Most organisations have migrated many of their workloads to cloud environments. However, as data and applications are moved, they become increasingly de-coupled from the hardware that underpins them - at least in terms of the day-to-day management burden placed on IT teams. Nonetheless, utilising the right cloud architecture is imperative to ensuring you are getting the most out of cloud-based workflows, and hardware innovation is key.
For Dom Russell, Head of Infrastructure at Victoria Plum, embracing the cloud in a way that meets your business objectives is vital.
"It's critical to ensure that any technology you're embracing is fit for purpose. For some businesses, it's easy to be tempted to opt for a new application, system or solution, without analysing whether it really fits their needs, lured by purportedly leading-edge innovation.
"Now that cloud is much more accessible to more businesses, understanding your requirements and the overall business strategy are key considerations when deciding if a cloud solution fits and satisfies your needs."
The COVID-19 pandemic has seen the demands placed on IT rise rapidly. For many, it was the time to take on more cloud capabilities to support the new way of working. Victoria Plum, an e-commerce organisation, reworked their head office into a hub and made homeworking permanent for most of the workforce.
"Prior to the pandemic, we operated with two data centres which were physically located at two of our sites, each providing backup and recovery options for the other. The pandemic presented the business with an opportunity to embrace the concept of hybrid working and the possibility to reduce our physical data centre requirements. We analysed what the business wanted to strategically achieve, and the cloud model was an ideal solution in satisfying some of our requirements," says Russell.
Cloud providers typically take care of the infrastructure, but that doesn't mean hardware is not a consideration when it comes to performance, reliability, and cost.
"Hardware will continue to be a consideration for us as a business. When we evaluate our existing physical hardware, a decision needs to be based on the benefits of running that infrastructure on on-prem hardware or whether moving to a cloud environment would be more efficient. This is a decision which needs to fit the criteria and needs of the business.
Cloud computing has huge benefits for optimising workloads and freeing up IT team's time and resources. Without the burden of day-to-day infrastructure management pulling focus from wider business objectives, IT personnel can prioritise projects to promote innovation.
"Having the physical infrastructure managed by an external provider reduces the administrative workload within my team. Freeing up resources allows us to focus more on strategic projects rather than undertaking the day-to-day management tasks of keeping the systems running and data secure," says Russell.
Deploying analytics at Victoria Plum to assess the outcomes of the shift to cloud has also had huge advantages for workflows and operations, providing intelligent reporting and automating tasks.
"The benefits for the team's workload are hugely important to consider when you're looking at the value you're getting from cloud services. It's the smaller tasks which may not be overly time consuming, but when there is a considerable amount of them to undertake, this can be a significant time burden," Russell says.
The added support and analytics provided impact costs. The value in having management responsibilities removed is clear.
"As hardware and architecture that applications in the cloud run on change and improve, the hardware and running costs are likely to come down.
"It can be difficult to see cloud ROI in relation to your workforce - Time saved can't always be easily measured. However, I think it's obvious economics that the creation of additional of resources for the team is invaluable."
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