Judging by the number of news articles generated over the past few months, you could be forgiven if you thought AI and ChatGPT were the only technologies that mattered for businesses in 2023. Compared to the enthusiasm and speculation around AI, cloud computing seems almost old-fashioned. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Most businesses are still in the relatively early stages of transforming operations to take advantage of all the benefits of the cloud. There are plenty of “low-hanging fruit” opportunities for businesses to benefit from continuing to invest in cloud services.

Cloud Adoption Considerations

The first step is to understand where migrating to a cloud solution makes the most sense. Once a business has migrated core office productivity apps and email to the cloud (i.e. Office365), additional cloud services depend on the needs of specific lines of business. Purchasing has one solution, manufacturing another, and sales yet another. Each line of business will have a different sense of urgency around migrating to a new solution. For some, legacy applications may be adequate for the foreseeable future, whereas other lines of business need to migrate quickly to a cloud-based service that allows for rapid scalability or frequent feature updates. This gives you a chance to prioritize and try one or two cloud migrations in limited areas while keeping the rest of the business stable.

It’s also important to understand the impact remote data will have on costs, performance, and security. While a cloud-based HR solution might not require increasing the budget for data bandwidth, it will require more effort to ensure personal data stored in the cloud is adequately protected. Other lines of business may require large amounts of data for a cloud-based solution which would need to be factored into the total cost of ownership calculation. Many cloud service providers are developing data budgeting features to help warn you when you are approaching your data usage limits so higher bandwidth bills don’t come as a surprise. Some data-intensive applications may be better to leave on legacy solutions rather than migrating to the cloud.

As you consider which applications to migrate to the cloud, it’s important to have someone familiar with the tradeoffs to help you choose the best approach. If someone’s compensation is based on selling cloud deployments, don’t be surprised if every problem can be solved by the cloud! Be sure to consult with someone who is motivated to help you find the right solution, whether that’s a pure cloud solution, a hybrid solution, or your legacy on-premises solution.

Cloud implementation considerations

Once you’ve determined which applications to move to the cloud, the implementation process becomes the next critical factor.

Cloud solutions providers want their solutions to work “out of the box” with as many companies as possible. This means that default configurations are designed for the lowest common denominator. That’s great for making sure the largest number of companies can get up and running quickly, but it isn’t great for making sure it’s the most secure configuration nor the best optimized for the needs of your company.

Security configuration is the area where default configurations show the biggest deficiencies. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) solutions are almost universal these days, and fairly consistent across implementations, but they still remain turned off by default on most cloud solutions. Several other security features that should be enabled during deployment must be properly configured. Not only will this allow you to launch with a
more secure solution, but you can train your employees once on how to use the new software rather. This is less disruptive than retraining in the future when you finally get around to enabling the built-in security features that were turned off by default.

You also want to accommodate evolving security standards into your implementation process. In the past, the industry consensus was to require employees to use complex passwords like “2T1i$g3Er” (which oftentimes are more like “Tiger$123”) and to change them several times a year. Experience has shown that these passwords are hard to remember, leading to employees reusing passwords, writing them down, or calling tech support for password resets. This also encourages employees to keep passwords as short as possible. With the increased computing power available to criminals, a brute-force attack on an 8-digit password is now feasible.

The industry is now moving to the use of longer passphrases such as “My dog sleeps in the sun ALL d@y!”. These are too long for a brute force attack, yet easier for employees to remember. And unless a passphrase has been compromised, there is little benefit to forcing employees to change it every few months. That should help reduce the number of password resets your tech support team needs to perform each month.

There’s no question that the cloud can be a game-changer for businesses of all sizes. However, achieving a successful cloud migration and maintaining robust cloud security requires careful planning and execution. Be sure to collaborate with a partner that can help you navigate the complexities of cloud adoption with confidence.