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September 15, 2023 | Channing Lovett

Is a Cloud-First Strategy Right for You? Top Factors to Consider

Cloud computing can help businesses meet and even exceed their end users’ expectations by delivering applications with improved performance, accessibility, and security. However, adopting a cloud-first strategy isn’t as simple as saying you want to prioritize the cloud. Businesses need to focus on their objectives and formulate a plan based on their current environment and where they want things to go. Before you take on a cloud-first strategy, read through this article to learn more about the steps and important considerations.

Why You Should Consider a Cloud-First Strategy?

With 94% of enterprise infrastructure decision-makers in the U.S. using at least one cloud in their infrastructure and almost two-thirds saying modernization is a top priority for their IT and operations departments in 2023, cloud-first strategies are continuing to gain steam. However, the cloud’s increasing popularity isn’t the only reason why you should consider a cloud-first strategy. It offers an array of benefits that directly impact an organization’s ability to adapt, innovate, and succeed, such as:

  • Scalability: The cloud allows organizations to effortlessly scale resources up or down in response to changing demands, eliminating the need for costly over-provisioning
  • Flexibility: The cloud provides the agility to meet diverse business needs through a variety of services and deployment models
  • Cost efficiency: The cloud minimizes upfront capital expenses and shifts IT spending to a pay-as-you-go model
  • Rapid innovation and experimentation: The cloud empowers organizations to test new ideas, develop and deploy applications quickly, and stay ahead in an ever-evolving market with access to other cloud-based solutions and tools

What to Consider When Setting Up a Cloud-First Strategy

While a cloud-first strategy can be beneficial for many businesses, whether or not you should set it up can depend on where you think your organization is headed in the following years or decades, whether you have someone in-house to lead the charge, and what best practices you may need to employ, among other things.

Business Roadmap and Adoption Plan

What do you hope a cloud-first approach will do for your business? What are your main objectives, and what do you need to make them happen? Think about the short-term and the long-term when building this roadmap.

To pull off the cloud-first strategy, a strong cloud adoption plan is a must. What workloads are you going to move? Are there risks that you might encounter? What tools and skills need to be added to make the move? How much do you anticipate the project to cost? 

Project Leaders

Even if you decide to work with outside experts to aid in cloud adoption, there still need to be internal stakeholders who champion the project and garner buy-in for the rest of the organization. It’s important that internal leadership is on board with cloud migration and adoption.

Best Practices

Prioritizing the cloud can’t be something that one team is doing while the rest of the organization fails to follow suit. By establishing governance and best practices around how the cloud will be implemented, as well as procedures for initiating and managing systems in the cloud, your business stands a better chance of being unified around your desired approach.

Security and Compliance

Planning for security measures throughout the journey addressing data protection, identity management, access controls, and compliance with industry regulations.

Cost Management and ROI

Tracking costs, implementing cloud cost management practices, and deploying cost monitoring tools is essential, allowing for budget allocation, cost allocation, insights into cloud spending and cloud waste, and the identification of cost-saving opportunities. Embracing FinOps practices, which bridge the gap between finance and operations, also ensures cloud resources are used efficiently and align with business objectives.

Legacy System Integration

For organizations heavily reliant on legacy systems, it’s imperative to think about how these systems will integrate with the cloud environment. Address potential integration challenges by developing strategies that focus on migrating legacy applications and consider adjustments that may need to be made to ensure they work seamlessly with cloud-native solutions.

By properly connecting legacy and modern systems, organizations can fully leverage the benefits of a cloud-first approach while preserving the value and investments made in an existing technology stack.

Migration Execution

Some businesses will be able to migrate their data and applications to the cloud completely, but more commonly, there will be some legacy workloads that don’t lend themselves well to cloud hosting. Determine how critical certain workloads are to your business, and the benefits or drawbacks to cloud migration, to be more systematic about your cloud adoption process.

Continuing the Cloud Adoption Journey

Migrating to the cloud isn’t just a one-time action. Your business will want to continually improve processes, optimize costs, and respond appropriately to the changing cybersecurity landscape.

Internal vs. External Skills

If your cloud-first strategy includes having internal team members work with the cloud infrastructure, you’ll need to ensure that your staff has access to appropriate training and resources. These can include DevOps practices, cloud architecture and design, cybersecurity, and relevant engineering abilities. Also, think about skills you don’t currently have in-house and whether it makes sense to add more people to your team or hire outsourced expertise.

Benefits of a Cloud-First Strategy

Declaring and following through with a cloud strategy can be beneficial for many reasons.

Data Encryption

One of the most compelling advantages of adopting a cloud-first strategy is the potential for cost savings. Public cloud services operate on a pay-as-you-go model, allowing businesses to avoid upfront capital expenditures (CapEx) associated with maintaining physical infrastructure. This includes facility costs, server hardware, and ongoing maintenance. As a result, businesses can better allocate resources and budgets to strategic initiatives that drive growth.

Scalability

Cloud-first strategies enable organizations to rapidly scale their resources up or down on demand. Unlike traditional infrastructure, where scaling could involve significant lead time and investment, cloud resources can be provisioned almost instantly. This agility ensures that businesses can accommodate sudden spikes in traffic or seasonal variations without compromising performance or overspending on unused resources.

Reliability

Network outages, cybercrime, and natural disasters can take out your business without redundancy and business continuity measures. With data and applications hosted across multiple data centers, businesses can maintain seamless operations even in the face of unexpected disruptions.

Cloud providers can also make it easier for to recover from a disaster by providing redundancies, fallback, and other features that keep systems rolling.

Visibility

When you have workloads distributed across several environments, visibility can be an issue. Cloud environments often come with built-in tools designed to improve visibility and streamline management. These tools provide insights into resource utilization, performance metrics, and overall health of applications, allowing businesses to make informed decisions and optimize their cloud infrastructure.

Collaboration

Cloud-based applications can be accessed on any device in real-time, allowing team members to collaborate more readily from anywhere. This flexibility promotes efficiency, faster decision-making, and smoother communication among teams, ultimately boosting productivity.

Cloud-First Strategy vs. Cloud-Only Strategy

The biggest difference between a cloud-first strategy and a cloud-only strategy is how heavily a business will rely on cloud technologies to support their systems.

Cloud-First Strategy

With a cloud-first strategy, organizations prioritize the cloud, but it might not be the only infrastructure used. This can help businesses save money on capital expenditures related to on-premises infrastructure, but because they may still be hosting some workloads onsite, visibility may not be as good compared to a cloud-only strategy.

Key Characteristics of a Cloud-First Strategy

  • Preferring cloud solutions for new projects, applications and services
  • Evaluating cloud options before considering on-premises alternatives
  • Capitalizing on the scalability, flexibility, and innovation offered by cloud services
  • Utilizing cloud resources to enhance collaboration, accessibility and agility

Cloud-Only Strategy

A cloud-only strategy takes a more extreme approach, where businesses move all of their workloads to the cloud. This can improve visibility, collaboration, and innovation, but it can be a huge undertaking.

Moving legacy frameworks to the cloud requires careful planning and understanding of how application and workload needs will change when moving to a new environment. To ease into changes, an organization may choose to start with a cloud-first strategy and shift to a cloud-only strategy over time.

Key Characteristics of a Cloud-Only Strategy

  • Complete avoidance of on-premises infrastructure
  • Migrating all existing workloads and application to the cloud
  • Relying solely on cloud providers for hosting, storage, processing and networking
  • Embracing the benefits of cloud-native capabilities, including auto-scaling and managed services

Is a Cloud Strategy Worth it?

Employing a cloud-first or cloud-only strategy can be worth it for most businesses, depending on what they’re trying to get out of cloud computing and how hard it will be to bring cloud in with the systems they already have in place. Based on where things are going, adding cloud environments to your overall IT infrastructure does seem to be the path moving forward.

Get a Certified Expert To Assist with Your Cloud-First Strategy

Whether you’re looking to go cloud-first, cloud-only, or just want to assess your cloud readiness, TierPoint’s certified experts can help you take the steps toward further digital transformation. Reach out to our cloud pros to schedule a consultation.

In the meantime, get the Journey to the Cloud eBook to learn how to minimize the risk and maximize the benefits of cloud adoption today.

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