specific security requirements or has specific regulatory bodies you have to comply with, there is an extra layer of consideration when weighing the prospect of moving to the cloud. It's important to first identify what those needs are and reach out to the cloud provider ahead of time to find out if those requirements can be accommodated.
Lastly, it's important to consider that moving to a cloud application means you will not have access to anything beyond the application layer. This can mean workarounds previously in use with the on-prem solution may need to be re-considered or re-engineered, and there are potentially additional restrictions around API calls and traffic to/from the application. Spending some time discovering what your needs are vs what is available to you in a cloud setting will be key to realizing these potential pitfalls.
We are getting to a point where we're moving from "Is cloud the right choice?" to "Which form of cloud is the right choice?" Not all situations involving the cloud are the same, and careful consideration and weighing of options is important for any potential move. Having the right tools to plan and execute the transition as well as an understanding of the context of your environment can make all the difference when deciding how to move forward.
If you have any questions on migrating to the cloud, have run into trouble implementing a migration, or simply want to see if your organization is making the most of its digital infrastructure and operations, contact us and one of our experts will reach out to you.