Pre-adoption key to smooth cloud rollout

Cloud service adopter offers tips for organizations also thinking of moving onto cloud computing, touting benefits of pre-adoption preparation.

The Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Singapore (ICPAS) attributes the "smooth transition and rollout" of its cloud service adoption to its pre-adoption preparations, said its president.

While the general perception for going onto cloud is simply a matter of getting an Internet connection and turning on the switch, Ernest Kan, president of ICPAS, said pre-adoption activities are important. In an e-mail interview with ZDNet Asia, he shared that the institute conducted pre-adoption exercises beforehand to mitigate surprises and encourage buy-in within the organization. These ranged from evaluation of the solutions to detailed discussions with the cloud provider and implementation partner, as well as training sessions with end users.

According to Kan, ICPAS chose to move to the cloud platform in the second quarter of this year as part of its three-year IT Master Plan to upgrade its IT infrastructure.

To help other companies considering a similar move to the cloud platform, he outlined a checklist:

  1. Identify the objectives behind moving to a cloud platform.
  2. Identify pain points and wish lists to guide decision-making and keep priorities clear.
  3. Research cloud service providers and companies using cloud systems to help make informed decisions.
  4. Be clear on the evaluation criteria and priorities and create a comparison matrix between free and paid services.
  5. Create a project plan based on research. This should include a timeline, budget, systems and people lists. It is important as data migration is a very important and time-consuming step.
  6. Select services and plans to complete the transition.
Weighing options
In assessing potential cloud service providers, Kan said: "Our major concerns before the move were related to access security, backup, ease of use and the provider's service responses." ICPAS considered cloud services from providers such as Salesforce.com, NetSuite and Microsoft, before eventually settling on Google Apps to tap on the company's more advanced Google Search, Web analytics and Google Maps.

He shared four tips for organizations in their search for a cloud provider:

  1. Find out how secure the applications are, and how to backup data.
  2. Get demonstrations of the applications to have an idea of what it will be like to use them.
  3. Make sure the applications have Open APIs to be able to link to other systems.
  4. Study the terms and conditions in the contract and the Service Level Agreements to understand how you are protected legally in terms of security, confidentiality, and service level agreements.
Due diligence needed for cloud deployment
Sally Parker, research director of data center trends & technologies at Frost & Sullivan, told ZDNet Asia in a phone interview that organizations should approach cloud computing projects with the same due diligence as they would approach internal deployments.

Parker added that cloud providers which are carrier neutral and can have multiple different carriers provide services to their data centers have a much better provision, echoing Kan's point about Open APIs.

She added that public clouds are most attractive to small and midsized businesses as they do not have the same resources as companies which have invested heavily in data centers to ensure against outages.

With reference to cloud outages, Parker said public cloud providers actually provide a better level of availability than SMBs which cannot afford to do so in-house. "SMBs don't have the funds to invest as heavily in IT, so they may not have the same level of security or availability that a public cloud provider provides them," she added.

With regard to the speed of cloud deployment, Jeremy Cooper, regional vice president marketing APAC at Salesforce.com, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail that deploying cloud services "can in theory be as quick as signing up for any service online" as compared to traditional software deployment which can take "months or years".

Martin Yates, managing director of TechniCom, a Singapore-based consultancy firm focusing on virtualization solutions, observed that cloud computing has its benefits and risks, and that many companies are opting to create a cloud-style service "in-house" as a stepping stone to the "big [public] cloud".