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Cloud adoption questions every IT admin should ask

For all of a cloud service's benefits, there are limitations, such as restricted access to infrastructure, that cause IT teams to be leery of adoption.

Cloud computing is IT's future, and the future is happening today. Evangelists and vendors alike tout cloud adoption as the answer to all IT-related problems, while it enriches a business's ability to outperform its competitors. And there is truth to these claims, but as with all things IT, there's no universal solution.

What do you do when the cloud adoption path is dictated by upper management to the IT department? Ask a lot of questions. While cloud adoption benefits, such as decreased infrastructure management and responsibility, sound like no-brainers to some, the IT industry has seen this type of transition many times, and it rarely goes smoothly.

IT admins with skills in infrastructure management should apply this experience to cloud selection and migration, while working within the constraints of a cloud provider's control. They need to assess and manage the hosting requirements of all workloads that are slated for cloud adoption, including how to perform authentication and utilize communication networks on the cloud resources.

Bumpy migration

Changing tools or platforms is akin to moving out of a house. You don't recall what's stored in the basement, nor are you prepared for how long it will take to go through every forgotten box. Cloud migration won't be a quick project, and it starts with an inventory of what's in place, if those items are needed and how -- or even if -- they will work on the new platform.

While these legacy on-prem deployments are complex and often underdocumented, the IT admin can migrate or even alter components of the system as needed -- not so when a cloud provider controls the physical data center, security and other aspects of IT infrastructure. Cloud service adoption is a struggle as the business is accustomed to IT staff using their collective knowledge and authority to solve any problem. When something breaks at the cloud provider's end, IT must log the issue with the vendor and wait for resolution. This shift in responsibility sounds like a selling point of cloud adoption, but in reality, management and users will continue to blame the IT department, which is now powerless to address many problems.

Even tackling one migration to the cloud becomes a game of cat and mouse in the world's largest pet shop.

It only takes a few outages and hiccups for staff to get frustrated and demand better performance. In addition to major outages that make the news, some issues at cloud providers affect only small subsets of customers or even just a single instance that you rely on. While you could complain to the cloud provider, it's largely a fruitless task.

Cloud reservations

The IT operations team supports the ongoing management and performance of on-premises environments -- and now the cloud as well. This expanse of support is taxing; to make several cloud transitions simultaneously asks too much of the IT operations team.

Even tackling one migration to the cloud becomes a game of cat and mouse in the world's largest pet shop, depending on the application that the team chooses to modernize. Legacy requirements -- especially those with strange or unique communication methods between dependent components -- must have resilient and organized new communication pathways mapped out for the new environment. Sys admins must determine how to direct user access to this new cloud tool or platform: Can they read from a central source, such as Azure Active Directory, or must IT create, manage and remove accounts manually?

IT operations staff must also know if the cloud service offers multifactor authentication and the nature of the service-level agreements for coverage in both outages and fault resolution.

Data management is another thorny issue in cloud service adoption: Which browsers does the cloud service support, and how does it handle data loss? Can the cloud provider -- or the user organization -- recover that data, and what's the turnaround time? In what locations does the vendor actually store its customers' data?

For any cloud platform or tool in consideration, involve IT -- and especially IT operations. Business staff members worry about system functionality and how it makes their job easier, but they don't know to ask other questions when they've never managed an application throughout its lifecycle. IT operations admins, on the other hand, have a vested interest in asking the right questions to understand the technical impact on the company, even if, in the end, they're not responsible to manage the chosen tool or platform.

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