The how of the cloud: Some FAQs on tackling cloud projects

Do you have some questions about your organisation's cloud journey? These answers might help.

  1. If I'm thinking of driving my public sector organisation towards using the cloud, where do I start? 

    Select some small projects, identify low hanging fruit and do some trialling, generate proof of concepts. Start with a group of users who need collaboration say, or test and development workloads.

  2. Who are the key people to cultivate within the organisation to drive forward a cloud based approach? Realistically, should this be business rather than IT-driven? 

    The Board needs to understand the business benefits in terms of cost savings, not just in IT but across the business, and also transformational benefits such as improved service or service innovation.

  3. Other than email and storage, what are other applications that a cloud approach would be applicable for in the public sector? 

    Almost anything - it's limited only by imagination. HR, finance, email, collaboration, video and audio conferencing. We already have a wide variety of workloads and apps. Certainly any processes that are customer/citizen facing are ideal in terms of data security.

  4. And what are the future ones that might lend themselves to a cloud approach? 

    One main advantage of the cloud approach is the ability for it to scale and manage massive change in demand almost instantly; solutions where future computing power demand is either unknown or hard to predict such as public facing web sites and front line services that can see peaks at certain periods.

  5. Where does hybrid cloud fit in to a cloud strategy? 

    Hybrid cloud is all about consuming various cloud services with different service level agreement (SLAs). Public cloud will have fixed availability and security terms for a typically lower price point than private cloud services which may have more customisability and higher security. You will have data, users and workloads that are maybe appropriate for these different cloud services depending on requirements. It's a case of one size rarely fits all. So a hybrid cloud approach means being able to consume different services, but in the case of Microsoft, not have to grapple with different technologies. Microsoft has a unique proposition in the market which means that our customers can consume various different types of cloud services but use the same technology. A good example is email. Outlook is the common client but Exchange Server services can come from an on-premise instance, a private cloud service from one of our partners, or from our public cloud O365 service. This applies to many of our technologies including Lync, Sharepoint, SQL, Dynamics.

  6. How do you see the adoption of cloud developing over the next 18 months? 

    As the market matures and trust and confidence builds, more services will become available with more choice. The number of suppliers on the G-Cloud Framework already demonstrates the wide range of services and this is a great example of the choice already available.

  7. Be honest, what are the drawbacks that as an organisation you have to consider in moving to the cloud? 

    Skills will need to change. The culture will change. Commercial arrangements with suppliers will be different. These are big challenges for the management team. You will need stronger governance around security and risk assessment. Network connectivity becomes important and IT will move from big bang projects to iterative change. These all require thinking through.

  8. My organisation wants to move to the cloud but it wants to take a cautious, baby steps approach. I read that one council wished it had been more ambitious in its cloud approach. So how do you get the balance right? 

    It all depends on the appetite for change and the culture of the organisation to cope with change. The management team needs to ensure the plan to transition to cloud services strikes the right balance. If some organisations go too fast the expected benefits may not transpire straightaway. However, our experience has found that once customers make that step and start experiencing the benefits, flexibility innovation and speed of cloud services it sparks a waterfall of new ideas and further business transformation.

  9. What has Microsoft - and its partners - learned about The "How of the Cloud"? 

    The idea behind "How of the Cloud" was to cut through the hype and so-called "cloud wash" and the "What" and get down to the nitty of the "How". How do we start the journey to the cloud? We have spoken to many customers and partners about their early experiences from the cloud and this has formed the basis of our Seven Steps to Cloud Heaven and the Cloud eBook which distil down some key points and recurring themes that if followed will help to improve the chances of success. There is no silver bullet with adopting cloud services as many would have you believe, but it is definitely the future and we want to help all our customers make a full assessment of the options with their eyes wide open. Understanding the art of the possible, having a clear plan, building the business case and trying out various services are all useful in starting the journey to the cloud.

  10. What do you think of G-Cloud? How do you see it developing? 

    The government's G-Cloud Framework, the CloudStore and the overall Cloud First policy is a superb accomplishment and really provides a North Star for all public sector organisations in thinking about, assessing procuring and using cloud services. The principles of price transparency; one price for all; pay as you go; commodity, choice and flexibility are principles we fully support. We are very committed to the G-Cloud project and are the first public cloud service provider to provide IL2 accreditation for our O365, Azure and CRM Dynamics Online cloud services. Also it's not just about Microsoft. We have over 150 Microsoft partners on the Cloudstore, most of whom are SMEs, offering a wide variety of services, apps and consulting based on the Microsoft cloud platforms. This helps to support the UK business ecosystem and there are lots of great examples of the innovation they are bringing to a wide range of public sector customers.

  11. Are privacy and security as issues still as important to a Cvoud approach as they once were? Are they still a reason not to 'do' cloud? 

    Privacy and security are super critical - and always will be. We are relentless in our pursuit of having the most secure cloud services available. Our ten year old trustworthy computing initiative now extends to our cloud services and in the same way that all of us have trust when we allow Microsoft to update the software on our PCs and other devices, we aim to earn trust with our cloud services.

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