Digital transformation: Three crucial pitfalls to avoid on the path to cloud

As digital becomes the default for Australian organisations, the underlying IT infrastructure that supports business operations has never been more important. IT used to be ‘out of sight, out of mind’, rarely thought of outside the IT team unless something stopped working.

But with the acceleration of new ways of working – whether that’s remote work, e-Invoicing, or data-driven decision making – owners, executives, and senior leadership have a newfound appreciation for the tech backbone that drives their business. In 2020, many firms had to rapidly transform their IT to survive, and for many this led to their first encounter with cloud.

Now that experience is not what it was sold to be and businesses are repatriating workloads back to on-premises. The real question is do we go back to what we had, or do we evolve?  

According to analyst firm Telsyte, Australian firms spent more than $1bn on Infrastructure-as-a-Service during the height of the pandemic to overhaul their aging data centres and server rooms. This represents a year-on-year increase of 38% with much of the investment going towards the global hyperscale cloud providers like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft.

What are three pitfalls to avoid?

It is understandable that so many businesses would turn to these solutions in the short-term, but the question many are now facing is how to harness these investments for the long-term. Although every organisation is different, they share many of the same challenges when transforming their businesses for the digital era. Below are some of the key pitfalls to avoid.

Unauthorised access to data

Recently, Aussies have been rocked by high-profile data breaches against some of the most well-known brands in the country. This trend is an extension of the increase in cyber-attacks the Australian Cyber Security Centre reported in the wake of the rise of remote working.

While there’s been some debate over the level of sophistication involved in some of these attacks, it’s beside the point. What matters is that attack strategies evolve at a much faster rate than security defences, and IT teams have the impossible challenge of keeping up.

Cloud service providers host data from thousands upon thousands of businesses, concentrating risk to a single point of failure; one successful attack could be an enormous pay day for attackers. One recent campaign – dubbed ‘Cloud Hopper’ – targeted managed service providers specifically for this reason. There’s the risk of malicious insiders. The act of migrating your data to a third party means you’re trusting their staff to do the right thing.

There are a number of ways to minimise the risk of unauthorised data access in the cloud, and many boil down to basic cyber hygiene. First, research your providers and only work with those who have a proven track record. Second, encrypt your data. Data encryption ‘at rest’ ensures data remains secure in the event of unauthorised access. Finally, simple things like using strong passwords and enabling multifactor authentication have an outsized impact.

Public cloud myopia

Technology is advancing quickly, and it can be difficult to keep track of the breadth of available options, but it’s important to realise there are many flavours when it comes to cloud – public cloud, private cloud, managed, hosted, and edge. Many organisations across the globe fall into the trap of thinking public cloud is the only option and, as such, think of cloud as a ‘destination’ to reach – one that will magically transform the business upon arrival.

Think of Cloud as a tool to be used. While some apps and workloads work best in public cloud, others might be better suited to the security, performance, and cost control offered by private cloud. You wouldn’t use a hammer to cut a sandwich. In the same vein, you wouldn’t put your most sensitive data and business critical applications in the public cloud.   

It is therefore little surprise that 83 percent of businesses we recently surveyed reported that hybrid multicloud was their ideal operating model – this is when multiple different cloud models are woven together based on the individual needs of each workload.  

Migrating applications

While terms like ‘migrating to the cloud’ can make the process seem simple, pleasant even, the reality is often very different. This is the case for firms that have been operating for decades and rely on apps and databases that were designed for the era of the fax machine.

These workloads were not designed to go anywhere. The traditional process for shifting them to the cloud requires very expensive and time-consuming retooling. This process is perhaps the single biggest roadblock Aussie businesses face when transforming their businesses.

The recent emergence of hybrid multicloud management platforms, however, greatly simplify this process. The hybrid multicloud gives you the look and feel of the cloud but on your terms with security and critical workloads in mind. Simply put, you get the value out of the cloud because it is built like the cloud but without the downside of high, uncontrollable costs.  

For example, instead of completely rebuilding an app so it can run in AWS or Microsoft Azure, that app can instead be migrated to the management platform without any retooling. From here, you have a frictionless on ramp to your cloud of choice – whatever the cloud may be.

With a strategic approach to cloud, many of the pitfalls can be avoided and businesses can reap the benefits of increased efficiency, reduced costs, and improved productivity. However, there are risks when it comes to sensitive and business critical data in public clouds so it’s vital to understand that there’s a place for everything, and everything should be in its place. 

Jim Steed is the Managing Director at Nutanix A/NZ.