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Five common mistakes of constructing a cloud presence

As IT pros gain cloud computing know-how, they begin to question how cloud can work for them. Leaning on the cloud for IT services should be a strategic decision.

Incorporating cloud services into an IT environment

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involves many tough decisions. The wrong move can affect your business success and future in the cloud. Avoid these five mistakes to develop your company’s cloud presence.

Mistake #1: Underestimating your network needs.
A major value proposition of moving IT workloads into the cloud is eliminating restrictions on processor and memory resources.

But while the cloud increases memory and processor resources to essentially infinite capacity, it does so at the cost of networking. Shifting workloads off-premises can burden the network that separates those workloads from your on-premises data center. Planning a move to cloud requires you to carefully look at networking resources; if there's not enough, or if that network is too latent, cloud-based applications and services will suffer poor performance.

Mistake #2: Right IT workload, wrong cloud provider.
Determining which services you need from which cloud providers can be an incredibly important but confusing process for companies considering cloud. Do you need a cloud services provider to host virtual machines (VMs) in the cloud, or do you merely need a single cloud service?

Mistakes happen when cloud admins hand over cloud-ready IT services to an inadequate cloud provider.

First, figure out what activities -- such as data protection, archiving, systems management or document storage -- have become too difficult or tedious to manage in-house. Create a value proposition for obtaining these services from a cloud vendor, and purchase them if the costs are right.

Mistakes happen when cloud admins hand over cloud-ready IT services to an inadequate cloud provider. In your cloud planning stages, be sure to research all options and available vendors. Will open source cloud software work for your company? Does a particular cloud vendor offer the support you need? Do you have the in-house manpower to manage any services not controlled by the cloud provider? Doing due diligence when choosing a provider will save headaches with your cloud project in the future.

Mistake #3: Right cloud provider, wrong IT workload
In addition to choosing an appropriate cloud provider, IT pros must determine appropriate IT workloads to move to the cloud. Sometimes the workload you want to cloud-enable just isn't right (or ready) to move off-premises.

Carefully balance IT decisions made to improve admin experience with how they will affect end users. Eager admins may make the mistake of moving a workload to the cloud to improve administrative issues -- but at the cost of user efficiency. Any impact to the end user experience -- extra steps, reduced performance, and so on -- will be viewed as a downturn.

The right IT workloads for the cloud are those that benefit both the administrative and end-user experience. And they offer the best return on investment.

Mistake #4: Not prepping for a cloud provider outage.
Every IT professional has heard the sensational stories of major outages with cloud providers. For enterprises wary of cloud computing, outages are central talking points in the argument against cloud adoption. In adopting cloud, you must assume some risk; moving workloads onto a cloud platform cedes some control of that workload's operations, and sometimes providers have outages.

While the outage stories were highly scrutinized, they may also have been highly sensationalized. The outages had no effect on a large majority of customers, particularly those with backup plans in place. By leveraging multiple providers or high-availability (HA) technologies, their provider's problem didn't become their problem.

Don't assume your cloud provider is infallible; always be prepared.

Mistake #5: Ignoring the client.
A final mistake enterprises make when creating a cloud presence focuses on the relationship between an IT service and its application client. That client can be distributed to users via a handful of delivery mechanisms -- direct installation, application virtualization, streaming, server-based computing and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).

The "Wild West" days of cloud are behind us; smart IT admins can realize ways to package services and sell them back to end users at a lower cost or with better support.

Smart IT organizations size up the client delivery mechanism based on the needs of the end user and the connection between a client and the service. Those same decisions become more important as services move into the cloud.

You may find that your delivery mechanism require some rethinking for services that move into the cloud. Applications in your local data center that worked properly with a local client installation might not work at all over the Internet. Shifting to server-based computing or other technologies for client delivery might be necessary to maintain acceptable end-user performance.

The "Wild West" days of cloud are behind us; smart IT admins can realize ways to package services and sell them back to end users at a lower cost or with better support. For many, the cloud becomes a great way offload activities they'd rather have someone else manage. Just be mindful of common mistakes that could undo any cloud advantages.

Greg Shields, Microsoft MVP, is a partner at Concentrated Technology. Get more of Greg's Jack-of-all-trades tips and tricks at www.ConcentratedTech.com.

This was first published in June 2012

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