How to Solve 4 Common Cloud Management Challenges

Your organization has implemented cloud services like infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) or platform-as-a-service (PaaS) in your environment. You are considering taking a cloud-first approach for new workloads, making cloud the new standard for application delivery.

Due to current economic pressures, you have a mandate to maximize efficiency and bring costs under control. You may also be tasked to deliver on projects that will help the business compete and thrive once recovery begins.

You want to make these things happen, but run into the same challenges facing many cloud adopters:

  • You are exceeding your planned cloud budget but don’t have enough data to pinpoint the source of those unexpected costs. Or you don’t have a consistent way to drive accountability for line of business (LOB) departments that are commissioning cloud resources on their own.
  • Senior management is concerned about security and compliance in the cloud (as they should be), your IT team has limited tools to enforce its policies.
  • The business relies on cloud infrastructure and services to be always-on, but IT hasn’t had the time or resources to establish a formal structure for cloud operations.
  • Many of your IT staff are comfortable in a traditional data center, but public cloud infrastructure skills are hard to hire for and often come at a premium. Perhaps you would like to retrain staff, but your team needs to spend most of its time maintaining current operations.

With the right tools, policies and partnerships, however, you can get a greater impact from your cloud investments and refocus on business priorities.

We’ll examine the cloud management benefits of improving visibility and accountability for cloud costs, establishing effective cloud governance, enhancing the efficiency and resilience of cloud operations and closing gaps in public cloud infrastructure skills.

Improving Visibility and Accountability for Cloud Costs

When you migrated some critical workloads to public cloud IaaS and PaaS, you probably learned fast that the same approaches that apply on-premise infrastructure don’t always work in the cloud.

In the cloud, approaches like over-provisioning resources to meet demand often drive up unnecessary spend. At the same time, public cloud services make it relatively easy to commission new resources, allowing LOB departments to spin up new instances outside the purview of the IT department. If some of these are left idle or underutilized, the result is further wasted spend.

Relying on usage and cost data available from their cloud provider alone, you may not be receiving all the information you need to allocate the costs in your cloud environment. This in turn makes it more difficult to build an accurate picture of ROI for key initiatives.

By introducing tools to automate cost allocation, you get clearer visibility into exactly where cloud costs are coming from.  This allows the IT team to identify and decommission idle and underutilized resources. Meanwhile, you are also better equipped to bill or show back cloud costs to the appropriate LOB departments, driving greater accountability and awareness of cloud value.

By rounding out your team with a cloud managed service partner (MSP), you can also benefit from ongoing advice and mentorship on ways to eliminate unnecessary spending in the cloud and better manage burst and elastic spend.

Looking for more guidance on cost management in the cloud? Watch the webinar on-demand

Establishing Effective Cloud Governance

Early in your cloud journey, you may have learned the substantial difference between security and compliance in the cloud and the data center. While shifting to the cloud offsets some security and regulatory compliance responsibilities to the public cloud provider, the cloud consumer retains some core accountabilities.

From our experience at Softchoice, many new public cloud adopters make decisions quickly and in a decentralized manner, which results in manual efforts that in turn lead to sprawling patchworks of configuration standards.

Here, a formal governance model – a framework with a set of policies and standard practices for cost optimization, resiliency, security, or compliance – is vital for keeping the entire organization on track.

While Forrester indicates that IT teams should dedicate 10% to 15% of cross-functional resources to governance activities, many IT departments are stretched thin and don’t have the time to spare [1].

As Forrester recommends, a formal governance program starts with federated approach to continuous improvement and management guided by a central cloud advisory board. As an extension of this team, a formal cloud management role or group can help define and enforce standards and best practices.

In distributed or siloed cloud environments, it’s important to have a central place for cloud practitioners to share best practices.

For newer cloud adopters or organizations with lower confidence in their cloud capabilities, a cloud MSP will help select and implement the standards and tools necessary to monitor the health, usage, security threats and compliance across multiple cloud environments. They can also lend support in tracking and enforcing governance policies through automated cloud deployments based on built-in standards.

An effective formal governance model is critical to success in the cloud. Download the Forrester Report.

Enhancing the Efficiency and Resilience of Cloud Operations

When it comes to deploying new cloud services, you may have found it difficult to ensure your cloud infrastructure resilient and optimized for performance.  When your cloud infrastructure is serving critical applications and services, however, stabilizing the environment and operations to keep supporting your critical business applications is paramount.

Some of our cloud customers have found that when they need to access support from a public cloud provider, they spend a long time navigating complex phone trees and escalation paths to reach the best person to solve the problem. While these providers deliver the best support possible, the sheer volume of clientele makes it difficult to offer service tailored to a given organization’s environment or needs.

With the help of an MSP, you can adopt a turnkey operational model that addresses the processes, people and skills required to effectively manage their public cloud resources. Many MSPs are also equipped to help you take advantage of public cloud provider programs and incentives to reduce your cloud costs and build the best cloud setup for your needs.

Are you struggling to balance innovation projects with effective cloud governance? Get the guide.

Closing the Gaps in Public Cloud Infrastructure Skills and Experience

When your journey to the cloud began, you likely faced a considerable challenge: limited or no in-house expertise related to cloud management best practices.

In fact, Gartner indicates that by 2022, insufficient cloud IaaS skills will delay half of enterprise cloud migrations by 2 or more years [1].

Without these skills however, understanding cloud cost drivers, deploying cloud resources effectively and monitoring the health and performance in the environment becomes an uphill struggle.

We find that when many Softchoice customers have attempted to build cloud operations team in-house, they quickly hit a proverbial brick wall – demand for cloud-native skills far exceeds the current supply. Those with cloud experience have become rare and expensive to recruit.

Meanwhile, taking the time out to retrain and upskill internal IT staff on cloud skills risks leaving the current environment unmaintained. It also creates the possibility that investment in cloud knowledge or certification could leave the organization when somebody moves on to another opportunity.

With an MSP relationship in place, your IT team has the option to offload the operation and maintenance of their cloud services and infrastructure to a certified team of engineers. Meanwhile, some MSPs will provide ongoing training sessions to build cloud expertise within your team while moving at their own pace.

The results? In many cases, by working with an MSP you can operate your cloud environment at a lower cost than hiring, receive 24/7 support and remain safe in the knowledge that your staff are receiving ongoing education from cloud certified engineers.

What Are Your Next Steps?

If you plan to adopt or have recently adopted public cloud, one or more of these examples may have hit home. With the rapid adoption of public cloud, many organizations are looking to optimize costs and ensure they grow their cloud environments in a way that supports smart, sustainable growth.

But balancing your cloud journey with other IT and business priorities is a common – yet surmountable – challenge. Wherever you find yourself on your cloud transformation journey, Softchoice is positioned to help.

Explore Softchoice Managed Cloud Services.

[1] “4 Trends Impacting Cloud Adoption in 2020,” Smarter with Gartner, January 2020.

The Case for Backing Up Office 365

Whether or not you agree that OK Computer, the third album by the English rock band Radiohead released in 1997, deserved its critical acclaim, know that the Library of Congress had already deemed the album “critically, historically, or aesthetically significant” when it was included in the National Recording Registry in 2014.

What cannot be disputed is that Radiohead has more than a little experience in dealing with data loss. The darker side of technology OK Computer foreshadowed became a reality 22 years after it was released when a hacker stole 18 hours of recordings, including unreleased content intended for the band’s next album. Rather than caving into the hacker’s demands for a $150,000 ransom, Radiohead pre-empted the hack and released all 18 hours of material and donated the proceeds to charity.

Most IT professionals, however, don’t have the same freedom as legendary rock bands to take the bold steps of calling an attacker’s bluff and releasing sensitive data. The burdens of mitigating the damage to an organization’s reputation and preventing serious outages falls on the shoulders of IT teams often working with limited time and resources.

In Office 365, Microsoft takes responsibility for ensuring the infrastructure is always up and running. Your IT team, on the other hand, takes charge when it comes to protecting the data generated and stored in Office 365.  We created the following infographic to help you understand the consequences of misaligned expectations around data protection in Office 365.

In today’s technology landscape, a solid backup and recovery strategy is critical to survival.

Working with a partner like Softchoice helps you cut through the complexity and select the best solutions for your Office 365 backup and recovery needs.

Looking to better protect your Office 365 data? Register for a free trial.

Jennifer Reed is Senior Manager – Solutions Architecture at Softchoice 

Softchoice Virtual Discovery Expo 2020: The Highlights

The Softchoice Virtual Discovery Expo (VDX) 2020 has now wrapped.

Over 2,000 people registered to hear from Softchoice and our exhibitor partners about the areas driving their digital transformation today. This year, our full-day virtual tech expo happened in a much different context than the inaugural event in 2019.

Attendees took away an important message: The current global crisis and its impacts have forced many organizations to embrace change. Done the right way, however, this change will be a catalyst to re-imagine the way they approach transforming through technology.

Now that they have taken steps to adapt to change, secure and stabilize business operations and find efficiencies, VDX participants learned how these steps lay the foundation to make them more agile, more efficient and more secure as they travel the road to recovery.

Among those we surveyed, enabling secure and productive remote work, protecting data, adopting and managing cloud infrastructure were the most compelling topics. While some were still adjusting to remote work or found that they were ready to move to the next stage of their recovery, most respondents told us they were still in the middle of that journey.

While there were enough topics covered to fill several articles, we’ve put together a recap of the biggest highlights from VDX 2020.

Digital Transformation in a Time of Crisis

 Keynote by Aaron Brooks, Sr. Director – Strategy & GTM Enablement at Softchoice

Our reality is changing and pivoting to adopt the right agile strategy is more important than ever. Softchoice’s Senior Director of Strategy and GTM Enablement Aaron Brooks kicked off VDX 2020 by exploring the ways organizations are positioning themselves for growth and success in recovery.

The Highlights:

  • Digital transformation isn’t on hold, it’s just pointed at new problems. New ways to go-to-market in times of necessity will drive growth on the road to economic recovery and beyond.
  • It’s time to ask, “What does our organization really need?” Anxiety around IT costs has raised the need to re-allocate resources to keep your business working.
  • When times are tough, lean on your core values. Staying connected not only as a business but as people has been at the center of our journey to recovery.

Watch the full keynote on demand

The Evolution of Remote Collaboration

Keynote by John MacDonald, Head of Americas Productivity & Collaboration Specialists at Google

John MacDonald, Head of Americas Productivity and Collaboration Specialists at Google, delivered a keynote examining the trends influencing the current communication and collaboration landscape and what we can expect to see in the near and medium terms.

The Highlights:

  • The status quo needs to change. Businesses are realizing the urgent need for collaboration tools at all levels, but still face issues around siloed information and lack of IT security.   
  • People want flexible workforce functionality. Organizations need collaboration tools that support work/life balance and allow teams to adopt quickly and collaborate securely.
  • Everyone’s situation is unique. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to providing secure, smart, simple collaboration solutions.

Watch the full keynote on demand 

How to Achieve Simplified and Highly Effective Security Operations

Keynote by Mike Storm, Distinguished Engineer, Security Business Group at Cisco

In a time of uncertainty, you need a cybersecurity solution with your best interests in mind. Mike Storm, Distinguished Engineer with the Business Security Group at Cisco, explained a three-pillared approach to successful security operations based on quality threat intelligence.

The Highlights:

  • Security controls are only as effective as the threat intelligence they act on. Any security solution depends on access to current, accurate and usable information to remain effective.
  • The more you see, the more you can stop. Unmatched visibility into threats helps protect against them before attackers can exploit vulnerabilities.
  • Organizations need to stay protected after Day 1. Effective security operations depend on a collective, collaborative approach to threat protection.

Watch the full keynote on demand 

Ready to Re-Imagine Your Digital Transformation?

This is just a sample of the insights our exhibitors and partners shared with attendees at VDX 2020.

As you define your journey from continuity and stability through efficiency and recovery, it’s important to recognize the ways the new reality will help you compete and thrive once there.

If you didn’t attend or there was something you missed it’s not too late to take advantage of on-demand breakout sessions, keynotes and downloadable content from our 35+ exhibitors.

No matter where you are on your road to recovery, our team of experts and product specialists are ready to help. 

Explore Softchoice Rapid Response Services