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A CIO's checklist for moving to the cloud

Determining whether to shut down on-premises apps and hardware is never easy. Here are strategies to help ensure a successful cloud transition.

Deciding when to move operations to the cloud and shut down an on-premises application or local hardware isn't easy. There are a few strategies IT pros can follow to help smooth out the transition.

"The key thing CIOs and businesses have to remember is they shouldn't try and move their systems in large chunks," said Laurence Hart, content management strategist at Alfresco and former CIO at AIIM, where he helped transition the company to the cloud. "Each system that is placed into the cloud -- whether it replaces an existing system or is a new solution -- is a project unto itself. There are very few 'lightswitch' moves that can be made," he added.

And that means IT pros should look at legacy applications and not just replace them for the sake of replacing them. "These decisions largely make sense when a SaaS [Software as a Service] alternative provides cost and/or integration advantages over the legacy option," said James Urquhart, director of product and cloud management at Dell.

Moving to the cloud is a strategy that needs to take into account how companies plan to do business. "There is a need to keep improving the tools provided to the business," Hart said. "This readily fits into a cloud strategy as new systems can be placed into the cloud, ideally in Software as a Service. When legacy systems need new hardware, that is a good time to start moving those systems to Infrastructure as a Service," he added.

In his role as CIO at AIIM, Hart was at a crossroads with the Association Management System (AMS) -- a core application. The current AMS wasn't meeting the business's needs and an upgrade would have cost as much as it would to implement a new system.

"We decided to select a new AMS that was cloud-based, as a core requirement," Hart explained. "AIIM was able to move their most business-critical system into the cloud while simultaneously improving the services to both the internal business and the broader membership," he added.

Which applications will get you the most out of your cloud investment? Look for a commodity application like email for an easier transition, Hart said. "Moving to the cloud can ease your scaling and provide better uptime than most organizations can achieve internally for an equal cost. Email features are well understood, and all the key integration points are standardized, allowing other systems to easily integrate."

What's the bottom line? There are many advantages to moving to the cloud. Define which cloud platform best works for your application needs, create a plan and move deliberately. Success comes when companies take the transition slowly and make changes with the business in mind, instead of simply throwing an application into the cloud for the sake of doing it.

About the author:
Ron Miller is a freelance technology journalist, blogger, FierceContentManagement editor and contributing editor at EContent Magazine, where he writes the "Media Redux" column. He also blogs regularly for and TechTarget's View from Above. In 2009, he co-founded Learn more by visiting his blog.

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