As organizations face growing pressure to properly manage their digital content growth, cloud vendors have been marching out a series of improvements in an attempt to gain their favor. One such example is Microsoft’s recent announcement about achieving ISO 27018 and HITRUST compliance. Consumer cloud services are ubiquitous and cloud adoption is steadily climbing in the enterprise. Yet IT organizations still lack experience on how to approach cloud services.

10 Roadblocks

Over the last five or so years, I’ve tested my mettle against various shapes and sizes of cloud projects for my clients. I’ve had failures, successes and many outcomes that required some calculated compromises to achieve project goals.

So what does any good consultant do with these lessons learned? Make a list. What follows are the 10 most common cloud roadblocks I've witnessed: 

  1. Your clients may object to storing their content on cloud servers, which often times is built into business agreements. Right or wrong, this can completely derail any good intentions you may have about moving to the cloud.
  2. Clients that are in heavily regulated industries or that are subject to complex corporate compliance may require a higher level of security than is available from your cloud vendor.
  3. Global clients may require data storage in specific regions where your cloud vendor is not located. A common example is businesses located outside of the US, who don’t want their data within reach of the US Government.
  4. Users may object to cloud storage simply out of fear. This can be a powerful force against initiatives to onboard business units to new IT services.
  5. e-Discovery may become more difficult if you can’t easily integrate cloud data into your current review process.
  6. You may not be able to ensure beyond a reasonable doubt that your data is truly gone when you want it deleted.
  7. People in the US are still afraid that cloud vendors will violate their own privacy policies when the government comes asking.
  8. Remote users or offices in remote locations may not get the quality of service they are used to with your on-premises services.
  9. Existing consumer-based cloud services in the network have undermined your ability to introduce enterprise cloud services that do the same thing.
  10. Subscription fees add up fast, and you’re having a tough time selling management on cost as a primary driver for adopting cloud services. This is especially true when current systems are not in an end-of-life situation, and you’ve already invested heavily in them.

With so many variables to consider, you’ve got to plan. And then plan some more. It’s not uncommon for organizations to rip out prospective cloud services when it doesn’t meet their expectations. The good news is -- there is nothing wrong with that if you set the proper expectations.

Tips From the Field

How do you prevent, avoid or deal with some of the roadblocks listed above?

Try before you buy. There’s no harm in piloting a cloud service before you fully commit. Find an isolated business unit, group of users or project that can be used to evaluate a cloud service. With proper analysis, you should be able to determine whether or not any given cloud service is right for the whole organization.

If cost reduction is the primary goal, make sure you can clearly and accurately justify the savings to management. Many cloud services' long-term subscription costs do not solely justify a decision to move to it. In addition, lower implementation costs can be overshadowed by difficult challenges when integrating cloud services with your on-prem ones. If you don't anticipate this, you risk under budgeting the overall implementation costs.

Learning Opportunities

An often overlooked aspect of a move to the cloud is ensuring that your legal and/or compliance professionals review cloud vendor contracts and data management policies well in advance of making a decision. For organizations without a lengthy and formal procurement process, this is very important, as some IT shops are able to freely engage vendors without extensive contractual oversight.

Compare your disaster recovery plan with cloud vendor service-level agreements. If you find that you have to compromise in any way, carefully consider the potential impact to your organization.

The one thing you can guarantee is you will absolutely experience outages of some kind, even with cloud services. Consider implementing a warm standby or cached environment that is on-prem if available. Depending on how important the service is, this may be critical.

An internal communications campaign can help combat fear or ambiguous requirements by notifying the user base of the potential adoption of cloud services. You may save yourself a lot of embarrassment by making it clear that there will be a period of evaluation before any concrete services are introduced in production.  

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