Written by: Mint Group Head of Channel, Pieter Du Toit and Software Infrastructure Lead, Junaid Essop

Increasingly, businesses are transitioning to the cloud, but to do so without assessing how to complete the journey most effectively first is to invite disaster.

There can be little doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic is driving significant changes in organisational behaviour and the manner in which business is done. Key to these changes has been the increasing use of collaboration tools which, while clearly beneficial to those employees now working from home, really need access to the cloud in order to be truly effective.

This has therefore increased the number of organisations focusing on their cloud journeys. Moreover, says Junaid Essop, Infrastructure Lead at Mint Group, when it comes to the cloud, whether the business is just dipping a toe into the waters or is already halfway through a cloud journey, they all have something in common – they want to ensure they get the best value for their investment.

“One of the major complaints about certain collaboration tools has been a lack of security, a fear that has similarly dogged many a move into the cloud in the past. With an increasing number of businesses fast tracking moves to the cloud, compliance and security is clearly top of mind for these players. And it is for this reason that a proper cloud assessment is so crucial – it ensures that before any cloud journey begins, the proper planning, implementation and, most of all, security is in place,” he says.

“When seeking out a service provider to deliver such an assessment, organisations should seek out a business that adopts a technology-agnostic approach to evaluating the various technology stacks on the market, in order to make unbiased recommendations to the client. They should also work closely with the customer to get to know the client environment properly, to understand their appetite for the move, what they want from it and how they can assist them to achieve these goals most effectively.”

Once all this information is collated, he adds, the data must be properly studied, the cloud migration plan outlined and the risks in the environment determined, in order to have a completely holistic view of how the customer can best move to the cloud.

Pieter du Toit, Head of Channel at Mint Group, suggests that as a starting position, it is important to understand the client’s pain points. Once aware of these, the provider should be able to recommend the best solutions and the type and length of migration plan that would be required.

“Obviously, in the current economic climate, a cloud assessment is even more beneficial, as it can help to determine what is the best approach to fit the budget, while also identifying the low hanging fruit and outlining what can be quickly implemented to begin adding immediate value,” he says.

“A good assessment should also take into account the security concerns around the use of collaboration tools. The pandemic has led to widespread use of these solutions, but there is less understanding of the security challenges a business opens itself up to with these. In a similar security vein, data sovereignty is another challenge faced by those moving to the cloud. An assessment can tell you where potential sovereignty issues lie and whether these can be resolved by moving to one of the various hyperscalers’ local data centres.”

Essop explains that in essence, there are four phases to a cloud roadmap and each one involves a level of assessment. The first phase, he suggests, is that of ‘assess and discover’, which involves gathering accurate data from the client’s IT environment, provide them with real time details and identifying potential blockages along the journey.

“Phase two involves planning and decision making, where priorities are determined, solutions identified and the actual migration to the cloud is undertaken. In the next phase, implementation is the keyword. Here it is about ensuring that as the customer, you are not buying oversized cloud infrastructure – this can easily happen if the implementation is not properly assessed and planned first.”

The final phase is that of ‘optimisation’, continues Essop, where although the move to the cloud is complete, new solutions are introduced – such as cost control assessment. In this final stage, a company already has its cloud operations performing as expected, but a deeper assessment of the environment can often provide an edge to help them save money or become more productive.

“It is clear to us that these cloud assessments are really taking off in a major way in both SA and across the rest of Africa. Moreover, they can be undertaken remotely, which is ideal in these times of social distancing. In fact, the pandemic is a key driver of cloud as a whole, since it is the cause of the huge uptake in collaborative tools, and cloud is the foundation on which the success of these tools is built.”

“Finally, because there are range of assessments suitable for companies regardless of where they are in their cloud journey, undertaking one can only help to make the business even better. Assessments serve to educate customers by providing a clearer understanding of the cloud, certain knowledge of the company’s existing estate, and the determination as to how things can best be changed to both save costs and improve productivity,” concludes Essop.