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Ten best practices for the cloud

By James Careless, Network World
June 13, 2013 10:21 PM ET

Network World - According to the IT industry trade association CompTIA, "over 80% of companies now claim to use some form of cloud solution, whether that be virtual machines that can be spun up on demand or applications that can be easily procured and put into use."        

Right now there are three major trends driving cloud usage and deployment, says Laura Maio, director of customer solutions for Trend Micro. “First, organizations are using public cloud as a natural extension of their internal environments. Second, non-IT business groups are using the public cloud to gain faster access to server resources and storage.Third, IT organizations are being pressured to establish secure private cloud environments that function like public clouds, in order to win back non-IT business groups from the public cloud.”

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Ed Mahon, Kent State vice president and CIO, is a big believer in the cloud, but only if IT departments use it intelligently. “We use activity-based cost accounting to assess when it makes sense to move on-premises service into the cloud,” he says. “For example, we saved $650,000 annually by moving our faculty and staff e-mail service to Microsoft 365. ” In addition, moving student email to the cloud “allowed us to decommission 30 servers."

For IT managers, the challenge is to use the cloud both effectively and safely. We consulted with several cloud experts and compiled this list of 10 cloud best practices.

Best Practice #1: Know your clouds

The cloud is not a monolith. In fact, there are a variety of clouds for IT managers to deal with; each with their own characteristics and applications. Smart managers need to know which cloud is right for them, before moving data outside of their enterprise servers and firewalls.

According to The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), there are three types of cloud service models.

-- Software as a Service (SaaS), where customers access a software provider’s product online. The customer does not control the cloud system, beyond setting user access.

-- Platform as a Service (PaaS), where the customer can deploy their own-developed or purchased applications on a third party’s cloud system/servers. The customer controls the selection and deployment of applications and specifies user access.

-- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), where the customer accesses raw server power over the Internet.

Best Practice #2: Assess your IT activities

To use the cloud effectively, IT managers must know which applications would yield benefits to clients by migrating to the cloud. Kent State’s Mahon refers to this process as ‘activity-based cost accounting’. This means looking at the things you currently do in-house, and assessing whether they could be done more efficiently in the cloud.

He says, “In fact, you need to take a look at everything; not just what you do in-house, but what your IT department is good at, and not good at. In some cases, moving to the cloud will provide you with a better return. The cloud can also provide an alternative when dealing with applications and infrastructure that is approaching end of life.”

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