COMMENTARY

4 cloud lessons industry must teach

Industry must share their lessons learned from cloud migrations

From the CIO to management and IT teams, the federal government faces increasing pressure to make measurable progress into the realm of cloud computing. As government works to turn the cloud-first conversation into a secure, functional reality, industry has already taken great strides to embrace the cloud. Government contractors of every size and shape who have already moved to the cloud can provide a wealth of from-the-trenches information to agencies planning this giant step forward for IT.

Some in the contracting community have already overcome obstacles and mediated vulnerabilities in their own move to the cloud. These contractors make ideal partners for government and industry alike – partners with a wealth of lessons learned from their own cloud implementation experience. Such lessons can help government balance the priorities of saving money and moving quickly to the cloud – without disrupting or disabling the agency’s core mission.

Adjust your IT mindset
Before moving to the cloud, the toughest audience may be your very own IT team, who wants to keep physical control of their “toys.” Communications within and across the agency is critical. Help them understand that the cloud actually provides better control of the IT environment – just in a remote way. It does take a little adjustment to realize that we don’t have to physically see our server room to keep it running at optimum efficiency. If it helps ease the transition, remember that old exchange server isn’t going anywhere right away; it can still serve as an archive, and provide one last physical piece of equipment for the IT team to cling to.

Mind the SLAs
Service-level agreements (SLAs) govern the cloud experience by defining the scope of computing services to be provided. In other words, the SLA spells out the level of support the cloud provider must deliver, and how that support will be monitored. If you’re new to the cloud, tread carefully in SLA negotiations and pay attention to the details. Better yet, partner with a company that has already dealt with this process in their own cloud implementation. Because the move to the cloud can translate to handing over your IT infrastructure, you must be comfortable with, and confident in, your SLAs before stepping one foot off of your own platform.

Salesmanship, in other words, change management
Change management impacts the success or failure of government’s move to the cloud. Agencies need to emphasize positive gains in capabilities, performance, decreasing redundancies and cost reductions that individuals and the organization as a whole can expect. For contractors with key certifications like CMMI, change management and process improvement are built-in approaches that can provide a huge benefit to government agencies moving to the cloud for the first time. Clear and frequent communication, user acceptance testing and additional training and support, where needed, can ensure a seamless transition to all the benefits that cloud computing has to offer.

Enjoy around-the-clock support
The move to a hosted cloud environment gives both government and government contractors the benefit of 24/7 IT support, which can slash productivity-killing network downtime. The cloud data center is monitored around the clock, with processes and procedures already in place to quickly mitigate problems as they arise. The cloud makes sense from a cost standpoint, but also from a mission continuity standpoint – a big plus for government agencies.

Above all, while true commitment to the cloud requires careful planning, it is critically important to make strong, meaningful steps. Failure to fully commit to the cloud or to develop an indecisive cloud transition strategy can have negative consequences. The move may not produce the expected cost savings or performance-boosting benefits that the cloud can provide.

Contractors who have successfully moved their own IT infrastructures to the cloud can be one of the key resources for government agencies who need to meet cloud-first initiatives, address funding challenges and protect the overall mission. They can provide government with critical expertise and advice and help mitigate the risks of transitioning to the cloud.



About the Author

Scott Fennell is director of information technology for Access Systems Inc.

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