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What Is a Cloud-First Strategy and How Can It Protect Your Business?

Adopting a cloud-first strategy can help companies address current and future needs, plus maintain high security of their assets.

Photo courtesy of Adi Goldstein via Unsplash

Cloud computing has forever changed IT options for individuals and businesses worldwide. The associated advancements have also popularized the cloud-first mindset. It means that a company considers these options for its needs before ones not specific to the cloud environment.  

Adopting a cloud-first strategy can help companies address current and future needs, plus maintain high security of their assets. Going all-in is not the right option for every business. However, making smart, thoughtful decisions while embracing the cloud usually pays off. Here are some tips for getting started and using the cloud to strengthen organizations.

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Determine the Organization’s Goals

Any business leader feeling curious about how cloud-first operations could help their company should start by clarifying what they want the organization to achieve in the short and long term. After that, it’s easier to approach cloud providers with those expectations and see what’s possible. Having a broad viewpoint is essential for ensuring the cloud helps the business quickly and allows it to scale later.

Choose Metrics to Track

In one recent example, a Georgia-based managed service provider assisted Office Depot with its cloud-first strategy. That transition allowed the brand to process up to 6.5 million orders daily during its back-to-school season. The company also anticipates $5 million in annual savings on hardware replacement costs.

IT labor needs went down, too. Before its cloud migration, Office Depot required more than 50 workers to assist with its end-of-month and end-of-quarter closes. Now, only two employees handle those needs. 

These outcomes give glimpses of what’s possible with a cloud-first strategy. However, companies are most likely to achieve them when having clear goals before investing in the associated technology. Leaders can do that by selecting relevant metrics and monitoring them during the cloud migration.

Strive for Tight Security From the Start

When pursuing cloud-first strategies, people far too often view cybersecurity as an afterthought. However, it’s crucial to put security at the foundation of any cloud adoption plan. A significant part of that approach requires holding everyone accountable for helping the organization and its cloud assets stay safe.

It could also mean making major process changes regarding how a person accesses content in the cloud. For example, a growing number of companies are choosing the zero-trust model. It starts from a position that no one—even the CEO or someone who’s worked for a company since its founding—is automatically authorized to access the desired material.

Instead, factors including where they are when trying to get the resources and their role in the company combine to calculate a risk score for the access attempt. That’s just one example of how a company could keep security high during its cloud-first endeavors.

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Investigate and Fix Cloud Security Weaknesses

Some company leaders make the mistake of believing they can place the responsibility of keeping the cloud secure solely in the provider’s realm. While it’s true that leading cloud providers implement numerous security measures, their customers must act, too.

A lack of visibility into cloud assets doesn’t help. A 2021 study found that 79 percent of organizations reported worsening visibility gaps into their cloud infrastructure. The majority of those polled reported having at least five cloud security incidents in 2021. Committing to the cloud-first model could help a company increase security, but only if decision-makers take proactive approaches to achieve that goal.

How the Cloud Could Improve Collaboration

Many government agencies chose a cloud-first strategy to help them stay resilient while meeting current and future requirements. According to one study, collaborating with other entities was a key benefit realized by governments that utilized the cloud. The research showed that 15 of the 16 agencies studied found nine cloud investments that aided in sharing information with other relevant agencies.

Organizations with no government affiliations also need to share information, whether it’s with suppliers or employees. The cloud removes many of the roadblocks that make distribution challenging.

How Being a Cloud-First Business Supports Your Employees

Many of today’s workers depend on cloud-based applications when getting stuff done, especially if they clock in for shifts remotely. Studies show that people who work off-site are often healthier and more productive than their in-office counterparts. However, it’s arguably difficult for a person to make the most of remote working if they can’t access most company resources.

Cloud computing solves that issue by allowing people to get them anywhere that has an active internet connection. Many cloud-based apps let workers collaborate in real-time from wherever they are, offering immediate feedback to their colleagues.

Moving ahead with a cloud-first strategy could help your team stay productive from anywhere. This benefit also supports future scalability by opening opportunities to hire people who live in other countries and have specialized expertise. When Standard Chartered Bank selected a cloud-first strategy in 2020, the effort included equipping 84,000 employees across 60 markets with productivity and collaboration tools.

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How the Cloud Can Promote Competitiveness

Many business leaders find themselves in the unfortunate situation of realizing their industry has changed, and they didn’t recognize the evolution quickly enough. However, a cloud-first approach can minimize such outcomes. When pondering whether to move ahead, executives should consider what shifts they must prepare for in the coming years. That forward-thinking viewpoint is a fantastic way to protect the company’s interests.

Stay Aware of Industry Trends When Choosing a Cloud Strategy

The IT team at PCL Construction has long seen technology as a marketplace differentiator. It’s no surprise that the organization decided to map out its cloud-first strategy.

Chris Palmer is the company’s senior manager of advanced technology services. He told Construction Dive, “Model drawings continue to get larger, with 4D, 5D and 6D renderings and beyond becoming more common. Digital construction is evolving very rapidly. The need to collaborate remotely, as the COVID shutdowns have shown, is more important than ever.” In his example, the increased dimensions of construction renderings and the need to stay productive from anywhere were primary components that powered the digital-first strategy.

The company has a centralized data clearinghouse that allows any authorized party to access files of any size. Having all the information in one place also helps managers juggle their workloads. That’s critical since they handle anywhere from 700 to 1,000 projects simultaneously. Additionally, PCL’s access control system supports up to 4,500 employees and 30,000 subcontractors.

Is It Time to Choose Cloud-First?

These real-life examples will give business executives plenty of food for thought about whether a cloud-first model is right for them. An essential final takeaway is that adopting this approach is not the same as assuming the cloud is the only option.

There may be times when certain applications or workloads don’t make sense for the cloud, and that’s OK. However, the tips here will help leaders decide when and why to invest in this strategy and feel confident in the outcomes.

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