Halfway There: Cloud Migration and Managing a Mixed Environment

by Kaitlin McCloughan, in Cloud Automation, posted 10/26/16
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How best to leverage cloud solutions is a discussion happening in organizations across every industry. In order to better understand the challenges and concerns businesses have when migrating their systems and applications to the cloud, HelpSystems recently conducted a survey of over 250 professionals in a variety of organizations. We’ll be sharing the full results, insights, and suggested solutions soon. One of the most obvious conclusions of the survey is that the majority of respondents (65 percent) are operating partially in the cloud and partially on premise.

Everyone’s in the Cloud

About 69 percent of survey respondents were operating at least partially in the cloud at the time of the survey, and 86 percent said they expected to have some systems and applications in the cloud within the next year. This number could potentially be even higher than reported, as it’s common in many organizations for business departments to adopt solutions to solve their specific problems without involving IT. Although these applications are being used independently, in some cases it might be valuable to consider integrating them with the rest of the IT environment.

And Everyone’s On Premise

Even if migrating everything to the cloud is an attractive dream for the future, it’s very rare for companies not to have on premise infrastructure. In fact, out of the 254 companies in the survey, only 16 were operating completely in the cloud, and most of those were small businesses. For larger organizations and those with more complex infrastructures, moving to the cloud can be complicated by budget constraints, security concerns, integration problems, and other issues.

For that reason, cloud migration tends to be a gradual process. Our survey looked into how companies approach deciding which applications to migrate, and we found that the strategies varied widely. The most common concern was whether migrating a particular application fit into the budget, but there are plenty of other factors to consider. Some businesses are taking the approach of putting all new applications into the cloud while leaving older systems in place, while others are held back by security concerns or industry regulations that affect certain applications.

A few respondents based their migration strategy primarily on how well applications integrated with existing systems. One company had the policy of storing all critical data in the cloud, while others said critical data had to be on premise for security reasons. One respondent mentioned taking the time to test each app for its performance in the cloud before making a decision.

Regardless of the decision-making strategy each IT department chooses, it’s clear that the majority of organizations will be operating in a mixed environment for a long time—maybe indefinitely. And that can make day-to-day tasks more complicated.  

Processes Span Servers

The benefits of automation—like cost savings and increased productivity—are clear. That’s why 61 percent of our survey respondents are automating their work in some way. Unfortunately, when companies using a variety of disparate systems start to automate without an adequate integration solution, the result tends to be islands of automation. Business applications frequently have built-in tools to schedule tasks for a certain time of day or day of the week. However, the automated tasks in each application can’t be integrated with each other or use data from a different system. Some survey respondents also mentioned using job schedulers like cron that only automate tasks on a single server or single platform.

The problem is that your IT operations are not an assortment of unrelated tasks, but a system of interconnected processes that span the enterprise. For example, 38 percent of respondents said their organization has to transfer data between on premise and cloud applications on a regular basis. 36 percent said they had to regularly back up local network data to the cloud. To automate these processes, an organization needs an automation tool that can integrate with any application they use, regardless of where it’s hosted.

Integration is a Problem

Based on our survey, application integration is a major obstacle to efficiently orchestrated cross-platform environments. 40 percent of respondents listed issues of integration between cloud and on premise systems or the coordination of scheduled jobs between local and cloud servers as issues posing a challenge to their cloud migration plans.

The volume of data that businesses collect has skyrocketed over the last few years, and enterprises are eager to leverage this data for valuable business insights. However, for data to be useful, it has to be fully integrated across the enterprise. When moving data between systems or backing data up to a different system isn’t easy, valuable information goes unused. Read our previous study on data management to learn more about how insufficient data integration and automation is holding companies back.

Automation isn’t Adequate

The two most common types of automation solutions that survey respondents use are job schedulers and homegrown solutions.

Homegrown solutions are a common first step towards automation, but as your business scales, the time needed to manage and update them becomes unreasonable. Furthermore, they are prone to error and when something goes wrong, there’s no support team to call.

“Job scheduler” can mean many things, from a basic scheduler like Windows Task Scheduler that comes built into a single machine, to a comprehensive tool that spans the environment and provides enterprise-class features like event-driven schedules, automatic notifications, high availability, and audit reports. Our survey shows that job schedulers are more popular with companies that haven’t migrated many applications to the cloud, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Organizations looking to increase their cloud infrastructure in the future should consider now if they need an enterprise-class automation solution capable of efficiently managing processes in a complex environment.

The most common applications to deploy in the cloud include email, CRM systems, help desk software, and accounting applications. In other words, a lot of the people using cloud applications are business users, not IT professionals. For this reason, enterprises should consider a code-free business process automation or robotic process automation platform. These solutions—only used by 12 percent of our respondents currently—allow users in various non-technical departments to manage their own automated process if needed.

In the modern business environment, automation isn’t optional. Given that the majority of us now rely on both cloud and on premise systems, truly integrated automation is critical to achieving business goals.