The Future of Networking is in the Cloud. Are You Ready?

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By the year 2020 IDC expects more than 60 percent of all IT spending will be on cloud-based services. Given that, it’s pretty clear that the network of tomorrow is going to be largely cloud-based. So how do you get there from here?

As with all things IT, it’ll be a gradual evolution. In this post, we offer four tips on how to gradually and effectively migrate aging IT infrastructure and applications to the cloud. Following these tips will enable you to further your business goals by taking full advantage of the cloud’s elasticity and near-constant upgrades to the latest technology.

1. Conduct an infrastructure assessment.

A good first step is to take inventory on your current IT infrastructure to determine which elements can and should be phased out soon, and whether there’s a viable cloud-based replacement option. Adopting a “cloud-first” mentality when replacing any piece of infrastructure, in which you adopt a cloud offering whenever it’s viable, will gradually get you to an all-cloud environment, or at least as close as your organization allows.

A recent post by Chris Connor, Senior Director of Product Management at Comcast Business, walks through a number of issues to consider as you conduct the assessment, from storage to networking, and even wiring.

2. Manage network latency.

As you move more infrastructure and applications to the cloud, you need to ensure end users don’t suffer performance issues as they access these resources. To a large extent, that means ensuring network latency isn’t excessive. This Comcast Business Community post, which offers tips from a collection of IT leaders, has some sound advice on the topic, including connecting to multiple major colocation centers, using acceleration technologies, and deploying network monitoring tools to help you understand network behaviors and get to the bottom of performance issues.

3. Come up with a security plan.

Putting your data and applications in the cloud doesn’t mean you also hand off responsibility for their security. As explained in this previous post, you need to ask prospective providers lots of questions about how they provide physical and network security, change management procedures, and more. You’ll also need to get up to speed on their security policies and make sure they mesh with your own. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll need to ensure an effective identity and access management plan that ensures only authorized users can get at your cloud-based resources. Ideally, that plan will include a single sign-on solution; things can quickly get unwieldy if users are required to spend time separately logging in to each cloud-based service.

4. Prepare for culture change

As more resources move to the cloud, IT staff may well require different sorts of skill sets and knowledge to effectively manage the new environment. That is likely to be a culture shift in many organizations, one that you’d do well to prepare IT staff for in advance. Comcast Business’ Connors has some sound advice in his recent post:

It is human nature to resist change to an unknown method or approach, so enterprises that make the move must be ready to act not only in physical and virtual technology realms, but also at a psychological level.

Some training is required to adjust to the new approach, and in some cases, it may be necessary to replace legacy workers with workers who have new skills. Beware of losing institutional knowledge. Wherever possible, organizations should make every effort to retain workers who understand how the business operates.

It’s clear the cloud will play in increasingly important role in any business, to the point where many will be all or nearly all cloud-based within the next several years. Following these tips will help make the cloud transition more seamless and successful.

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