Controlling Your Cloud Environments

Over the past few months, we’ve been very interested in documenting and detailing the impacts COVID-19 has had on the IT industry. Whether it’s the uncertainty in markets caused by the pandemic, the loss of staff due to an economic downturn or simply the logistical difficulties of facilitating home working for thousands of people, it’s safe to say that IT has been hit hard by COVID. 

A significant shift that we’ve seen during the pandemic is the increased adoption of Cloud resources within businesses, across multiple sectors, which looks set to continue into 2021. However, this has presented a myriad of new challenges, with IT teams having to quickly adapt to an off-premises way of working, often without the appropriate SaaS and Cloud Asset Management solutions to do so effectively.  

‘SaaS’ and ‘Cloud’ can be catch-all terms. It’s better to define the growing discipline ‘Cloud Asset Management’ as the management of off-premises IT Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). This is not to be confused with SaaS Asset Management, which is the management and optimization of hosted applications, delivered to the business over the internet via a Software as a Service (SaaS) model. 

But what are these specific challenges? And how can the right software present a solution? 

In this article, we’re going to examine this in detail; looking at the effect COVID has had on Cloud, the challenges it has presented, and what this all means for the future of IT. 

COVID-19 and the Cloud 

It’s very clear that the increase in Cloud adoption is directly linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. With many countries being forced into nationwide lockdowns, businesses were (and in some cases still are!) required to accommodate remote working formats. This not only meant that IT assets had to be procured quickly, but it also meant that IT teams had to find a way of implementing and managing an off-premises solution for their organization – allowing the business to function as close to normal as possible. 

Therefore, it’s easy to see why so many IT managers and CIOs turned to SaaS and Cloud adoption by default, allowing provision users with the infrastructure and applications they need to keep the business operating with a remote workforceand keep things running efficiently. In fact, recent data suggests that Cloud adoption has increased as a direct response to COVID, demonstrating just how big the impact has been. 

Research conducted by Gartner forecasts that Cloud spending is likely to grow by 18% in 2021 – making up over 14% of total spend – despite the impacts of COVID on IT. The level of spend will vary from business to business, mostly depending on size, with some IT managers tailing off spend now that remote working has settled into the norm, whilst others will become more and more reliant.  

This is a good example of the perceived importance of Cloud environments within organizations with a large IT outlay, especially those seeking to support a remote working model. And also, how the shift toward digital transformation is accelerating across the board. 

But whilst Cloud implementation has allowed businesses to continue as usual, it has not come without drawbacks. 

One of the biggest issues facing IT teams has been the unplanned, rushed implementation of Cloud across their business. In the panic to procure equipment and get everyone ready for remote working, the specifics of wholesale implementation may not have been properly examined – potentially with no one having the time or the authority to make a call. This lack of top-level management has meant that for many businesses the proliferation of Cloud across their IT estate could come back to haunt them. There is the potential that organizations, without the right Cloud Asset Management solutions in place, could face issues that are inherent to Cloud systems. This could lead to less efficient operations that leave businesses vulnerable – potentially causing more harm than good! 

And we can already see how these issues have started to have an impact. According to a recent survey, 10% of IT managers stated that they would be unable to pay their Cloud bill from month to month, highlighting not only how reliant businesses have become on Cloud during the pandemic, but also how the shift is already starting to affect operations negatively. 

What are the challenges of Cloud?

Whenever a new environment is made widely accessible, there are always growing pains. And the transition to SaaS and Cloud platforms is really no different. It’s a steady process of understanding how Cloud can be deployed across an organization, educating staff so they know what to be aware of when engaging with Cloud systems, and learning how to control an off-premises solution with advanced SaaS and Cloud Management solutions. 

But due to the unique nature of this transition – the rush to implementation and unplanned resources that have been required to activate it effectively – business challenges have been presented that are unique to Cloud environments. Whilst many of the pain points will be familiar to teams that have dealt with on-premises hardware and software assets, the way in which they are identified and dealt with within a Cloud environment is entirely different. 

At Certero, we have adopted four definitions to easily and effectively communicate the main challenges which cross over both SaaS and Cloud. These are as follows:

Cloud Sprawl 

Put simply, Cloud Sprawl, is the uncontrolled proliferation of Cloud instances across an organization – including certain services and providers. This often occurs in organizations where there is a lack of visibility and control over Cloud computing resources. And as you might expect, the shift to remote working due to COVID-19 has led to an increased lack of visibility from IT teams. This in turn has exacerbated the lack of control for off-premises Cloud environments. 

An example of Cloud Sprawl in a real-life scenario might be when an individual outside of the IT department launches a new workload in a Cloud environment without checking if the resource was potentially already available. Similarly, they may have failed to check if better prices were available from different commercial agreements. If left unchecked and uncontrolled, this proliferation can lead to increased costs for the business, as well as exposing it to undue risks.  

According to our latest white paper report, Beyond the C Word, which surveyed IT managers and CIOs across the globe, 43% of CIOs are concerned about the increase of Sprawl as a result of the pandemic. 40% of IT Managers also felt the same, demonstrating the scale of the issue and the desire within organizations to get to grips with Cloud and SaaS. In an environment where budgets will be scrutinized and efficiency is key to success, it’s no wonder that more IT teams want to get control of their Cloud assets. 

Toxic Consumption 

Toxic Consumption is a catch-all term for when Cloud resources are purchased or procured but mismanaged thereafter. An example may be when a user launches a new application to test or trial it but forgets to power it down or delete it after the fact. This can lead to multiple applications automatically renewing without oversight from the IT team, which can negatively impact costs and optimization of Cloud assets. If Toxic Consumption is not dealt with by implementing a holistic Cloud Asset Management solution, costs can build quickly and unmanaged applications could present security risks to your network. 

According to our data, nearly a third (29%) of CIOs stated that Toxic Consumption was a concern at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, indicating how IT teams were prioritizing issues inherent to Cloud. As we have experienced multiple lockdowns, and the fallout of the pandemic is becoming clearer, it’s likely that this will become a more pressing concern for CIOs and businesses generally. With complete visibility over Cloud assets, IT teams will be able to monitor activity across their estate, ensuring that no mistakes are made and costs are kept low.  

Bill Shock 

As the name implies, Bill Shock is when your business costs unexpectedly change – usually for the worse! This is a problem entirely inherent to Cloud applications and SaaS, where it’s easy for non-IT departments to deploy new assets or mismanage existing ones without proper oversight. This inevitably leads to businesses paying more than they should for their Cloud instances, creating issues across the organization.  

Bill Shock can easily occur when individual employees, or whole unmonitored departments, sign up to Cloud resources without the proper capacity or performance strategies. That’s why it’s imperative that organizations have complete visibility over their assets as they move resources from their own data centers into the Cloud. And it would also explain why 35% of CIOs we spoke to for our report stated that Bill Shock was an area of concern – which we can only expect to increase as businesses grapple with the stresses of extended remote working. 

Shadow IT 

Similarly, 29% of CIOs that were contacted as part of Beyond the C Word highlighted that they were ‘concerned’ or ‘very concerned’ about Shadow IT. Essentially, this is the existence of systems or software that have not been deployed by the IT department directly – which, as you can imagine, leads to mismanagement, unregulated costs and lack of visibility for the entire organization.  

In the long run, this can lead to unnecessary risks and costs for the business, as well as IT teams losing visibility on activity and struggling to retain control of the process. As we’ve moved to more permanent remote working environments, this will undoubtedly become a more pressing concern for IT Managers and CIOs, with anxiety around visibility being paramount. That’s why it’s more important than ever that businesses have a SaaS and Cloud Asset Management strategy that delivers control over their applications – ensuring efficiency and cost-effectiveness in all areas. 

The future of Cloud

The truth of the matter is that Cloud is here to stay. It’s very likely that, due to the pandemic, lockdowns, and the shift to remote environments, organizations across the globe have adopted Cloud and SaaS within their infrastructure before they were actually ready. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – but a decision that has presented new challenges that need to be addressed by IT teams. 

From 2021 onward, SaaS will be seen as the new normal for applications, so the onus is on businesses to learn, grow and adapt to make it work for them. And a huge part of that process will be investing in solutions that can help manage the environment, ensuring that there is no negative impact on finances or security as a result. 

With a fully incorporated, modern Cloud Asset Management solution, such as that offered by Certero, IT teams will be able to get greater visibility over their estate and get more control. This provides more flexibility than traditional ITAM and SAM solutions, giving IT the tools they need to meet the new challenges presented by the shift to Cloud:  

  • Understand your usage of SaaS – Increase your visibility of subscription data within SaaS portals to help overcome process bottlenecks, provide context for decision-makers across your organization, and see which departments are using what! Use virtual machine discovery across public Cloud vendors for IaaS and PaaS, with an inventory of software components running in each environment. 
  • Optimize your systems and only pay for what you need – With a complete Cloud Asset Management solution, IT teams can identify and assist in the reassignment of unused SaaS subscriptions, ensure cost-effectiveness across the business, and negotiate new Cloud agreement renewals. Overall, this empowers teams to govern their estate and control costs with reliable, actionable data. 
  • Support business decision making – Certero provides state-of-the-art analysis and reporting to help businesses understand their data usage and subscriptions with SaaS, PaaS and IaaS. With a complete view of your Cloud assets, you can access component-level metrics and highlight key data points, allowing IT teams to maintain control in every scenario. 

With a truly advanced Cloud Asset Management solution in place, organizations can deploy systems quicker, deliver change faster and automate more easily. This level of control – even down to the minute details – ensures that businesses that have shifted to Cloud because of COVID will not fall into the same traps as their peers. 

By prioritizing Cloud optimization in line with on-premises ITAM and SAM, organizations can improve their IT estate for the future. This isn’t to say that license compliance within Cloud isn’t a consideration, but rather that it is replaced by a more lucrative model where the main issue is uncontrolled resources, habitual overspending and unmanaged proliferation of assets. And in a moment in time where budgets are tighter and futures are uncertain, it’s essential that businesses are not wasting money unnecessarily. 

To discover more about SaaS and Cloud Asset Management, and how Certero’s unified solutions can help your business, speak with one of our experts! 

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