Tactical Advice

5 Tips to Prepare for the Cloud

These five tips can help businesses get ready for cloud computing.
5 Tips to Prepare for the Cloud

Cloud computing offers a number of potential advantages to IT departments, namely lower IT and staffing costs. The cloud also presents a few challenges, one of which is that companies open up their networks to new vulnerabilities. Here are five tips that will prepare an enterprise network for the cloud.

Tip 1: Set service-level agreements (SLAs) and quality-of-service (QOS) goals. Migrating applications to the cloud can introduce numerous performance and reliability issues, so negotiate a solid SLA with the cloud provider, including acceptable QOS goals for uptime and response time.

An SLA with a cloud provider needs to cover a number of different areas besides server uptime. These include network performance, storage of configuration information and support response time — typically the main IT functions that are important to most businesses.

Similarly, the IT organization has to ensure that its user requirements for QOS are met. That means factoring the potential for increased latency into the response times promised by the service provider. Whatever your business finally settles on, read these agreements carefully and make sure you understand what the provider is promising.

Tip 2: Carefully consider the network architecture. Moving important applications to the cloud amounts to introducing another layer onto the network. When outsourcing applications to the cloud, think about everything from increased latency to new management requirements.

Latency is the most obvious consideration. Moving applications to the cloud almost always increases network latency because of the extra hop or hops needed to access the applications or data. A less obvious point is the potential effect of switching paths and its impact on increased network congestion. Adjusting to these issues may require IT managers to rearchitect the network to eliminate potential hot spots, improve performance and reduce the number of hops between the user and the cloud services.

This is generally not difficult, and on a modern network it is usually not expensive. However, it must be dealt with before moving important applications into the cloud. Typically, to rearchitect a network, IT managers will locate potential trouble spots and change the arrangement of the network to reduce or eliminate them.

For example, if the number of routers in the path increases latency unacceptably, the company may need to change the topology of the network to eliminate one or more routers from that path. Alternatively, it may be necessary to add faster routers. Changing the topology isn’t very expensive, but swapping out routers or other networking gear can be pricey.

Tip 3: Think about how running applications in the cloud changes the security equation. Most cloud service providers offer a variety of options to keep data secure. Still, moving into the cloud adds another potential vulnerability point to the network.

To deal with this, businesses can add additional encryption for individual files and applications and deploy virtual private networks (VPNs) to communicate securely with the cloud.

IT managers should also review the company’s security policies and permissions on the policies, such as which staff members have access to the data in the cloud, read-write permissions on material in the cloud, and who has the authority to add virtual machines to cloud-based servers.

Tip 4: Governance is still the company's responsibility. Outsourcing applications and services to the cloud doesn't mean outsourcing responsibility. The business is still responsible for meeting data governance and accessibility standards, such as Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPPA and other applicable regulations and standards.

A company cannot escape responsibility for breaches or inadequate safeguards by blaming the cloud provider. Businesses need to review their responsibilities with the legal department to make sure those responsibilities are met.

Be especially cautious with new cloud services that move data across national boundaries. Most developed countries have data privacy regulations, and they vary considerably. Take the time to understand the local laws, and when it comes time to negotiate the contract, make sure the company’s cloud applications meet the standards of the country where the data is being managed.

Tip 5: Ensure visibility into the network. Whether on a private or public cloud, IT managers need to maintain visibility and management of the company’s data and applications. At the very least, this means making sure adequate management tools are in place to handle the material applications and data in the cloud at acceptable levels.

Ideally, the company's existing network management tools should be compatible with the new cloud applications. The IT staff also needs to monitor performance of the cloud services.

Keep in mind that performance issues include not just the cloud itself, but the total performance, including the outside network that connects the enterprise to the cloud. The cloud itself may have perfectly acceptable performance, but the latency of the network between the enterprise and the cloud may add unacceptable delays. Generally, the cloud service provider covers these issues under the SLA and QOS agreements.

Sign up for our e-newsletter

About the Author

Rick Cook

Rick Cook

Rick Cook learned programming on a computer with magnetic drum memory. Since then he's written thousands of articles on all aspects of computers and high technology -- as well as several fantasy novels full of bad computer jokes.


Heartbleed: What Should Your... |
One of the biggest security vulnerabilities has almost every user and every industry...
Why Businesses Need a Next-G... |
Devices investigate patterns that could indicate malicious activity.
Review: HP TippingPoint S105... |
Next-generation firewall can easily replace a stand-alone intrusion prevention system....


The New Backup Utility Proce... |
Just getting used to the Windows 8 workflow? Prepare for a change.
How to Perform Traditional W... |
With previous versions going unused, Microsoft radically reimagined the backup utility in...
5 Easy Ways to Build a Bette... |
While large enterprises have the resources of an entire IT department behind them, these...

Infrastructure Optimization

Businesses Must Step Careful... |
Slow and steady wins the race as businesses migrate IT operations to service providers,...
Why Cloud Security Is More E... |
Cloud protection services enable companies to keep up with security threats while...
Ensure Uptime Is in Your Dat... |
Power and cooling solutions support disaster recovery and create cost savings and...


Securing the Internet of Thi... |
As excitement around the connected-device future grows, technology vendors seek ways to...
How to Maximize WAN Bandwidt... |
Understand six common problems that plague wide area networks — and how to address them.
Linksys Makes a Comeback in... |
The networking vendor introduced several new Smart Switch products at Interop this week.

Mobile & Wireless

Mobility: A Foundational Pie... |
Other technologies rely on mobile computing, which has the power to change lives, Lextech...
Now that Office for iPad Is... |
After waiting awhile for Microsoft’s productivity suite to arrive, professionals who use...
Visualization Can Help Busin... |
Companies need to put their data in formats that make it consumable anytime, anywhere.

Hardware & Software

Review: HP TippingPoint S105... |
Next-generation firewall can easily replace a stand-alone intrusion prevention system....
New Challenges in Software M... |
IT trends such as cloud, virtualization and BYOD pose serious hurdles for software...
Visualization Can Help Busin... |
Companies need to put their data in formats that make it consumable anytime, anywhere.