Part 2

In our [previous] post, we presented Cloud Utopia as vision and destination. Now, let’s look at some of the practicalities of getting there, and what IT leaders can do to make the journey smoother and quicker for all concerned.

Although your organisation is unique, your Cloud Utopia efforts will need to address six key considerations, beginning with how you protect, interact with and leverage your Data. In this context, data covers everything from databases, flat file data, SaaS based data, email and backups to metadata – ‘data about your data’ like user activity audit trails and usage analysis. The business may (or should) wish to extract more value and knowledge from that data: it’s up to IT leadership to explore, explain and realise those possibilities.

It’s also vital to engage with Application owners at the outset regarding the conversations they’re having with vendors and their plan or roadmap for their application(s). The business should know who is responsible for each application’s productivity and any plans for improving it.

IT leadership means understanding the criticality and sensitivity of those applications and their underpinning datasets. This leads us neatly to our next crucial consideration: Identity. Cloud Utopia depends on having a single, central record for all our users, so they can be identified and authenticated every time they request access. For IT leaders, the key is understanding what services each user should be and is consuming; from a business perspective, it’s important to determine what proportions of full-time, fixed-term contract and third-party users you have, or are likely to in the future. At Acora, we generally recommend adopting Azure Active Directory as a highly integrated, fully SaaS solution. This question has been thrown into sharper relief by the pandemic. Your cloud-first strategy needs to reflect where your people are and how they’re working, so you can cater for both corporate and BYOD devices. One of the main obstacles to our next area, pure cloud Device Management is applications or services that are still based on your premises and require legacy authentication methods like Group Policy. We specify InTune, which uses Mobile Device and Application-Level Management to enforce device and application level settings across desktop devices, phones and tablets, appropriate to the ownership.

One of the greatest benefits of cloud-based distributed Services is that they liberate users from fixed locations, and traditional (albeit reliable) connectivity like private corporate WAN and datacentre-centric infrastructure. Broadly speaking, the closer you can get the users to the internet, and the services hosted there, the better. For IT, there are technical questions around which services or applications rely on private connectivity to on-premises infrastructure, and how readily these can be altered or replaced. The business has larger issues to ponder around workspaces, and its plans for opening new offices, expanding existing ones – or rethinking its physical presence entirely.

Of course, this more open, fluid approach demands changes to the Security perimeter. With resources distributed, authentication and devices rooted and managed in the cloud, and data and applications residing outside the datacentre, security needs to be enforced locally both by vendors of SaaS offering and by the business at user devices. At the same time, security still needs to be governed, managed, audited and monitored centrally. This is particularly important if the business has contractual obligations to customers which dictate certain data controls; you need to know how far you can amend these. In fact, IT may already have been obliged to stretch or reduce some security policies to allow flexible working during the pandemic: if so, is there a plan to bring them back up to a compliant level under new cloud-based working practices?

We said it last time, but it bears repeating: your Cloud Utopia journey doesn’t end at a certain point; it’s a continuous process, and it requires someone to take charge and lead it. For IT leaders, it may or may not be a specific annual goal or appraisal target. But you should be guided by it, and educating colleagues about it, because being ‘Ready for Innovation’ is the key to embracing the modern data era.

Plus, whatever your business’s position, your competitors will also be on the same journey, and starting to reap the benefits.

We’ll talk more about those in a future article. In the meantime, if you have specific questions or would just like to find out more, please contact us.