The concept of shifting business processes into a virtual environment in the form of the cloud is by no means novel, and the benefits of which have been experienced and adopted by businesses across multiple sectors and industries. There is no denying the cloud is here to stay and moving into the cloud is a question of “when”, not “if”. However, as with all technical innovations, the know-how needed to move into and maintain a cloud environment is not yet common knowledge, which makes the prospect of moving into the cloud all the more daunting. Furthermore, ensuring your move to the cloud is worthwhile for your business value add and not a hinderance is also an important factor when consider the cloud and the complexities that come with it. So, just what does it take to effectively move to (and be in) the cloud, and how can provisions such as managed cloud services help ease the transition and optimise outputs?
The convenience of cloud
Cloud technology promises numerous benefits, starting with eliminating the need for physical, on-premise servers which, by nature, are expensive to increase and maintain, especially when it is difficult to predict just how much server capacity is needed and when. Cloud technology effectively allows you to use as much or as little server space as is required, and is elastic enough to be provisioned on-demand as and when you need it – and you only pay for what you use. Additionally, cloud offers storage, networking, and computing capabilities, available as required, scalable according to your growing business needs. And because the location of the servers provisioning your storage, network and computing needs is now irrelevant, you can focus the delivery of your content and services to where your audience or customer is, ensuring lowered latency and reliable content delivery. For example, if you are based in South Africa with clients or audiences in Europe, you can select to provision a Europe-based server to host your data, making it easily accessible to your end user with low latency and at the same time overcoming data sovereignty issues.
Optimised cloud set up and management with managed cloud services
Even though the tools cloud providers offer to assist with the setup of a cloud environment are intuitive, setting up your cloud can still seem overwhelming. The trick comes in with balancing the convenience of cloud tools and the various services cloud providers have to offer (IaaS, PaaS, etc.), with your unique business needs in such a way that ensures you reap the full benefits cloud has to offer. As such, it takes a deep understanding of what it is you hope to achieve by moving to the cloud, and what tools on offer are best for achieving these objectives. This is where the expertise of managed cloud services, such as BBD’s MServ, is useful, as cloud professionals with a thorough knowledge of cloud platform tools can devise an effective plan of action that optimises IT requirements, costs and business processes.
- Pay-per-use model
As far as cost is concerned, cloud is the most cost-effective IT solution available as cloud pricing is based on paying only for what you need. “I see value in the cloud’s pay-per-use model as resources can be very quickly provisioned and scaled, as opposed to on-premise set ups where you would need to first put in the time and effort in understanding the extent of the project’s necessities in order to adequately size and purchase a server” explains BBD cloud professional, Clayton York. Also, cloud’s economies of scale mean competitive pricing is guaranteed as cloud grows in popularity and economies of scale are achieved. To fully economise on the on-demand, pay-per-use model, your cloud management service should have a thorough understanding of your business and project objectives, what is imperative, and what your resourcing looks like now and into the near future. A combined approach of business and technical considerations means that business value is always prioritised in accordance with the cloud advantages available, ensuring optimised usage and output that benefits your business, projects, and customers.
- Elasticity and scalability
Traditionally, educated guessing and ordering of needed hardware for on-premise server environments means “long lead times and no flexibility, with the ever-present risk of costly over specification, which results in idle servers collecting dust, or under specification, in the not unlikely event of project scope changing and more resources being required” as York illustrates. With cloud, your reliance on hardware is mitigated almost entirely. With both virtual and physical hardware solutions readily available and scalable depending on your own needs, acquiring and retiring resources as your business or project needs is now possible. Whether it be storage, compute, database, networking, or application services you require, having a knowledge base at your disposal that understands how best to meet and optimise these requirements in such a way that further optimises your cost and other resources, is an invaluable element to your digital transformation and cloud move strategy. Your managed cloud service provider should be applying this knowledge continuously and flexibly, finding the best combination of services and best practices that optimise your environment and get the most out of your resources.
- Monitoring, analytics and management
Cloud providers offer management and reporting tools that help with the analysis and the on-going management and optimisation of your environment, such as AWS CloudWatch, which provides reports and metrics on the overall health and performance of your cloud environment. These in turn can help managed cloud service providers analyse your environment and find ways and means to optimise it continuously, ensuring your overall IT set up is constantly in top form, no matter your data needs, business objectives or resource allocation. While the reporting provided by the cloud providers themselves are comprehensive and give a holistic view of the status of your environment, again, having the knowhow to best interpret this reporting and apply it effectively to ensure optimisation is where the benefit of managed cloud services lies, over and above the convenience it offers.
BBD’s managed cloud services, MServ, consists of a team of highly qualified cloud professionals whose technical knowledge is complimented by their effective business consideration and understanding of business value. “MServ uses a custom-built infrastructure as code script that is based off AWS best practices when it comes to network design. This script is used as a template for the setup of single or multi account landing zones depending on what suites the customer’s unique business or project needs,” describes York, “this landing zone is then used for the provisioning of customer resources within it as needed.”
With the on-demand, pay-per-use model, BBD always advises starting smaller elastic cloud (EC2) instances initially. BBD’s MServ will then assist with continuously monitoring the performance and ‘upsize or downsize’ of cloud resource usage in order to scale accordingly to meet your demand in load and ultimately save on costs. “We monitor and keep a close eye on the performance, resilience and security of your AWS environment using a custom-built dashboard which integrates into AWS CloudWatch metrics and logs. This allows the MServ team to adequately monitor your AWS services, such as operating system patches, back-up statuses, resource metric graphs etc. and configure alert thresholds for each of these, which alerts the team when a problem arises or a resource is near depletion.” These alerts coupled with the on-going monitoring of your cloud and needed services ensures your precise IT needs are accounted for through the optimisation of your cloud.
BBD’s MServ also makes use of a software called CloudHealth to monitor and create alerts for your costs. “The CloudHealth billing graphs are integrated into our custom-built dashboard which gives MServ a central view of our customers’ AWS environments which is utilised to send monthly cost and performance reports to customers to give them insight into the status of their AWS environment” explains York. “MServ further ensures customers save on costs by managing the reservation of their Elastic Compute Cloud and Relational Database Services resource licensing in order to achieve discount rates as well as configure automatic shutdown and start up according to your business operation times or time resource needs.” As you are only billed for activity during running hours, this makes a significant difference to your monthly cloud cost, meaning your budget is stretched and used optimally and effectively. Managed cloud services provide the knowledge, technical expertise and business insights needed to make moving to the cloud a valuable and nonintimidating venture, both for your IT operations and your overall business proposition. Effective cloud management ensures that processes and outputs are increased and optimised through the multitude of benefits provided by the cloud, translating into meaningful digital transformation and futureproof business functionality and value. Embracing your business’ move to the cloud is made that much simpler by managed cloud services, and your managed cloud service provider of choice should ensure that you experience all the benefits of cloud, with none of the hassle.
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