The IT industry is being transformed by cloud computing and 2012 is predicted to be the year this technology becomes main stream as the market for public cloud computing is set to reach US$5.8 billion by 2015. But the key challenge is how to optimise and fine tune an organisation’s infrastructure to best take advantage of the new technology.

I believe more work needs to be done upfront before making the journey into the cloud. Before jumping into the cloud, organisations must take a look at their current assets and review how they can be optimised. To help companies optimise their journey to the cloud, I have developed 6 important steps to cloud heaven:

  1.  Business buy-in

It is vital to ensure that senior management buy-in and support the migration process within all parts of an organisation (development, operations, architecture, user groups etc). A cloud migration will need to go through several pilots and iterations before full deployment. If it is to be successful, senior management need to be aware and supportive of the timescales and process, so that momentum can be maintained.

  1.  Due diligence

Once you have the high level buy-in, make sure that you understand the processes behind the applications that you use. For example, from a technical perspective – what applications are where? What are their dependencies and what performance metrics and KPIs need to be maintained? But also, the user processes need to be considered; how many people use these servers? How will the migration affect their processes and ability to work? Are there other projects that could be affected by the migration? Finally, are you comfortable with the data associated with the application flowing through the cloud?

  1.  Plan the migration

Start small. Set up and run some pilots to check that your plans execute smoothly. These will also provide some baseline numbers; by running the pilot for several months, invaluable data on the likely cloud performance and user experience can be gained. The pilot will also help demonstrate the cost savings that can be made. After the pilot, start to move logical segments into the cloud, making sure at each stage that users and managers are happy with the new service they are receiving. This way, you won’t be caught out by unexpected glitches.

  1.  Mature the process

Once all the required applications are in the cloud you need to take more steps to mature your set up. Ensure all staff are certified in the cloud technologies being used; look into fully leveraging cloud capabilities such as automated fail over, monitoring and tracking of resource usage. From a business perspective, make sure that the financial impact of the migration is appreciated in terms of business continuity improvements as well as the savings on hardware and power usage.

  1.  Obtain feedback and act on it

Ultimately, your applications are used by employees in your company and their productivity is important. Throughout the process make sure that you gather feedback on their experiences with the new setup. A mistake at an earlier stage – for instance mixing incompatible applications (from a physical resource perspective) – can lead to having to un-migrate everything and start again. Catching this through test users reporting poor performance is much better than the help desk being inundated with tickets about your business critical application on a Monday morning!

  1.  Optimisation

Your business doesn’t stay static, so why should your cloud? Keep monitoring both current and future requirements and plan accordingly. Use analytics to check on user experience and resource usage and leverage the information you collect back into your business processes.

Cloud computing offers multiple benefits to organisations and is becoming critical as a means of gaining competitive advantage in today’s challenging times. Aside from offering businesses greater agility, it also offers significant cost reduction and moves IT spending from capital investment to operational expenditure.