Cloud can be a make-or-break moment for a small business. Get cloud implementation right, and costs can be controlled with operations scaled up proportionately and enhanced. Get it wrong, and cloud storage, data and company operations can be compromised. Costs can spiral, particularly when using the public cloud for your start-up.
Initially, cloud adoption can seem easy. On the face of things, you no longer need expensive, unwieldy on-premises infrastructure, nor do you need to know how the technology works or even where the service is hosted. You only need a web browser and a credit card to purchase a cloud product to get going.
Yet as your startup grows, you will face the complexity of integrating with other applications and geographies. This can result in surprisingly high running costs on the public cloud as well as data retention, security and regulatory challenges. You can also incur excess charges for taking data out of the cloud or moving data between clouds, which can mount up to a significant cost.
How start-ups should implement cloud
What should start-ups consider as their data requirements grow with them? And how can they tackle these challenges? Here are some tips:
Choose your cloud and making it work
Moving your business to the cloud means you can store data as you need it, buying in software in accordance with your growth. Data can also be stored across multiple servers, which helps protect against data loss or cyberattacks affecting all your data stored in one place.
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However, transferring data to the cloud will not eliminate the need to manage legacy technology platforms. Sharing data between inflexible public clouds can be complex, and network bottlenecks can occur when transferring large amounts of data over the slow public internet. Although public clouds enable affordable data storage initially, over time, the costs associated with storing larger amounts of data on the public cloud can be harder to control.
This is why larger companies may opt for a hybrid cloud infrastructure, which are private clouds connecting with public ones which can better control costs. Yet when companies deploy public cloud services and add private cloud capabilities to them, security requirements become harder to supervise.
Where responsibility lies for security can be difficult to identify without a defined adoption strategy. Many companies struggle to create a defined model, and the shared responsibility model used by public cloud companies can be difficult to navigate.
An understanding of your existing IT environment and the interdependencies between your application platforms are critical to making the right migration decisions. This needs a single view of trusted data, but this may not always be available, because the applications running on the servers or the interdependencies between applications are often contained in a range of systems or databases.
This complexity can, in part, be remedied by implementing network-as-a-service solutions to help a business scale up. NaaS treats networks and computing resources as a unified whole, bringing programmable a range of cloud systems and internet exchanges under one, better-connected roof.
Using a NaaS platform, businesses can create on-demand and direct connections to different cloud providers and manage all their connections through one web portal or application programming interface connecting computer systems. NaaS’s consumption-based model means customers only pay for the connectivity they use, enabling users to increase bandwidth whenever they need to — rather than locking them into lengthy contracts and complex billing.
This flexibility is important for small businesses, as it gives the ability to scale up their data capacity as needed, and access to an affordable network to flex with their demands, rather than being tied to unwieldy legacy infrastructures. This process can be automated through APIs integrated with your network that can respond to changing data requirements.
Maintain cloud security
As your organization grows, your business needs to access more cloud providers and cloud regions, which can increase security risks. Businesses can respond by deploying strong authentication software and protocols the moment the business launches. They must also be aware of the lines of ownership. Many small organizations assume the responsibility lies with the cloud service provider for network security. The responsibility often lies with the cloud user.
Businesses must remain aware of where their data is stored, and what national laws to obey. To address security and regulatory compliance, cloud-native organizations should seek direct connections and private networks.
Compared to the public internet, a direct connection provides better protection against cyberattacks, while also providing greater visibility of your network traffic. This is important when shifting data between clouds or when needing the network traffic to remain within local data residency laws. By avoiding the public internet and using a dedicated connection to the cloud, start-ups can better protect their cybersecurity and compliance.
Note capacity needs
Businesses will rely on a shared public internet connection in their early stages. This can be a problem when transferring large amounts of data — for example, a video data file.
If your business needs more capacity for hybrid cloud applications, use multiple connection points through direct cloud connections. NaaS can be a solution, as it gives start-ups access to a high-performance network infrastructure usually the reserve of larger enterprises.
Keep data backed up
Many companies don’t adequately test their ability to restore their backups. This is significant for cloud backups as network latency can increase restoration time.
Businesses must regularly test their ability to restore cloud backups and create a holistic testing plan that ensures staff understand how to perform data recovery. Implement monthly re-storage of your systems, files and applications with checks to ensure the data is valid and accessible. NaaS can also be used for automated data backup and recovery between clouds.
Avoid vendor lock-in
Once all your systems have been moved to the cloud, beware of being committed to the same vendor as their prices increase, or when cheaper options can be found elsewhere. This is important given the decreasing costs of cloud services. Avoid vendor lock-in by implementing a multi-cloud solution and setting up the cloud architecture with maximum interoperability.
NaaS needs a network source of truth before networks can be activated. This truth allows the network to retrieve data. Make sure these resources are accessible through an API and managed with automation software to make this task easier and more accurate.
Use a multi-cloud strategy and APIs
The adoption of multi-cloud has enabled organizations to take a best-of-breed approach to cloud infrastructure. The hallmark of multi-cloud is the decentralisation of IT. This means the IT, infrastructure, and network functions are left with the challenge of connecting disparate clouds.
APIs can ensure connectivity between different assets, enabling efficient collaboration even as processes change. According to the State of the API Integration report 2021 from Cloud Elements, speed in meeting business demands (44%) and innovation (40%) are key drivers for leveraging APIs. Without APIs, partners can’t easily interact with an organization’s data and business. Consequently, APIs have emerged as the most accessible way for businesses to extract value out of their data and develop business models by combining with enterprise connectivity to unlock data from isolated systems.
Although there is no silver bullet for businesses in tough times, NaaS can build multi-cloud environments, making it easier to connect between different cloud providers. NaaS gives start-ups access to high-performance networks. By avoiding the public internet and using a dedicated connection to the cloud, start-ups can alleviate security and compliance concerns.
Against economic headwinds, it is important to remove the complexity of cloud connectivity to give start-ups the time to focus on growth, protect their data and implement the flexible business models needed in a dynamic digital economy.
Neil Templeton, SVP of Marketing at Console Connect.