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.

4 Ways to Improve Data Security in 2020

The stakes surrounding data security and risk mitigation rise with each passing year. Data breach costs continue to increase and potential threats grow more sophisticated. 

According to IBM, the average total cost of a data breach – after accounting for remediation, reputational damage and regulatory issues – has reached $3.92 million. While smaller organizations may not face expenses that high, addressing an incident could cost tens of thousands of dollars or more.

Security issues can also jeopardize the transition of workloads into the cloud. This prevents organizations from taking advantage of this technology and making progress toward full-scale digital transformation.

Organizations should keep data security at high priority in 2020 and use every opportunity to improve their security posture and safeguard databases, systems, applications, networks and other assets. Backup-as-a-Service solutions, along with more intensive security assessments, personnel training and advanced analytics tools, can play a pivotal role in those efforts.

In the article below, we’ll explore four options for boosting data security capabilities and preventing data breaches in the coming year.

1. Perform regular review and testing of controls

To stay secure, every organization needs a well-defined organizational structure for managing data security needs. Having a comprehensive security governance strategy in place removes confusion and ambiguity regarding security responsibilities. 

For that strategy to work, it requires regular updates to address shifting security requirements, emerging threats and changing best practices. It should be well-maintained between tests to ensure the organization is doing everything possible to prevent or mitigate a data breach.

To get the best results from a security strategy also requires consistent testing to ensure everything is in proper working order and every contingency covered. To that end, testing security controls should be a key priority. Access management is one of the most important components of modern cybersecurity. Compartmentalizing various platforms and databases helps to prevent unauthorized access or compromise to sensitive data and systems.

Revisiting governance this governance strategy also creates accountability both around security as well as workload management. A lack of accountability in these areas is a dangerous financial and security liability. If internal stakeholders don’t understand who’s responsible for data security controls and remediation efforts, organizations may be too slow to respond to a breach and minimize its impact.

2. Conduct security training for all key stakeholders

In the world of data security, your employees can either be a major asset or a huge liability. When staff members understand the malware and security threats facing the organization and know how to distinguish between legitimate and malicious activity, the business is in a far better position to prevent bad actors from penetrating their defenses. 

On the other hand, employees who are unfamiliar with security best practices and common cybercrime strategies put their own organizations at risk. Their accounts make easy targets for securing unauthorized access to sensitive data and applications.

With that in mind, regular and in-depth security training is an essential component of a robust security posture. As employees undergo such training, they begin to understand how an attacker might try to manipulate them. From here, they can recognize potential attacks and respond as necessary. 

Data security has often focused on external threats. But an organization looking to protect its data needs to pay just as much attention – if not more – to breaches that start from the inside. A 2019 survey of more than 1,000 information security leaders revealed that 69% of respondents reported data breaches stemming from an insider threat.

3. Monitor for internal threats – malicious or otherwise

Not all insider threats are malicious. Many of these result from ignorance regarding proper security measures. Poor security hygiene can be a systemic issue that includes everyone from ground-level employees to C-level executives. That same report found that 78% of CSOs and 65% of CEOs had clicked on suspicious links in the past. Moreover, 43% of business leaders use their personal email accounts to share documents and communicate with their colleagues. 

It should be obvious that this behavior presents major security risks. For instance, people often use the same login credentials for various personal accounts. If one is compromised, the rest will be at risk. By using their personal email for business purposes, employees widen the organization’s threat exposure.

Training for all employees will help create a company culture that values data security best practices. Routine training ensures people adhere to them at every level of the organization.

4. Build-in artificial intelligence-based security protection

Data security best practices have shifted from relying on perimeter-focused efforts to crafting strategies around threat remediation and incident response. It’s unfeasible to expect security mechanisms to block every threat and intrusion. Businesses need to prepare for worst-case scenarios. That entails detecting malicious activity after it’s breached perimeter defenses. 

Organizations should monitor their networks for any anomalous behavior that could indicate the presence of a bad actor. The next step is to analyze the available data to spot trends that indicate network or security flaws.

Accurate detection of malicious activity requires constant visibility combined with sophisticated analytics. Organizations can augment their monitoring and threat detection capabilities with the help of artificial intelligence-based security protection. 

AI solutions can analyze more data with a finer level of precision than any human operator could hope to match. They can comb through far more data and identify even the most subtle indication of anomalous behavior. This enables organizations to address cyber threats before they have an opportunity to cause lasting damage. AI-based security tools are also able to update threat signatures in real-time.  Meanwhile, they also help businesses keep up with cybercriminal activity and the rapid release of new malware strains.

Build up IT resilience to weather the data security storm

Given the high cost of a data breach, businesses need to make a concerted effort to upgrade their security strategies in this coming year. New threats will continue to emerge and exploit lingering vulnerabilities. Having the support of an expert MSP that constantly monitors your network and adheres to the latest security best practices will significantly reduce the risk of a costly data breach.

To learn how to introduce scalable and reliable data backup solutions into your digital transformation strategy, download our guide “6 Practices for Better IT Resiliency Planning”.

Check our previous articles in this series, “3 Ways Your Infrastructure is Preventing IT Resilience” and “Is Your Risk Mitigation Strategy Resilient Enough?“.

Protect your critical data and applications with our turnkey Backup as a Service solution. Reinforced by our deep understanding of data center and network technologies and enterprise-grade managed services, this offering helps you resolve issues faster and free IT resources to refocus on business transformation. 

Is Your Risk Mitigation Strategy Resilient Enough?

When your system goes down, it’s a disaster – plain and simple.  

Whether it’s a ransomware attack that’s shut users out of their email or a software glitch that’s knocked over an e-commerce portal, end users don’t care about the cause of an outage.  

They expect the systems they rely on to be “always-on.” 

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