Considering a move to the cloud? You’ve got choices: public, private and hybrid options are now available from well-known providers, and it’s possible to adopt any mix of SaaS, PaaS and IaaS that meet your needs. There’s also a new trend on the rise called multi-cloud, which allows companies to employ multiple cloud providers for the best combination of price and services. According to CloudTech, more than 77 percent of companies surveyed said they planned to implement multi-cloud architectures in the “near future.” Yet managing more than one cloud isn’t always easy—and if cloud sprawl or cost gets out of hand, your company can find itself on the short end of ROI. Here are five best practices to maximize multi-cloud investment.
Understand the Origins
Before you can effectively implement a multi-cloud strategy, it’s critical to understand the origins of this service approach. As Tech Beacon noted, for example, the cloud was born “not from IT necessity, but from the needs of business.” Various business elements needed support that local IT—already overworked with just managing day-to-day operations—couldn’t provide. As a result, cloud-based services such as CRM tools and marketing automation emerged, followed by broader adoption of cloud-computing platforms that enabled IT but, more importantly, helped achieve business goals.
Multi-cloud management is no different. Although it has the happy side effect of empowering IT aims, its true purpose is to reduce spend and maximize efficiency. In the same way you don’t use the same vendor for all other line-of-business (LoB) needs, it makes sense to diversify the cloud rather than employing a single “generic” provider. Recognizing the origins of the cloud and its multi-cloud successor allows you to make decisions on the basis of your bottom line instead of simply trying to “keep up” with other adopters.
It’s tough to manage multiple cloud providers. First, it’s critical to ensure that all necessary services are covered—making the switch from a one-size-fits-all solution to multiple clouds doesn’t make sense if your IT infrastructure has gaps. It’s also important to monitor and track potential network issues across all cloud services or risk problems with access control, services refusing to “play nicely” and security breaches. As Cloud Computing News noted, one way to solve this problem is by working with a third-party cloud firm that helps manage and implement all cloud services. Your best practice? Choose wisely. You’re looking for a provider with experience not only in deploying and managing cloud solutions but one that also has the ability to quickly respond and address any conflicts that emerge when services interact. In addition, your management provider should supply regular and straightforward reports about the state of cloud solutions.
Beyond high-level oversight, you also need a way to streamline the management of specific cloud services. For example, you may tap a single provider to supply data-collection and analytics tools, but the sheer amount of information up for grabs and the time needed to derive actionable benefits can reduce the utility of this service over time. The solution? Look for tools that let you automate repetitive tasks and reduce the amount of IT oversight required for low-level processes, in turn freeing space for tech professionals to innovate and improve.
It’s also critical to deploy tools that collect data on all available cloud services to create a “master list,” which is continually updated as new vendors or solutions come on board. In addition, look for applications designed to collect data on network issues and help determine a root cause. When you use multiple cloud services at once, the chance of end-user issues spikes dramatically; as Tech Target noted, identifying the source can be time consuming without the right help.
Know Your Users
How are end users interacting with multi-cloud solutions? Do they favor a particular vendor or service, and do their activities comply with existing IT policies? Here, the main takeaway is that you should regularly map your user base and discover how, when, where and why they interact with the cloud. Doing so provides a “bigger picture” look at your multi-cloud deployment and lets you determine whether specific services are underutilized and you need to consider scaling back, or if employees are running up against performance boundaries and need more room to breathe.
You’re also well served by conducting regular audits of user behavior and services accessed. This practice offers two distinct advantages: First, you get a better understanding of how multi-cloud affects your network. Are users accessing specific services more often from their desktops or mobile devices? Over wireless or wired networks? For what purpose and duration? Second, regular audits let you track down multiple services that may serve the same function, allowing you evaluate each one individually and keep only those that maximize business benefit.
Lock It Down
Another challenge of multi-cloud management is cost. Although opting for multiple services instead of a single vendor is a cost-driven strategy, it’s easy to lose sight of this goal as the number of applications and solutions on your network rises quickly. Before you know it, you’re spending more on smaller “cost-effective” vendors than you ever did using big providers.
Controlling cost overruns means doubling down on best practices. Start by governing your procurement process. While it may be beneficial to leave the doors open and let users grab whatever they want when you first roll out a multi-cloud approach, once the honeymoon phase is over, it’s time to rein in adoption and design a specific procurement procedure. This process might mean having all cloud purchases routed through IT for approval or designing an in-house request procedure that requires service evaluation, sign off and record keeping to ensure your money is well spent. It’s also a good idea to design a generic end-of-life procedure that you implement whenever it’s time to phase out a cloud service. Make sure all user accounts and subscriptions are deleted and ensure that all company data is transferred back to your control; providers should never retain any of your data, and beware of any third party that asks you to sign an SLA to this effect.
Multi-cloud is gaining ground as companies look to maximize cloud investment and skip generic services in favor of specific offerings. To reap the rewards of multiple-cloud implementation, however, it’s critical to understand origins, choose great providers, automate services, lock down extra spending and know your users.
About the Author
Brian Thoman is publications manager at Column Technologies, a global technology-solutions provider that specializes in business-service and process management. Brian is an ITIL-certified procurement specialist with over six years of proposal-writing and management experience.