It seems like everyone is moving to the cloud in some form, but with recent large-scale data breaches and the NSA revelations still fresh in most people’s minds, not everyone is confident that they should puttheir data in the cloud. We put together 4 steps that can help you (or your CEO) feel more comfortable storing data and running applications in the cloud.

1. Identify the right strategy. The key to confidence on the road to cloud computing starts with developing the right plan. Consult with a cloud expert who can help you develop a proven cloud strategy, avoid compliance issues, determine how to best balance your capital expenses and operational expenses for the best ROI, examine where automation fits into your plan, and build a rock-solid service model that fits your company’s needs and budget.

Melpomene / bigstockphoto.com

Melpomene / bigstockphoto.com

2. Assess what you already have. A comprehensive assessment of any IT environment begins by identifying what’s in it. There are off-the-shelf tools available to collect data on everything in an organization’s IT environment. For example, there are tools that inventory every device in the physical environment, others that examine a virtual environment and others that look at the application layer. No single tool is going to be enough. CIOs need to determine more than just how many devices they have; they also need to understand where the systems are under or over-utilized as well as the dependencies of the various workloads.  A detailed assessment will identify what resources are being used effectively as well as where there are inefficiencies associated with server sprawl.  Inefficiently used servers – virtualized or not – still waste time and money.

3. Examine and assess current conditions. During an initial cloud assessment, the IT team should also examine the condition of the data center facilities where the virtual infrastructures live: Are they energy efficient, are they overheating, are they overcrowded?

“I met with an IT director recently whose data center was jammed full of devices, only half of which were turned on,” says Kevin Gruneisen, Senior Director of Cloud and Data Center Solutions, Logicalis US.  “When I asked him how he knew what systems he actually needed, he said, ‘I turn it off, and, if someone screams, I know I need it, and I turn it back on.’ A detailed assessment of your IT environment in preparation for a move to the cloud can provide the data you need to progress from a reactive to a proactive approach to IT management. Instead of having to guess if an asset is needed or not, you will know.”

4. Update BC/DR Plans. The status of disaster recovery and business continuity is another area of uncertainty in many IT environments. Most IT departments have a BC/DR plan, but too many haven’t updated it on a regular basis. They dutifully send their tapes off to a storage facility and think they are protected. A review of the availability requirements for mission-critical data can be a startling eye opener. Having to send a team of technicians to the tape storage provider to download their raw data and return with a trunk full of tapes that still need to be uploaded, may not, in fact, be possible within an acceptable recovery window.  As part of this step, be sure to re-evaluate available DR services.  Advances like DRaaS with high availability replication can recover data and have the company up and running in hours instead of days…or longer. Thinking about disaster recovery, as a result, has become a whole lot easier for those IT directors who are willing to evaluate their risk of downtime and consider new ways of protecting their data.