For a lot of IT analysts, 2015 marks the year that cloud computing matured to the point where it became the go-to platform for enterprise applications and data. Its impact has grown so much that it was the second highest priority for CIOs in the annual Gartner CIO survey of close to 3,000 CIOs.

While it may be a top priority, that doesn’t mean your entire IT strategy should be redone to be solely built on the cloud. Every business will have different IT requirements, and cloud-based computing is only one of the many tools you have to build your strategy.

If you’re looking to add cloud computing to your IT strategy, then here are some major questions you should ask as part of your planning process.

What Processes Actually Need to be Cloud-Based?

As much as the thought might shock cloud-computing proponents, not everything needs to be cloud-based. The whole point of using cloud-computing in the first place is to improve the efficiency and agility of your IT operations. If migrating that process to the cloud will only make it more complicated, then it probably doesn’t need to be there.

There’s also a fairly large gray area. Many processes could be slightly more efficient on the cloud, but migrating them will involve a substantial investment of time, money, and resources, not to mention a training or transition period. In these cases, moving them to the cloud may not give you the best return. Or you might decide that the investment will pay off in the long run and is worth it. The important thing is that you thoroughly analyze your decision.

Are You Prepared to Replace Legacy Software?

Cloud platforms function differently than data centers, which means the legacy software solutions you’ve used for years probably won’t fit the new setup. Attempting to use legacy processes, software, tools, and IT approaches on the cloud can actually make things less flexible and efficiency, defeating the purpose of cloud migration in the first place.

That doesn’t mean you should throw out all of your old process and software. Those worked for a reason, and some software can be adapted or updated to be cloud compatible. What’s important is to approach your strategy looking for the best software solutions.

What’s the Total Cost of Ownership?

There are a wide number of benefits to cloud computing, including more efficiency, greater flexibility, and a general improvement in how your organization functions. The question that you’re going to have to answer is whether or not these benefits are worth it.

There’s no easy answer to this question. It will not only vary depending on the company, but will also vary between departments within an individual company. For example, cloud computing can drastically lower the time to market. While a major boon with a high tech product, it might be less important for many manufacturing products. The best option is to perform a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of your strategy, both short-term and long-term.

Which Cloud Provider Would You Use?

The biggest companies in the cloud computing world are, without any doubt, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft, and Google. These three tech giants have thrown a great deal of their tech and capital resources behind their cloud computing systems.

That doesn’t mean they’re the only players. Many  other companies, both big and small, have found great success through specialization. Some offer stripped-down, bare-bones services, while others specialize in specific industries, such as healthcare. When building your strategy, explore all of your provider options. Don’t feel that you have to be locked into a specific cloud provider.

Can the Cloud Provider Keep You Compliant?

Just because you move your data and functions to the cloud doesn’t mean that you’re no longer obligated to comply with all regulations regarding the safety of your data, including HIPAA, PCI, and FISMA. Those same regulations will be in full force when your data is on the cloud. The precise regulations will depend on your business, industry, or location, rather than your cloud provider.

When planning your strategy, it’s a good practice to compile a list of relevant regulations. These will help you figure out the best cloud provider and accurately predict the amount of work necessary for the migration.

Can Your Security Strategy Handle the Cloud?

Cloud computing and data storage is significantly different than traditional data storage and networking, so it follows that traditional security measures won’t be as effective. You’ll need to change how you monitor the system and perform audits of it. Additionally, cloud data storage is done differently than traditional server farm storage.

Be prepared to completely change how you approach IT security, such as placing more attention on cloud data silos and robust encryption keys. Most importantly, any security strategy should be integrated from the beginning to ensure all potential holes are closed.

Should Your Data Be on the Cloud?

This might be the most important question to consider when building a cloud strategy. Not all data should be stored on the cloud, especially data that is vital to the survival of your company. After all, limiting the number of access points is one of the best ways to protect crucial data from cyberattacks.

A complete data inventory and analysis will help you resolve this question. Rank the importance of the data, and how much it needs to be accessed. When in doubt, remember that the whole point of cloud computing is to increase the flexibility of your organization, and that includes being able to add new systems later.

Does It All Seem Too Complicated?

A full cloud strategy and the ensuing migration includes an incredible amount of variables. The strategy has to be formulated with great care to ensure a good return on your investment. Once built, the migration has to be managed correctly to ensure that the process doesn’t significantly disrupt business.

One of the best things you can do is to bring in the cloud computing specialists at AAJ Technologies. Our team of experts have built and implemented a wide variety of cloud systems in a wide variety of industries. We’ll be able to answer all of your questions and help you get the best results with your process.

Find out the best ways to integrate the cloud into your business. Schedule a free 2016 Strategy Session.