Migrating to the Cloud: A Midmarket CIO's Checklist

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Cloud services are nothing new, but for many midmarket companies, the cloud approach has been to tread carefully. Large enterprises have IT departments that can research, test security, and support cloud deployments -- and the budgets to ensure their success. For small businesses, cloud migrations have been driven by cost benefits and the ability to minimize the internal resources needed for IT infrastructure. With more complex requirements than small businesses and fewer resources than large enterprises, midmarket companies are sometimes hesitant to take the leap.

As cloud computing technologies have evolved to support more complex business needs (without extensive labor from internal resources), midmarket companies are migrating their applications to the cloud more frequently than in the past. One particular area of growth is in public cloud infrastructure, which Gartner predicts will increase by a whopping 36.8% this year to $34.6 billion in revenue worldwide. This sector of cloud computing includes basic computing, networking, and data storage services from providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft, or Google.

The explosive growth of data collected from personal and Internet of Things (IoT) devices is driving many companies to the cloud, so they can efficiently mine and utilize that data. In addition, making the cloud even more appealing is the capability to support the use of artificial intelligence in many consumer and business applications.

As midmarket CIOs plan their cloud strategy, here are five key questions to ask, investigate and discuss with your team:

1. Will moving to the cloud help us grow and scale efficiently?

Growth is the goal of any business. In today's "social" world, a viral post, video, review or ad can suddenly drive an enormous amount of traffic to your website or apps, which can be a tremendous business builder for midmarket companies. However, if you don't have the infrastructure to support that traffic, you will lose the opportunity as quickly as it arrived. With the cloud, there's no need for a costly reserve of often-idle servers, software licenses, and storage capacity -- you can add the resources you need at any time, in minutes.

2. What cloud-based apps will help us improve the customer experience?

You're collecting mounds of customer data every day, but much of it ends up trapped in silos. The cloud not only allows you to connect and analyze data stored on different platforms, but also affords the computing power needed by AI-based decisioning apps. As a result, you can process each event in context, personalize every customer interaction, and improve the customer experience at scale.

3. How can we be more agile while lowering operational costs?

Most cloud service providers offer a pay-as-you-go model, where the cost is based on services procured. For example, you might be charged by the number of users or features, by storage capacity, or by the amount of time you use the service. Since you never pay for more than you use, the costs will typically be lower than traditional licensing costs, but that's not the only financial benefit. By reducing complexity in IT operations and empowering employees to be more productive and collaborative, cloud-based apps enable your business to move faster and smarter. It's up to you to determine which apps and services would have the greatest impact.

4. What's the best model for us? Public, private or hybrid?

While this question can be easily answered by small businesses that want to cut their IT budget by moving to the lowest-cost public cloud services available, midmarket companies have other considerations. You want to maximize the systems that you already have, not just move everything to off-site servers. By utilizing cloud solutions that use industry standards for data interchange, you'll be able to easily integrate with and leverage your non-cloud solutions and systems. Answering this question involves tactical research and planning to ensure that your cloud migration aligns with your business strategy, while also cutting costs in the process.

5. Do we have the right support to ensure we are getting the most from our cloud migration?

Without the extensive IT resources of large enterprises, midmarket companies should rely on the knowledge and expertise of a trusted partner to decide when and how to migrate to the cloud. From cloud discovery to deployment, the right services partner can help you navigate your journey to the cloud and ensure that you realize the business innovation and improvements the cloud allows.

"SCTC Perspectives" is written by members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants, an international organization of independent information and communication technology professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.