The new financial year is very nearly here (depending on when you’re reading this) and budget planning is well underway. If you’re contemplating IT efficiencies for your organisation, it’s a good time to consider migrating to the cloud. Working with organisations across a number of sectors, Sovereign has seen many of its customers successfully exploit the cloud, but this has always started with developing a business-driven decision framework. Rob Driver, sales director at Sovereign, shares some observations that can be used when organisations are contemplating the move to a hosted solution.
There are a few questions you need to ask when it comes to the cloud:
- Why are we thinking about doing this?
- What resources do we need?
- What are the costs and how will it affect the organisation?
- When is the right time to migrate, and why?
Having recently supported a migration to Microsoft Azure, I can assure you that this is not as simple as many people assume. To deliver a successful migration, a significant amount of due diligence must be done at the start. As a registered provider, if you are planning a move to the cloud, you are a pioneer. While a great message to employees, tenants and stakeholders, this comes with factors you need to be aware of.
Consideration needs to be made for:
- Is your existing infrastructure reaching its ‘end of life’ yet?
- What business applications does your organisation use and are they compatible with your preferred cloud option?
- Do you have the resources needed to support the solution post-installation?
- Do you have access to the necessary experience and expertise to deliver a successful migration? If not, do you have access to a managed service provider or a contractor(s)?
Who to choose?
There are a number of choices when it comes to public cloud providers, with the main players being Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, IBM Cloud and Google Cloud Platform. While everyone will have their personal preference, we are finding Azure to be a natural business fit for most housing providers (as well as for non-housing customers). Separate from the core housing systems, the next most-used applications are typically within the Microsoft Office Suite, such as Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint, all of which most employees are very familiar with. With Azure being part of the Microsoft family, there is an ease of compatibility, user adoption and overall, a positive user experience.
Gaining cost efficiencies
Operating costs have been the subject of much focus in recent years (especially since July 2015). With this focus in mind, a move to the cloud can help your organisation achieve more for less. Migrating to the public cloud is a fantastic solution to realise many of the business objectives housing providers are currently looking to achieve:
- Support mobile working – with more time being spent away from the office, employees can work more closely with the local community and spend more time with tenants without limiting their access to central systems;
- Give the organisation flexibility – to reduce workspace, work smarter and reduce IT costs;
- Improve collaboration and relationships among employees (multiple offices and those working away from the office) and tenants;
- Achieve compliance requirements without the ‘hassle’ of managing it;
- Scale the organisation as it needs to without having to plan for significant costs such as technology refreshes (this solution also removes the capacity constraints around mail, data storage and compute power);
- Give the organisation the agility for changing customer journeys.
IT to enable, not hinder
Technology continues to advance and create efficiencies for organisations but, as always, it’s important to plan these things first within the whole IT strategy for the organisation. You need to make sure that any concerns are addressed, the delivery model is well thought out and resources with the correct skills and experience are in place to support a successful delivery. Addressing these points will mean that your organisation is best placed to migrate all business systems and ancillary server-based systems to a public cloud such as Microsoft Azure.
Whether you do this internally or engage a supplier to help with this project, if you currently have an on-premise IT estate then a move to the cloud should result in a more secure solution that is easier to use. Through the web portal, you can manage services quickly and efficiently based on your organisational needs at any point. As with any cloud offering, you only pay for what you use.
Keeping your IT secure
In the cloud, your data is your own and you have complete control over it. The security of your organisation, both physically and technically is vital. Of course, all cloud providers recognise the importance of this. Azure, for example, has 24/7/365 surveillance, environmental protections and extensive secure access policies. While it has data centres across the world, you can choose which region hosts your resources (a ‘must’ with the imminent introduction of GDPR). Microsoft also already works with many organisations and governments and is therefore well positioned for industry-specific compliance standards. As well as making sure your cloud provider ticks all the boxes, we also recommend that you implement a DR site in a secondary location.
Making the cloud move
While timing is important, based on our experience to date we really feel that migrating to the cloud is an affordable and savvy move for any housing provider. It helps to future proof the organisation:
- Always having the latest infrastructure;
- Always having the correct level of maintenance and patching;
- Always having access to the latest technology, services and products;
- Reducing dependency on infrastructure;
- Reducing maintenance and support needs and costs.
As mentioned above, it’s imperative that you engage your application providers in the process and understand their position on migrating their applications to the cloud. For example, we know a number of application providers in the sector who have introduced hard-code into their software, something which has impacted several migrations to the cloud. The good news is, with every successful migration in the sector, the less challenging future migrations will be.
What does the future of public cloud hold?
What next? When your organisation is ready for it… there is also a Microsoft AI platform which seamlessly integrates with your other applications; allowing you to create the next generation of applications with its AI services. The possibilities are endless, but let’s get the migration underway first!
Rob Driver is the sales director at Sovereign Business Integration Group.