The Five Phases of the Cloud Lifecycle

By - August 20, 2021

The cloud can help your company increase efficiency, improve employee access to systems, implement scalable solutions and gain competitive advantage – all with greater security and lower costs. As you navigate a move to the cloud or work to enhance your current cloud operations, it is important to understand where your organization is on its cloud journey today.

Here are the five phases of the Cloud Lifecycle: 

Phase One: Defining Your Cloud Philosophy

The first step in any organization’s journey to the cloud involves building an understanding about what it is, discovering the benefits it can provide and defining the organization’s cloud philosophy.

To begin with, make sure you have a clear understanding of the opportunities the cloud presents. The term “cloud” is used to refer to a variety of cloud architecture and cloud services. Know that your company will likely end up implementing multiple cloud types to accomplish everything it wants to do from an IT perspective.

An organization needs to think beyond the potential IT cost savings to the benefits the cloud can offer. Middle market companies have the opportunity to leverage the cloud to gain access to technologies and functionality that is typically beyond their budget and IT capabilities.

An organization also needs to address its concerns with the cloud. What is your stance on security, availability, reliability and outsourcing? The cloud isn’t necessarily the right solution for all technology scenarios.   

As you explore the features that the cloud offers, ask how they support your business philosophy. What does the cloud mean for your IT organization?  How can the cloud provide you with competitive advantages?  Do you want to leverage the cloud or transform your business with it? 

Phase Two: Building a Cloud Roadmap

Once you’ve decided to leverage the cloud in some way, you need to build out a cloud roadmap to decide what order of events you should adopt. The starting point is to understand what IT you already have. That sounds simple, but many organizations don’t have a good inventory or asset management mechanism in place of their business applications, data, networking and data center assets.

For each of these assets, it is important to then determine:

  • Who uses this technology that might move?
  • What happens if it goes down?
  • How important is it to build this capability so it never goes down?
  • How sensitive is its data?

These answers will vary for each workload within your company. For example, a retail company’s email is probably pretty crucial, but the operation of its e-commerce system would likely be a higher priority, because without it, money may not be coming in. The stronger the expectations you have, the more you’re probably going to end up spending. Think about what’s really worth it.

From there, start to plot your roadmap for cloud migration. Most organizations start with traditional IT infrastructure workloads like backup, disaster recovery and test environments.  They then progress to more complex business applications.

Of course, you’ll also need to take regulatory and compliance considerations into account. Meeting regulatory requirements will dictate your cloud options and configurations.

Phase Three: Off to the Cloud

In phases one and two, you’re building an understanding of what you have to do. With phase three, you’re actually getting started. 

As you build out your cloud, it can be helpful to think of it as a hub with spokes. The hub to your cloud defines how your company connects to it and how people log into it. The spokes are the business applications and workloads that are going to be accessed through the hub. It is a good practice to build standard templates that are used to create each new spoke to ensure security, availability, compliance and other critical functionality is in place. 

A cloud-based core office platform such as Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace should also be a core piece of your cloud implementation. These platforms provide the necessary tools for communication, collaboration and productivity.

Phase Four: Managing Your Assets

Many people mistakenly believe that going to the cloud means that they no longer have to manage anything. That’s not true. Your organization needs an understanding of what has been outsourced and who manages what. For example, if you move into Microsoft Azure’s platform, who is managing it? Your company or Microsoft? Or will the responsibility be shared?

Make sure you have a clear picture of your technical obligations and those of the cloud provider. Who is responsible for monitoring, patch management, antivirus, backup administration and disaster recovery? It isn’t always your cloud provider.

Your organization will also need to plan for non-technical governance -particularly spend management. Your expenses can vary from month to month due to changes in cloud usage, which can lead to surprise bills. Monitoring your cloud activity and making adjustments to cloud use is an important part of keeping your actual spend in line with your expectations. 

Phase Five: Implementing Transformational Workloads

Phase five is where you transition from ensuring your organization isn’t at a competitive disadvantage into a position of competitive advantage. A move to the cloud can give your company a competitive advantage by allowing you to access capabilities you never would have dreamed of before. You can scale to an incredible number of users, collect and analyze limitless data or capitalize on emerging technologies like the Internet of Things, Blockchain or Artificial Intelligence. The possibilities are seemingly endless and ongoing three year plans should be developed.  

For a deeper dive into the Cloud Lifecycle and to learn more how a move to the cloud can benefit your business, schedule a call with one of the experienced professionals at RSM today.

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