By 2020, almost a quarter of all organisations will use cloud services. In this article, we look at why IT departments are waking up to the benefits of cloud, and explore how your organisation can start taking the first steps to migrate to cloud services.

Gartner cited 2017 as the year for organisations to embrace cloud computing and build strategies to leverage cloud services. In fact, the market research firm predicts that by 2020 almost a quarter (24%) of the total addressable IT market will be cloud.

If your IT leaders are not already deploying cloud, or have a plan to embrace cloud services, you could be missing out. Why? IT leaders have 2 directives: solve challenges and contain costs.

These two conflicting goals are coming into more conflict as in-house development and bespoke solutions are more costly to build and maintain. Cloud services allow IT leaders to address both these goals simultaneously.

Cloud solutions offer power and flexibility for solving challenges across three main areas: applications, infrastructure and development platforms.

Most organisations will start dabbling in cloud services through cloud-based applications (called, Software as a Service, or SaaS). The most obvious solutions include SaaS pioneer, Salesforce which started as sales and CRM tool but has since developed into a fully fledged development platform.

The next cloud-based service to become popular was Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), exemplified by popular providers such as Superloop. IaaS allows organisations to minimise the complexity of their hardware, storage and networking environments.

Finally came cloud-based development platforms (Platform-as-a-Service), which allowed developers to build applications in a cloud-based environment, giving them greater speed and flexibility.

All industries and verticals are adopting cloud services across all layers of cloud deployment models — Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS).

In fact, according to Gartner’s 2017 Planning Guide for Cloud Computing, as public cloud services mature, organisations will continue to aggressively build and invest in "cloud-first" strategies and architectures.

Cloud services have also evolved to address myriad challenges that IT departments face, including common challenges such as Desktop managed services, Wifi services and disaster recovery as a service.

Essentially, if there is a complex problem that needs to be addressed within an IT department, you are guaranteed to find a cloud-based solution.

Benefits of cloud-based solutions

Today connecting to cloud applications and many larger enterprises realise real business benefits moving mission-critical applications to the cloud.

Whether you are using SaaS, IaaS, PaaS or some of the newer models of cloud-based solutions, you will typically achieve the following benefits to solve IT challenges:

  • You avoid the need to build or buy your own complex and often subpar software, hardware, infrastructure or other solutions;
  • It makes maintaining these solutions easier – rather than supporting a larger staff to support bespoke solutions, you simply outsource that problem;
  • You can improve your network’s performance
  • Increase employee productivity (via enabling a mobile workforce and reducing downtime),
  • You can improve security and data governance;
  • Increases in business growth, reduce some of your IT costs and increase your capabilities.

Financial benefits of cloud services

While the problem solving benefits of cloud are in no doubt, the financial benefits are often what spurs companies to make the move.

Gartner’s IT Budget report looks a healthcare companies to calculate ROI of taking a cloud-first strategy. Gartner found that these organisations often spend nearly 75% of their IT budgets on maintaining internal systems.

This mimics a common problem across all industries, where companies fail to calculate the total cost of ownership (support, additional hardware, etc.) when considering whether to build, buy or rent software, hardware or other services.

Cloud services allow you to pay for the resource usage you need while taking advantage of scale and reliability.

Taking a cloud-first approach allows you to spread out the cost of large purchases over time, meaning you can allocate the appropriate budget to other line areas such as sales and marketing, or research and development in the company’s core business area.

Because cloud services operate on a subscription model, you can amortise the cost of the investment over time, allowing for predictability and flexibility for scaling up or down.

Furthermore, additional cost benefits of cloud’s subscription model include:

  • Fully utilised infrastructure
  • Lower power costs
  • Lower staff costs
  • Eliminate CapEx
  • Gain resilience without expensive redundancy
  • Reduce carbon footprint

Migrate to a cloud-first strategy

Because building, implementing and maturing cloud strategies will continue to be a high priority in 2017, IT organisations must take the steps to move to a cloud-first strategy. Gartner suggests in its 2017 Planning Guide for Cloud Computing:

  1. Implement a cloud-first strategy
  2. Hire and invest in a cloud architect and a cloud core team
  3. Move beyond the low-hanging fruit

Gartner advises to start building a cloud-first strategy now, if you haven't done so already. Most organisations will find the transition will take time, and can be difficult.

  • You must make public cloud services the primary, prioritised and promoted deployment model for all new business processes, workloads or applications. Then:
  • Continuously evolve your cloud application suitability model. Applications that were not a fit for the public cloud two years ago may be ideal candidates today due to the rapid innovation and improvement of public cloud services.
  • Plan for a multi-provider strategy, and begin transforming the organisation into a broker of cloud services. Delivering IT as a service (ITaaS) will require training, integration and investments in hybrid architectures for networking, identity, data and other key services.
  • Choose the level of private cloud that is right for you. Focus on the most frequently provisioned workloads, where agility is required. Select virtualisation automation (VA) and public cloud services rather than building a fully featured private cloud.