Apps, apps, apps. When companies talk about how to leverage cloud computing, discussion inevitably focuses on which application to migrate from traditional data center environments to the cloud and how much cost-savings and efficiency will be gained by having them offsite in a cloud environment. After all, the whole point of a cloud strategy is to move IT functions from higher-cost data center environments to the cloud, which has far lower costs, less burden on in-house personnel and far more flexibility. But there is more that goes into a cloud strategy than simply a series of decisions about which IT functions stay and which go (to the cloud). You can select all the right functions to migrate to the cloud, but your cloud strategy can still go up in a puff of smoke if your company overlooks the importance of the network infrastructure that is the lifeline of your cloud infrastructure. If your company doesn’t have the right network powering the movement and protection of all of that data, it can be a recipe for failure.
This is a particularly important question for small- to medium-sized businesses to ask because they typically don’t have in-house network management people who spend all their time thinking about network infrastructure, like large enterprises often have. Fortune 500 companies often have an in-house team that will put a big spotlight on the issue of network capabilities during cloud strategy discussions – or even have their network provider at the table for that discussion. Companies of that size have built-in advocacy and brain power that is focused full-time on how to optimize network infrastructure to align with how a company is going to use the cloud, but smaller companies are very different.
What happens when a company thinks solely about applications and not about the network? They may select the right ones to migrate to the cloud, but then they find out that the network pipe they have in place is a trickle compared to what the apps require. The movement of data is paramount in a cloud environment, and small- to medium-sized businesses too often find themselves scrambling to get more bandwidth once they move functions to the cloud – creating a fire drill that costs them performance, time and money in the process.
This is particularly true for backup and recovery, which is one of the functions most frequently shifted to the cloud. Backup and recovery puts tremendous pressure on a company’s network infrastructure, and an inadequate network infrastructure can cripple nightly backup and emergency recovery in a way that can bring a company’s entire operations to a halt.
Network security is just as significant an Achilles heel for companies’ cloud strategies. Security will never be the first word that comes to mind when the conversation turns to cloud, which is exactly why the network infrastructure needs to fill that gap. Yet few companies carefully look at network security when they are planning cloud migrations, and that can create a slew of headaches later on. Not all networks are created equally when it comes to security, and too often companies find that out after they have started or completed a cloud migration.
Asking the right questions about your network’s performance, security, architecture and cloud-readiness is a critical step in ensuring that your cloud strategy proves to be successful.
Christopher J. Camut is the president of Integra Business, a business unit of Vancouver-headquartered Integra Telecom. As head of Integra Business, Camut oversees the business unit dedicated to mid-market customers across a diverse range of industries. For more information about the company, visit www.integratelecom.com.