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The many benefits of Cloud don't materialize on their own

Cloud adaptation yields many benefits: cost savings, scalability, and access to new services that can boost innovation and reduce time to market. Just don't expect those benefits to appear spontaneously. Proper planning, careful management, and the right partner are all vital to Cloud success.

The journey to the cloud can result in a multitude of benefits. Among the respondents to NNIT's Expectation Barometer 2020, cost savings was the main benefit for 44 percent, closely followed by an increase in quality (40 percent), and access to new services leading to greater innovation (37 percent). Only a small fraction of the respondents (11 percent) reported no Cloud-specific benefits.

That cost savings tops the list does not surprise Brian Troelsen, Business Development Director at NNIT:

"Historically, the key drivers for making the move to Cloud have been around gaining basic cost savings. Our experience is that while Cloud usually provides an excellent potential for reducing your spending, you need very close management of costs once you are in the cloud to be in control. Financial transparency, a Cloud-specific approach, and a competent partner are all key factors", says Troelsen.

"An analogy could be comparing Cloud and on-premise to using a taxi versus owning a car. An occasional cab ride to the airport might be cheaper than buying your own car, but not if you leave the taxi in the parking lot with the meter running between flights. Likewise, the potential to increase quality depends on your existing setup."

The cloud is built for remote access
NNIT's Expectation Barometer 2020 was conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, which the results also reflect. As many organizations were suddenly forced to operate in a setting of nationwide lockdowns that required widespread remote work, some leveraged the benefits of Cloud to overcome some of the restrictions and challenges posed by the pandemic. Two areas scored especially high among those who responded to the survey after the global outbreak of COVID-19: Access to new services (37 percent) and improvement of scalability (28 percent).

"The cloud is built for remote access, which is naturally a benefit during a global pandemic with quarantine restrictions and social distancing. We expect the migration to the cloud to continue, even accelerate, once we are past the peak of the virus' impact", says Troelsen.

The trouble with talent
In many ways, the crisis has served to highlight some of the main benefits of Cloud. However, being able to leverage those benefits is not guaranteed. The responses to NNIT's Expectation Barometer revealed that several barriers must be overcome to take full advantage of Cloud.

The main barrier is familiar to anyone working in IT: Availability of talent. The fact that 40 percent of the respondents highlighted this revealed that the challenge has a significant lead over other barriers, such as managing the complexity of various Cloud partners and legacy infrastructure (35 percent) and security concerns (34 percent).

"I think most organizations have experienced the difficulties in both attracting and retaining the right talent. Especially once the most exciting transformation projects are done and you move to a more operational mode, you often risk that your best specialists move on to the next transformation project elsewhere", says Troelsen, and advises:

"To prevent high staff turnover among talented specialists, it is important to consider both development and operations when recruiting. Enlisting the help of an independent partner to assist with operations and maintenance is also a good way to reduce your dependency on key members of your IT staff and thus build resilience against loss of talent."

Learning to balance legacy and Cloud
The responses also confirmed the fact that while a Cloud-native strategy might be popular with newer start-up and scale-up companies, it is rarely a viable option for more mature organizations.

"Most existing organizations were not born in the cloud and thus have a complex legacy infrastructure that needs to be considered. Not all your workloads are ready for the cloud, and some might never move to the cloud. Therefore, we recommend a Hybrid Cloud approach for clients with an extensive legacy infrastructure", says NNIT's Business Development Director.

A Hybrid Cloud approach requires you to pay more attention to managing your integrations, especially considering the frequent releases of new features and updates common to many Cloud and SaaS services.

"Your use of Cloud rarely happens in a vacuum and updates may have an impact on your integrations with other infrastructure and applications. This is especially important to be aware of if you operate in a regulated industry where compliance and validation of your digital systems is essential", notes Troelsen.

Cloud security is different, not more difficult
As the responses show, security is also seen as a barrier to moving into the cloud. But those concerns are frequently based on myths and misconceptions, Troelsen points out:

"You must evaluate whether you are actually more secure with an on-premise setup and what the internal costs of keeping up with security standards are going to be going forward. In many cases, a Cloud provider is better equipped to ensure the security of critical infrastructure. But the roles and responsibilities shift in the cloud, for instance, requiring Cloud users to pay more to encrypt their data and configure access to applications and Cloud storage."