Top 10 Fears of Migrating to the Cloud

Do you like spending more on your IT than you need to?

Are you dying to get hacked?

Are you totally comfortable moving your entire business to someone else’s datacenter?

As an IT professional providing private cloud services, I have been on both sides of the fence (pre-cloud and post-cloud).  There are very legitimate concerns about changing the way you have done your computing for years.  From an owner’s or executive’s perspective these changes look monumental.  But to IT people the technologies haven’t changed much, only their physical location.  Using an analogy, compare your technology to water that is physically in a lake with a few dams keeping it in place.   The cloud would be the lakes or canals on the other side of the dam.   If I open some of the dams, water is still water but it moves when the dams are opened.  Like the water, technology is still technology just in a different location.

You might ask, “Why do I need to move my technology to another location?”  The short answer is because it is better, faster, and cheaper.  For the long answer, I highly recommend reading “The Big Switch: Rewiring the World from Edison to Google” by Nicholas Carr.

First let me say as far as I know, no one has been killed or injured migrating to the cloud, but I understand your fear.  These are real client fears, but they can be overcome.

1. Losing Control of IT infrastructure

IT is too strategic and we have always run everything in-house.  We need to be in control of our own destiny and not be at the mercy of a cloud provider changing things.  With the IT staff on my payroll and purchasing all the HW/SW directly, I am able to make things happen quickly.   I will not be able to achieve my business goals by moving to the cloud.

2. IT Staff Reduction

Most changes in technology are about adding more hardware and software—many times needing MORE IT people to support it.  With the migration to the cloud, it actually reduces your IT staffing needs.  Let’s face it, migrating to the cloud is outsourcing all or part of your IT.  A business owner may have a 25 year relationship with the IT leader/team and doesn’t want to change that.  Many times, the IT leaders themselves sees the cloud as a threat.  Hey…I’m the VMware guy and if we move our servers to the cloud what will I do?  This fear of redeploying staff keeps firms from adopting cloud technologies.

3. What if I can’t pay my cloud bill?

The short answer is your cloud stops working and your business is down.  Because cloud services involve IT labor, not paying your cloud provider would be like not paying your IT staff.  How long will your business run if you stopped paying your IT staff?

4. I won’t be able to get my data back

There are good and bad cloud providers like everything else in life, so make sure that your data is still your data no matter what happens.  I have heard horror stories where cloud providers held customer data for ransom.

5. What if the Cloud provider goes out of business?

Outside of the data, all my servers, phones, virtual desktops, networks, etc could reside in the cloud.  If they suddenly go out of business, I will have NO IT at all.

6. Security

I don’t want to be hacked and the cloud seems to have a higher probability of that.  You hear about things all the time in the news.  If all these businesses are in one datacenter, the chances of getting hacked increases.

7. I can’t make changes that I need to run my business

Many cloud providers have cookie-cutter services.  What happens if I need a technology or service that they do not provide?  Either I have to go without or start running it locally or with another cloud provider.

8. Monthly recurring charges vs one-time expense. I hate bills.

Everybody hates bills and the cloud generates monthly billing compared to quarterly, annual , (or every 5 years) IT purchases.  I don’t want to replace capital spending/depreciation with a monthly operating expense.

9. Network Down. Can’t get to cloud

If I have everything running in someone else’s datacenter, then I am accessing those computing resources from a remote location.  My office is remote to someone else’s datacenter, so what if the connection between us goes down?  It’s no longer one server down, it is my entire business until the network can be restored.

10. Too much organizational disruption and loss of productivity

It is a real pain in the A—to move all my technology from my office location to a remote datacenter.  If you have ever moved your office to a new address, you have felt a little bit of this pain.  We need to keep our business functioning and can’t afford outages as we move to the cloud.  Moving to the cloud seems like a big hit to productivity.

How Fear is Replaced with Safety and Warm Fuzzies

1. Losing Control of IT infrastructure

What is “control”?  Most small firms that have all their technology in-house have control over what they purchased, that is true.  But many firms are “controlled” by lack of money or personnel to get things done.  Constrained resources are more a factor to getting things done than a cloud provider’s control.  With the cloud, you actually gain access to more technology for less money, which allows your business to do things you could never do before.  Our smallest client is a 3-person firm and they have more control over their cloud than they ever did before.  On top of that, they have redundant email service, virtualized desktops, redundant storage (virtualized as well).  A small firm like this could NEVER afford these sophisticated technologies to keep them operational.  To use another analogy from the “Big Switch”, you don’t have control over the production of your electricity but you use it consistently.  Outsourcing is more reliable than if you were to produce your own electricity.

2. IT Staff Reduction

No question, the cloud changes the roles and responsibilities of the IT staff.  If your firm does not have in-house IT staff, the cloud is a no-brainer.  For those firms that do, if you embrace the cloud you get to lead and plan the implementation.  It is better to ride the wave than get pounded by it.  I am an IT professional and I tell my colleagues that resistance is futile, you must embrace the cloud.  Otherwise you will end up as the horse and buggy provider in a world of jets.  The IT staff that were vehemently opposed to migrating to our private cloud eventually became the biggest proponents.  They no longer are pulling all-nighters trying to get a server back online, they have their hands on technologies (e.g. VOIP or virtualization) that they never would have before the cloud, and they were able to strategically help their firms embrace this new technology to generate new forms of revenue.  And I tell the IT guys, if you really want to play with Linux and VMware, come work for a cloud provider.

3. What if I can’t pay my cloud bill?

Most firms that migrate to the cloud see their bills go down, it is rare that a firm is still in business and just refuses to pay for their cloud.  Often, the cloud provider is dealing with a firm that has gone out of business and can no longer pay for their cloud.   At the end of the day, paying your cloud bill is like paying your IT people.  The cloud changes the economics of IT which favors the small business.  For example, with the current state of cloud pricing you can setup an entire office of approximately 20 people with phones, email, desktops, circuit, server, and 24/7/365 IT support staff for the same annual cost of ONE IT person.  It is actually much easier to pay your cloud bill than your current IT bill.

4. I won’t be able to get my data back

Pick a good cloud provider, write this into your contract, and you will get your data back, no problem.  If you are super paranoid, you can also have local (or another cloud based) file storage and continuously replicate your data from the cloud to your office—just in case.  It is an insurance policy.  Each business must decide the risks and how much insurance is required to manage that risk.

5. Cloud provider goes out of business

Of course, do your due diligence on your cloud provider to understand how long they have been in business and assess their financial stability.  But even if they do go out of business, that usually does not happen overnight.  There is time to plan an exodus from the cloud.  Again, there are ways of mitigating this risk as well by having a “plan B” in case this happens.

6. Security

No doubt, cyber security is the #1 problem today and I will be writing more about this in future blog postings.  Hackers are relentless.  In all my years of IT, I’ve never seen the threats so high.  If you have not been hacked, it is because no one cares to target you.  Security is a team sport.  Hackers work in teams to take you down, so you need a team of counter-hackers to defend your enterprise.  Most small/medium businesses have barely enough IT staff to keep things running, let alone a team of individuals working on security.  They don’t stand a chance against a team of hackers.  With the cloud, you get the benefit of a team of security professionals without having to have them on your payroll.  We employ the best security practices by buying in bulk, automating our processes, and watching things 24 x 7.  This does not mean that a cloud is bullet-proof, but it does mean you have a higher probability of preventing attacks or if you do experience a hack, you are back up and running quicker.  Our biggest challenge is educating people in good security practices. The superhacker, Kevin Mitnick, says it is easier to hack a human than it is to hack a computer.  As a cloud provider, I concur.

7. Can’t make changes that I need to run my business

For small/medium sized businesses, this is pretty much the opposite of reality.  A cloud provider already has way more services built and tested than any one firms needs.  With cloud services, you can actually change your business faster than your people can absorb/learn the change.  And if there is one particular technology that you have and no one else has, you require a private cloud where you can add specialized services if needed.

8. Monthly recurring charges vs one-time expense. I hate bills.

So then the question becomes, would you rather pay $1,200,000 once per year or $50,000 per month?  Most CFO’s look at the cloud and say $600,000 is better than $1,200,000 even if I do get a depreciation expense.  Every firm is different and you can generally consume the cloud any way that you want.  We have had some clients pay for two years of cloud services at once.  Others really wanted that depreciation and we sold them equipment.  The reality is you can get way more technology capabilities for less money and it’s up to you how you want to pay for them.

9. Network Down. Can’t get to cloud

At first glance, this is true.  If your IT is in a remote datacenter and the circuit to that datacenter goes down, you cannot get to your IT.  However, because it is remote you have multiple options for getting to it.  You can have as much circuit redundancy as you need.  Many small firms just go home and use their home Internet if their circuit goes down.  Or they go to Starbucks, or a client office, or even tether their 4G phone to their PC.  Larger firms don’t want to send everyone home, so they employ a separate backup circuit from a different carrier as an alternate path to the cloud.  If you have all your assets in-house and you lose a network switch, everyone is down until that switch can be replaced.

10. Too much organizational disruption and loss of productivity

This is one of the biggest surprises that I had once I started deploying cloud services.  We can do things in the cloud in 4 weeks that used to take us 6-8 months.  For very large firms, we can have a slow, methodical migration to the cloud.  Smaller firms, we can build their cloud in the background while they are still working.  We can make the cloud look almost identical to their working environment so the learning curve is minimized or eliminated.  Then one weekend we decide to cut over to the cloud and people login on Monday morning like nothing happened.  Sometimes things worth doing are not easy, but the cloud is worth doing and easy!

Walk Before You Run

If the fear persists, walk before you run to the cloud.  Start with a small proof of concept and set it up to alleviate all your fears.  Once you feel comfortable, you can safely scale it up to your entire business.

For those of you that are convinced, you can jump right in and cut everyone over on a weekend.

With the cloud you get three picks not two: better, faster, or cheaper.

Chris France
607.821.7418
cfrance@advance2000.com

Overcome Your Cloud Migration Fears

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