May 8, 2018 | InBrief

Mid-market cloud adoption: More reliable than the weatherman

Mid-market cloud adoption: More reliable than the weatherman

As more enterprise scale organizations shift to using cloud technology providers, like Amazon Web Services, mid-market organizations are working to determine if moving some of their workloads to the cloud delivers the return that larger organizations are recognizing.  When we meet with clients, often we’re educating leaders on how cloud infrastructure and services differ from on premise technology.  These leaders may think they want to, or should, move to the cloud, but often can’t articulate why the move will add value to their business.

CIOs need to educate their CEOs and boards of directors about the need to invest in cloud as a style of computing that drives greater speed, agility and innovation through this democratization of IT. In doing so they should use their digital business strategy to justify the investments needed for cloud computing.  - Gartner

In our conversations, we focus on three focus areas for business and technology leaders unfamiliar with cloud services.

Value proposition

Successful businesses deliver value to their clients. Whether it is through services or products, rarely are CPU utilization, redundancy, storage availability or application deployment core to their value proposition. However, most organizations commit significant resources to maintaining a technical portfolio of equipment and applications that support their operations. What if those efforts could be redirected towards adding additional value (and revenue)?

Cloud platforms reduce or eliminate the need for redundant inventory and excessive server and storage infrastructure. In the cloud, those service scale as needed, enabling investments that would normally be allocated for those items to be applied to value add initiatives.

Additionally, most cloud providers have ‘free’ integrations with other services available on their platforms.  For example, West Monroe’s internal operations center recently implemented Amazon Connect. All our call recordings are stored in Amazon S3 and our next phase will look to integrate Amazon Lex chatbots to deliver more intuitive services for incoming calls. Amazon charges for the resources used by these services, however connecting our phone system to storage for call recordings was as straight forward as configuring Connect to call the other services.  This setup doesn’t involve managing a file server, drive space and all the maintenance around maintaining that environment. This model allows for cost savings each month by eliminating the need for local telco and contact center infrastructure.

Business agility

Often, mid-market organizations can out maneuver their larger competitors by being faster to respond to market conditions. Changes in regulations, consumer sentiment, and the technology landscape can provide real advantages to early movers, and mid-market organizations are generally better prepared to strike quickly in those circumstances. Establishing your technology portfolio in the cloud enables your business the opportunity to pivot quickly when the need arises.

Some examples of this might include scaling your organization as your business grows. Let’s look at a basic use case. Your website traffic suddenly increases 50% after a new product/feature launch. In a traditional on-premise model, your options would be:

  • To have previously purchased equipment that could handle all day-to-day traffic, plus more than 50% additional capacity to account for the new usage patterns

  • To have spare equipment available to add capacity, and to have your website configured to be able to leverage that new capacity

  • To purchase new equipment, and upon delivery, to get it setup and installed

  • To refactor your website to be more efficient to reduce the load on the equipment to acceptable levels

In a cloud scenario, you’d scale the underlying resources to match the new traffic patterns. And, in most cloud environments, you pay for what you consume so your additional spend is tied closely to your additional traffic. A more involved example might be an acquisition. You’ve just purchased another organization. The sooner you can get them integrated into your operational processes and procedures, the sooner you start to realize the benefits of the purchase.  However, employees are on different end user systems and you’re going to be retiring all their legacy applications.

In this example, you could quickly create an Amazon Workspaces desktop image to distribute to the new employees. This image would include your business applications, conforming to your security standards, and would be consistent across all new employees. You don’t care what underlying device they use to access the systems, and since it will function in the same way for all new employees, training is accelerated, and they’re up and running more quickly, enabling the business to recognize the value sooner.

Technical and training barriers

Cloud doesn’t eliminate the need for deep technical knowledge. To the contrary, to recognize much of the value in a move to the cloud, your team (or service provider) needs a full understanding of the services and features available. The ways in which your technology team or partner thinks about things like scaling and growth, business continuity and disaster recovery, security, and cost management will need to evolve.

For example: to account for spikes in utilization, you would purchase hardware to handle a burst in a traditional data center infrastructure. The additional cost to make this investment may never provide a return. In a cloud scenario, an environment would be sized for day to day use, and then designed to acquire and consume additional resources as needed. Once those are no longer needed, it would relinquish those resources.

The administrative tasks involved here are much different. In one scenario, you set everything up and monitor to ensure the hardware is performing as expected under the load. In the other scenario, you monitor to ensure performance, but then verify unneeded resources were returned to ensure costs were being managed effectively.

Final thoughts

I’ve provided a couple of examples based on our experiences that might help guide a decision to move towards the cloud.  Questions to ask yourself: Should you move your accounting and finance systems to the cloud?  Does your current provider have SaaS options?  Are you comfortable with the security you have in place?  Should you look at a hybrid model, moving some workloads to the cloud while maintaining others onsite? I suggest talking to your current providers about their options and experiences and engage a technical partner that has cloud experience to assist you in developing a cloud strategy. If you’re interested in learning more about a move to the cloud,  contact us.

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