Configuring Your Public Cloud Services
Public cloud providers typically provide only the most basic support in configuring your service capabilities. As a result, you’ll need to make a lot of your own decisions about configuring your services when migrating to the public cloud. Here are some of the questions you will need to answer:
What Type of Cloud Service do I need? Do I really want cloud applications, cloud servers, or cloud desktops? Some of the common cloud applications clients purchase are e-mail (e.g. Microsoft Office 365, Google Apps), customer relationship management (e.g. salesforce.com), file sharing (dropbox.com), payroll (adp.com), and web sites (godaddy.com).
The benefit of purchasing cloud applications is that they provide an off-the-shelf service with low management effort and costs. They can be a challenges to integrate with your other applications and business workflows, and may not provide the flexibility to customize the application to meet your needs, synchronize user logins, manage security and backups, etc. In addition, you may face challenges in migrating data to and from the cloud application.
Cloud servers offer you the ability to migrate and configure the same applications you have in your on-site servers, to the cloud, with minimal reconfiguration, keeping in place any customized software integrations and versions. Your user systems simply need to be updated to connect to a cloud server instead of a local server. You can customize security, monitoring, and backups – but you are responsible for configuring them.
Cloud desktops offer you the ability to provision resources based on the number of users, and may include remote support services for those users as well. They also allow you the convenience of not having to manage server capacity because it scales with the number of users, while offering the convenience of the customizable environment.
Server Capacity What quantity and type of server capacity do I need? How much CPU, RAM, storage and bandwidth? Will it be a fixed volume of resources all the time, or usage that varies significantly, perhaps by time of day or day of week?
For those with multiple cloud servers, how should those servers share information? For example, if you have cloud servers that are accessible by the public or by partners/clients, you may wish to restrict their ability to access information on cloud servers that are solely for internal use.
Security and Business Continuity
What VPN services do I need? If the cloud provider offers VPN services, you may need to pay the provider more to configure secure connections for your users, to your site, or to third-party systems.
Where and how will my information be backed up? Depending on the level of server you are using, backups may not be included unless you specify this among your selections. Even if backups are included, you may only be able to restore the entire server or database, and may not be able to perform selective restores of (for example), one folder or one user’s information. Backups may also only be stored for a limited duration of time (e.g. 7 days as opposed to the 7 years required for certain regulatory purposes).
What security policies do I need? The ability to finely control security policies, report on user access, etc. varies by cloud application and vendor.
Simplifying security access and controls by synchronizing your in-house user IDs and passwords with cloud servers and/or applications is both a benefit to users and to compliance, because it enables you to turn on or off security from a single system.
You will also want to consider whether you want to accept variable billing (the default option in the public cloud) or configure your services to provide for more predictable billing with a pre-defined bundle of services.
Organizations understandably want to take a gradual approach towards moving to the cloud, migrating a few users at a time, or migrating only a selection of application or users. There’s a natural tendency to want to keep dual systems running, in a replicated environment. Some seemingly logical approaches can create unexpected problems, or simply don’t work. The approach you take in moving to the cloud will have implications for costs and for security. It pays to have an expert to provide advice on these issues.