Pushing IT resources to the cloud can help nonprofit organizations increase productivity, flexibility and efficiency. But the cloud can also introduce redundancy and confusion when (as is often the case) migrations are done in an ad hoc manner, rather than being meticulously planned out.
Often, organizations adopt cloud resources almost by accident, with business units purchasing cloud software subscriptions on their own (without consulting IT staff) and executives pushing a cloud-first approach (without stopping to consider the goals of a move to the cloud). This prevents organizations from getting the most out of their cloud investments and creates the potential for problems.
To devise a cloud strategy and optimize environments, nonprofits should follow these four steps:
1. Set Cloud Goals
As a business or IT leader, be clear on what you want from the cloud. Are you hoping to reduce your on-premises infrastructure? Cut costs? Spin up resources quickly? Each of these intended outcomes will require different investments.
Getting out of the on-premises email game is a very different goal from setting up a cloud disaster recovery solution or using a combination of on-premises and public cloud resources to power a Big Data solution. Simply saying “cloud first” doesn’t tell you how to achieve any of these goals.
2. Assess Your IT Environment
Even if two organizations have identical goals, their moves to the cloud might look completely different, depending on their current situation. A nonprofit that is still running physical Microsoft Windows 2003 servers, for example, will have an entirely different set of challenges than one that long ago embraced virtualization throughout its data center.
This stage is a good time to carefully examine interdependencies between applications. An initial ROI analysis may show that an organization can save money by moving computing and storage resources to the cloud — but if applications are constantly transmitting data back and forth between the data center and the cloud, costs could skyrocket. It’s much better to figure that out before deployment.
3. Plan Your Cloud Implementation
This is where things go wrong for many organizations. Internal IT staffers often see the simplicity of public cloud solutions (which can be spun up in a matter of minutes) and assume this means that choosing resources will also be simple. But the reality is that public cloud providers have hundreds of product offerings, and even many experienced IT professionals don’t know what they don’t know when it comes to this area of IT.
Nonprofits can usually benefit from the help of a partner that has a track record of successful cloud migrations. Getting things right the first time will prevent headaches down the road.
4. Continuously Re-Evaluate Your Environment
Your organization’s goals may change. So might the offerings of public cloud providers. Or, you might find that, despite the IT shop’s best efforts, three different business units have gone rogue and purchased cloud software subscriptions that the organization could purchase for less money in bulk.
Although cloud investments often result in reduced hands-on management for IT shops, cloud environments still must be managed and monitored. As organizations that have already made the move have discovered, the cloud isn’t a destination — it’s a journey.