Summary: Cloud computing delivers huge benefits for modern organizations. However, companies need to think strategically to realize the key benefits of the cloud. An effective enterprise cloud strategy provides a route from planning to deployment. With a strategy in place, companies can move assets and applications smoothly. And they can secure data in the cloud without leaving security gaps. In this article, you will find all the essential information required for crafting a successful plan to embrace cloud technology.
Cloud services can be categorized into three types: IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS, each catering to different user needs and skill requirements
Cloud adoption should align with core business needs, considering factors such as workload suitability, team readiness, and the need for customization
Compliance with regulations like PCI-DSS or HIPAA is crucial when planning a cloud strategy to avoid potential violations
A well-designed enterprise cloud strategy ensures functional and secure cloud deployment.
Careful planning and monitoring are essential to counter risks and prevent critical problems during cloud migration.
This article will provide everything you need to know to create an effective cloud adoption plan. Let's start at the beginning with a definition of what we mean by "enterprise cloud strategy" and why strategic thinking is so important.
Core concepts of enterprise cloud strategy
Definition of enterprise cloud
An enterprise cloud is a virtualized environment that contains flexible and scalable computing infrastructure. Cloud infrastructure provides on-demand access to shared resources. This includes the servers, apps, and data required to host workloads and virtualize key enterprise operations.
A well-designed enterprise cloud has many benefits.
Virtualized infrastructure reduces the need for on-premises network infrastructure. This reduces the burden on IT teams to maintain physical hardware and lowers overall operating costs.
Enterprise clouds are easy to customize and reshape. As businesses change, their cloud environment can follow.
Enterprise cloud architecture also has cybersecurity benefits.
Companies can protect sensitive data with robust security measures located inside the cloud. Organizations can encrypt data, apply access controls, and leverage cloud-native threat detection tools.
Centralized administrative tools provide full visibility of user activity and data integrity. And cloud-based logging systems assist with both auditing and incident responses.
Different types of cloud services
The nature of your enterprise cloud strategy depends on the type of cloud services you use. Cloud technologies can be divided into three overall categories:
Infrastructure-as-a-Service provides access to cloud infrastructure. This is usually provisioned on a pay-as-you-go model. IaaS users purchase access to servers, storage containers, and cloud networking capacity. They can use this infrastructure to create custom-built cloud solutions. IT teams can retain control over every aspect of their cloud deployment. IaaS is flexible, but users will need cloud architect skills. Additional training may be needed to realize the benefits of this cloud solution.
Platform-as-a-Service provides access to off-the-shelf cloud development platforms. Development platforms include basic cloud infrastructure and the tools needed to build cloud apps. This reduces the time required to launch new cloud services. Cloud tenants can focus on building streamlined solutions. They do not need to manage the underlying infrastructure. Microsoft Entra ID (Azure AD) and Google Cloud are examples of this kind of cloud product.
Software-as-a-Service provides access to individual cloud apps or services. Apps are provided in ready-to-use format and are generally accessible via web browsers. SaaS tools include eCommerce platforms, collaboration apps, and CRM systems. These services require no on-site installation. And they scale automatically as businesses grow.
Understanding cloud strategy in an enterprise context
The adoption of cloud services should align with core business needs.
Companies must assess workloads and decide which cloud system suits their operations. They must ask whether teams can operate in the cloud and whether existing SaaS solutions suit their needs. If not, custom PaaS solutions may be necessary.
Capacity also influences cloud strategy. Businesses should only commission cloud services that they can afford to build, maintain, and secure. Securing IaaS and PaaS environments is complex and resource-intensive. Some enterprises may find that lightweight SaaS alternatives are preferable.
Compliance is another critical consideration. A successful cloud migration delivers efficiency gains and enhances flexibility. But cloud adoption can lead to violations of regulations such as PCI-DSS or HIPAA. Organizations must plan their strategy with compliance goals in mind.
Why do you need a cloud strategy?
The importance of an enterprise cloud strategy
An enterprise cloud strategy maps a clear route to a functional and secure cloud deployment. And a well-designed strategy offers many benefits.
The strategy assesses existing systems, understanding what to retain and what to discard.
Planners determine what applications and data will migrate to the cloud.
They decide which cloud technologies to use, and include any necessary security measures.
Planning teams set timescales for the cloud strategy. This avoids delays and ensures that deployments are not rushed.
Enterprise cloud strategies deliver the benefits of cloud computing while avoiding problems associated with chaotic deployments.
Around 90% of companies use multi-cloud solutions that divide data and apps between various hosting providers. About a third of companies using the cloud do not encrypt their data. And figures from 2022 show that 27% of cloud-using enterprises experienced a data breach on the public cloud.
Chaotically organized cloud deployments compromise security. They make it harder to locate and protect sensitive data. And they reduce efficiency. Silos can limit the flow of information. App configurations may vary across the cloud environment. But an enterprise cloud strategy solves these problems.
Benefits of cloud adoption for businesses
The cloud has revolutionized digital business. Every month, companies gain a competitive advantage by migrating functions to the cloud. Cloud storage providers offer cheaper, faster, and more secure solutions. And development tools make it easier to build customized cloud environments.
Despite these benefits, many companies have not yet embraced the cloud or have staged partial migrations. Benefits of full cloud adoption for businesses include:
A cloud-first strategy eliminates the need to maintain extensive hardware infrastructure. Cloud deployments scale rapidly and easily. Companies can automate resource provisioning and deliver workloads wherever they are needed. Administrators can also manage network assets centrally. The result is streamlined operations and greater productivity.
The cloud benefits cybersecurity in many ways. Enterprises can encrypt data hosted on cloud assets. They can implement granular access controls and regulate access according to job roles. Cloud platforms enable real-time activity monitoring and alerts, resulting in rapid incident responses. Moreover, trusted cloud providers focus on securing their products against malware and exploits. Not all enterprises have the capacity to do so.
Cloud adoption allows cost optimization by shifting computing into a virtualized environment. Enterprises do not need to make large up-front infrastructure investments. There is less need for on-site servers or routers. Scalable systems optimize resource use and allow companies to expand smoothly. And the payment models of PaaS or IaaS providers cater to different enterprise needs.
Exploring cloud strategy options: finding the perfect fit
Single public cloud strategy: unlocking provider offerings
A single public cloud strategy uses a single public cloud provider to host assets in the public cloud. This strategy has numerous benefits. Single public cloud systems are simpler than multi-cloud alternatives. This enables companies to focus on their core competencies.
Administrators can easily integrate application communities and standardize operations in the cloud. A single cloud is easy to monitor and secure and will carry a much lower compliance burden. Pay-as-you-go models also make single public cloud deployments the most cost-effective cloud solutions.
The single public cloud strategy suffers from loss of control and potential insecurity. Users must apply tight access controls to guard the network edge. They also have little control over the infrastructure that supports cloud assets.
Single private cloud strategy: balancing control and security
A single private cloud strategy involves the creation of a dedicated cloud environment to host corporate assets. The private cloud is separate from the public internet. Users can customize security controls and network protocols. This allows companies to prioritize data security and minimize the risk of external attacks.
Companies using a single private cloud strategy have complete ownership of their deployment. Consistent ownership can deliver performance improvements. And users can tailor their cloud environment to enable flexible scaling.
The downside of this strategy is complexity. Organizations must dedicate resources to create and maintain cloud environments. They also have complete responsibility for security and must rely on internal expertise.
Hybrid cloud strategy: integrating the best of both worlds
Hybrid cloud strategies feature a combination of public and private cloud infrastructure. When designed correctly, a hybrid cloud environment delivers the benefits of both strategies.
Hybrid deployments can leverage the flexibility and scalability of public clouds. Organizations can experiment with different cloud components and allocate resources to workloads as required. They can mobilize AI tools to analyze large data sets. And they can create failover systems in the public cloud. This supports incident response strategies.
At the same time, security teams can use private cloud environments to protect critical data. Administrators can create strict access controls for secure private clouds. These controls grant access based on employee roles. They can also combine with multi-factor authentication for added security.
Multiple-public cloud strategy: orchestrating a dynamic cloud ecosystem
Multi-cloud strategies involve the use of multiple public cloud providers. For instance, companies may use Google Cloud Platform for collaboration and AWS for cloud storage. This model has various potential benefits.
Multiple cloud service models balance agility and cost. Companies can use leading cloud providers for specialist tasks. They can also compare different providers to find the most cost-effective solution.
Multi-cloud solutions suit globally-distributed workforces. Companies can locate cloud resources close to users by leveraging cloud computing services around the world. They also make cloud deployments more resilient. Multiple clouds avoid single points of failure. Organizations can shift workloads between CSPs when outages occur.
Building an effective enterprise cloud strategy
1. Create a cloud strategy team
Your cloud strategy team will see the project through to completion and must include input from outside the IT department. Bring in key stakeholders from finance, operations, HR, marketing, and security. Every department will use the cloud environment. Buy-in from managers is essential when changing IT infrastructure.
Establish communication channels and collaboration tools. And set out a timescale to meet project goals. Every team member should have clear responsibilities and know exactly what role they will play as cloud adoption takes place.
Form a cloud strategy team with representatives from various departments
Establish effective communication channels and collaboration tools to facilitate coordination
Define specific milestones to track progress and meet project goals
Assign clear responsibilities to each team member
Provide necessary training and support to team members
2. Carry out application analysis
Application analysis assesses the apps that employees currently use to carry out core workloads. Assess whether applications are compatible with cloud platforms, and any dependencies they have. Some apps may be suitable for cloud migration. Others may require complete replacement. Identify necessary actions and add them to the cloud strategy document.
Security is a key concern here. If apps handle sensitive data, assess whether this data will be adequately secured in the cloud. If not, define additional security controls to ensure data security after cloud adoption.
Determine compatibility of applications with cloud platforms and identify any dependencies
Classify apps as suitable for cloud migration or requiring complete replacement
Document necessary actions in the cloud strategy document based on the analysis
Assess if sensitive data handled by the apps will be securely stored in the cloud
Define additional security controls if needed to ensure data security post-cloud adoption
3. Build a hybrid cloud strategy roadmap
Use the results of application analysis to create a cloud adoption roadmap. Describe how every workload will be moved to the cloud. Include a clear explanation of how access controls will apply and any other security controls linked to the workload.
At the cloud migration planning stage, decide which assets will remain in the public cloud, and which assets to store in private cloud environments. Categorize assets according to data sensitivity and risk. High-risk, high-value data should always be stored in the private cloud.
The cloud roadmap should explain how to migrate data and apps to the cloud. This may include information about data integration and transfer methods. For instance, data may require encryption during the transfer process.
Develop a detailed plan for migrating every workload to the cloud
Clearly define access controls and security measures associated with each workload
Evaluate assets and categorize them based on data sensitivity and risk levels
Determine which assets will be kept in the public cloud and which ones will be stored in private cloud
Document information on data integration and transfer methods
4. Upskill your workforce for cloud computing
Comprehensive staff training should be a key part of cloud adoption strategies. This should include basic security training. Introduce and explain cloud security policies. Ensure workers know how to access cloud assets securely and reinforce the penalties for policy breaches.
Training goes beyond security. Enterprises should upskill their workforce to capitalize on cloud technology. Invest in specialized courses in cloud architect skills. This could include DevOps courses or training related to specific cloud platforms. For example, it may be advisable to invest in AWS certification courses.
Prioritize basic security training for all employees involved in cloud operations
Introduce and explain cloud security policies clearly to the workforce
Reinforce the consequences and penalties associated with policy breaches
Invest in specialized courses for cloud architect skills to enhance proficiency
Consider offering DevOps courses or training specific to the chosen cloud platforms
5. Implement the enterprise cloud strategy
Strategies are useless if they are only paper exercises. Implementation is all-important. Assign a skilled employee to implement the organizational cloud strategy. This officer should be responsible for meeting project milestones. They should also manage communication with relevant stakeholders.
During implementation, enterprises should make their cloud deployment secure and resilient. Put in place monitoring technology to track user activity. Make sure auditing and scanning policies meet regulatory guidelines. And constantly test cloud assets to protect data against external intrusion.
Assign a skilled employee as the officer responsible for implementing the organizational cloud strategy
Oversee that cloud deployment is secure and resilient
Implement monitoring technology to track user activity
Regularly audit and scan cloud assets to ensure compliance with regulatory guidelines
Continuously test cloud assets to protect data against external intrusion
Overcoming challenges in enterprise cloud strategy
Tackling cloud migration challenges
Cloud migrations can encounter many obstacles. For instance:
Companies may lack the bandwidth to transfer files.
Applications may be incompatible with cloud platforms.
Dependency mapping can fail, compromising operational efficiency.
Risk management issues can arise, putting data at risk.
Cloud migration requires a deep understanding of cloud technologies, architecture, and best practices, so a shortage of specialists can be considered a challenge.
Carefully plan a strategy that counters these risks. Monitor the process to detect problems before they become critical.
Managing cloud security risks
Securing data in the cloud is a critical challenge. Organizations must:
Guard systems against unauthorized access
Encrypt sensitive data without compromising availability
Maintain visibility of user activity
Managing hybrid private and public clouds
Manage app profiles and prevent unauthorized app installations
Security planning ensures that organizations put in place effective controls. Ongoing monitoring and regular security audits will detect threats. Security teams will be well-placed to make necessary changes.
Addressing compliance and legal issues
Cloud investments must comply with data security regulations. Enterprise architects must research the regulatory landscape and understand their obligations. Compliance should feed into the cloud strategy at all times. For instance, security controls should be tailored to fit PCI-DSS rules.
Companies also need to understand the shared responsibility model. Your IT department should assess each service provider. Create clear policies for mission-critical applications that define how to use them securely. And seek external help if you require extra assurance.
How can NordLayer help?
Security is one of the key elements of any digital transformation. And it is particularly important when adopting cloud technology. Cloud strategies must include access controls, encryption, firewall systems, and security auditing. But building cloud security systems is not always easy.
NordLayer can help you secure your cloud deployment strategy. Our Virtual Private Gateways enable secure access to cloud apps. IP allowlisting and Site-to-Site tunnels ensure that only authorized personnel can access your cloud environments and police the network edge. Users can also mobilize 2FA and SSO to ensure secure authentication. Combining our solutions makes movement to the cloud safer and easier to manage.
Robust cloud security lets you meet your business goals. Contact the NordLayer team to learn more.