Do Your Company’s Cloud Services Align with Your Overall IT and Security Strategy?
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Especially in today’s world, where most of our workforce is remote due to the pandemic, companies are moving to and relying more and more on Cloud services. Whether it is entire infrastructures (IaaS) in the cloud or a heavy dose of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), there are many possibilities in how you can deliver applications and technology to your end-users.
Thinking in terms of your overall company strategy, your cloud infrastructure and deployment should provide your companies with a smooth experience, delivering applications and services cohesively and securely. Especially if you are in a hybrid environment, where you might have some applications and services that are still hosted on-premise, while others are hosted in a public or private cloud, ease-of-use and adaptability can play a huge role in how successful your deployment is. We will go through a few things you should consider when looking at utilizing cloud services within your environment.
The two most popular cloud offerings are SaaS and IaaS. SaaS allows you to grant users access to an application using a web browser, and none of the core infrastructure used for hosting the application is owned or managed by your organization.
A few popular examples include:
- QuickBooks Online
- Office 365 web apps
Since most SaaS apps only need a web browser for access, they are accessible across various platforms such as Macs, Windows, and tablets. Again, you don’t have to worry about on-premise infrastructure, and the vendor takes care of all maintenance and updates for you. On the flip side, these solutions can offer less control, slow internet speeds can cause problems or interruptions, and in some cases, service disruptions and security breaches can be more of a concern.
Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), on the other hand, provides virtual computing resources to organizations. Sometimes these resources are hosted within a public cloud environment where services are used by multiple organizations. Other times they are within a private cloud environment in which services are exclusively used by your organization. There is also the third possibility of a hybrid cloud model, which is a mix of public and private.
Common IaaS providers are:
- Microsoft Azure
- Rack Space
- Amazon Web Services (AWS)
While IaaS does eliminate the need to perform hardware maintenance, you are generally still responsible for securing applications, VMs, and virtual networks, as well as patching, upgrades, and any other routine maintenance outside of the hardware. IaaS can be cost-saving if done correctly and provide you with scalability, flexibility, better business continuity, and more. On the other hand, if not managed well, there can be unexpected costs, lack of support, security risks, limited customization, vendor lock-in, internet dependency, lacking SLAs, and other negative points to consider.
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Cloud Readiness and Security Assessment
What is your business case for cloud migration? Is there a tangible benefit? What are the business reasons for moving to the cloud, or not moving to the cloud?
A properly equipped managed services provider can assist you in assessing your organization for cloud readiness and defining clear, tangible business objectives and outcomes. Additionally, there are security considerations that should be taken into consideration, both for your on-premise assets as well as cloud provider security. The different security roles and policies should be clearly defined, and you should be confident in knowing what is your responsibility to secure and what is theirs.
Identity and Access Management (IAM)
Even for organizations that are exclusively using on-premise infrastructure and applications, identity and access management can be overwhelming to get a handle on. Add cloud services to the mix and you can create a full-blown monster to manage. IAM is about defining and managing the roles and access privileges of individual users. It is imperative that these roles, privileges, and identities are managed in such a way that your valuable data does not get into the wrong hands. In order to protect your assets, it is of the utmost importance that a clearly defined IAM process is in place prior to adding or moving to a cloud infrastructure.
Cloud Infrastructure Can Free Up Staff and Resources for Other Projects
Especially if you have internal IT staff, a lot of time and money can be spent to maintain internal hardware and systems. Moving all or some of your infrastructure to the cloud can free up a lot of your staff’s time to focus on other projects that are more critical to your organization’s goals and road map. This can be huge for small to medium businesses where a lot of employees are wearing multiple hats.
Is Cloud Infrastructure Right for My Organization?
The points discussed above are just the beginning of the considerations that should be made when evaluating cloud solutions. Oftentimes, a mix of cloud and on-premise services fit the bill for small and medium-sized businesses. However, strategy, execution, and security can make or break your organization’s cloud aspirations.
This is where a managed services provider can come in. Properly accredited and knowledgeable managed services providers will take the time to assess your company’s needs, and create a road map that will be commensurate with your organization’s big picture goals. Then, they will provide you with the leadership and resources needed to execute and implement.
About the author
Ian strives to be a resource and change the way MSPs are viewed, one client interaction at a time. If you’re not sure if your current provider is improving productivity, increasing profitability, or securing your organization’s assets and revenue, he's your guy.