Cloud computing offers organizations the opportunity to simplify their information technology operations by handing off ownership of equipment and software, plus the associated support and maintenance responsibilities, to the cloud provider. With the ability to grow capacity on demand, costs are reduced and converted from capital expenses to operating expenses.

Yet there are risks that come with making such a significant change in how you manage your infrastructure. It’s important to have a strong plan in place for making the transition to ensure you gain the benefits. Here are 5 steps to consider as you consider the best ways for your business to utilize cloud.

1. Understand what using cloud means to you.

There are three varieties of cloud. The public cloud moves your infrastructure from your data center to the cloud vendor’s facility. Private cloud creates an on-demand, virtualized infrastructure on your own premises. With hybrid cloud, some of your processing occurs in your private cloud and some in the public cloud, perhaps to support periods of high demand.

The cloud is also closely associated with the “as a Service” model of delivery. There are three major “as a Service” varieties. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) delivers only the compute, storage, and networking capabilities on demand. Platform as a Service (PaaS) adds tools for developing applications in the cloud. Software as a Service (SaaS) offers applications on a subscription basis.

2. Evaluate your applications to identify those that fit the cloud.

If you don’t have an inventory of all your applications, take time to create one. Once this list exists, begin assessing applications for their readiness and appropriateness in the cloud. Some applications will have security concerns or specific architecture requirements that mean they’re unlikely to work well in the cloud. Others may have expected growth or are on hardware that’s due to retire, meaning moving them to the cloud can offer immediate benefits.

3. Select an application to test out the cloud.

Choose an application that is significant enough to demonstrate the benefits of the cloud, but not so critical it will put your business at risk if you experience difficulties. You may want to start by moving non-production environments, such as those for development and test. Another great place to start is by moving standard packaged applications such as Office 365.

4. Plan the migration.

Once you’ve identified an application to move to the cloud, take a step back. Before diving into the technical details of how to complete the migration, make sure you understand the business case for moving that application and that you have reasonable expectations of the benefits you’ll get from transitioning it to cloud. Plan for its impact on business users, your operations team, and you disaster recovery plan. Make sure you know how you’ll monitor the application and evaluate the migration’s benefits.

5. Migrate the application to the cloud.

Execute the application’s transition to the cloud. Allow enough time after the migration is complete to evaluate the impact on performance, cost, and end users. Once you’ve resolved any issues and your support team is comfortable supporting applications in the cloud, you’re ready to migrate the next application.

Need help getting started with cloud? Prescient Solutions is a Microsoft Partner with expertise in Microsoft Azure cloud. We’ll help you evaluate your needs and plan your move to the cloud, whether you want to use Office 365 in the cloud, backup to cloud, or run your custom applications in the cloud. Contact us to learn more about how to make a successful transition to the cloud.

Additional Cloud Computing Resources

Don’t Forget About Your Network When You Plan Your Cloud Migration

5 Things CIOs Need to Know About the Cloud

VMware As a Stepping-Stone to the Cloud