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Cloud Services, is it time to migrate to Amazon?

AWS, or Amazon Web Services, is the world’s leading cloud service computing platform with over 130 different services designed to help small businesses through to global enterprises streamline their IT infrastructure and operations – by outsourcing these functions.

From file storage to virtual servers, databases, networking, security, development, machine learning, analytics, and even blockchain, if there’s an IT infrastructure component or service you are running inhouse – then you can probably do it with AWS instead.

But why migrate to cloud services? What type of products does AWS have to offer that could benefit your business? And how can you rollover to these cloud services without messy IT problems? Let’s walk through each of these equally important questions in turn, for you to get the full picture – and whether AWS migration may be a good fit for your business.

Why businesses are rolling over critical IT infrastructure and operations to cloud services

In the age of on-demand services, such as Netflix and UberEats, we’ve come to expect outside service providers to be able to do the personal administrative tasks that used to take up our spare time; like walking to the video store, or driving to the restaurant – or even cooking!

In business, we’re seeing the same effects. We’re outsourcing customer service like call centres to other countries or running chatbots on our Facebook page, we’re bringing in contractors to do distinct tasks in the workplace such as creating our business app, and we’re engaging Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to handle traditionally internal IT tasks such as network setup and administration or cybersecurity.

Businesses have traditionally utilized on-premise computing infrastructure, with dedicated server rooms, and on-site software installations to complete work, with system backups perhaps sent to a local, off-site, data warehouse.

But times have changed. Now, businesses and employees expect the ability to work fluidly, whether they are in the office or travelling, desktop, laptop, or on mobile. Physical infrastructure costs money to purchase, maintain, and replace, takes up physical space, and costs human resources to provide administration and management. 

Cloud services and operations streamline the workplace so that the time, cost, space, and human resources required to run this infrastructure can be instead managed effectively elsewhere, by another provider. 

Yes, you will have to learn how to use AWS services, but it is significantly less tricky than managing the whole process internally. AWS services are built for running lean businesses, where you concentrate on your core business, and leave the infrastructure and operational headaches up to the (automation) experts.

How Amazon became king of cloud services

How did a book retailer turn into not only the world’s largest online marketplace, but now, in a more revolutionary move, become the world’s largest cloud services provider?

As with many services, like Facebook’s React library, the seed of AWS was born out of an internal company need. The catalyst? SOAP and XML interfaces that allowed developers to build bridges to the Amazon online catalogue. With the rapid uptake, it was determined that developer infrastructure services were a missing segment in the online space, back in 2003.

AWS was born in 2004, with the first product offering the Amazon Simple Queue Service, followed by the now-ubiquitous Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) object storage.

What followed has been the roll-out of a huge number of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings, collectively known as cloud services.

Now, AWS provides services to almost every conceivable company around the globe, from enterprises like Capital One, the Dow Jones, and Atlassian, to SMBs, government agencies, not-for-profits, and NGOs.

Basic AWS cloud services that every business should consider

If you are new to AWS, there are a range of basic services that many businesses choose to utilize when they are migrating to the cloud.

Storage

Disk space is often an issue, unless you have a large, dedicated server room. AWS offers a range of cloud storage solutions, you just need to select the right one for your needs.

Amazon S3

Amazon S3 is storage that’s scalable, quickly available, performant, and secure. 

Amazon S3 Glacier 

Amazon S3 Glacier provides storage that’s “on ice,” archived but you may need one day, secure but not so fast to access.

AWS Backup 

As the name says, AWS Backup makes backups of your data, both AWS data and on-site data.

AWS Storage Gateway 

AWS Storage Gateway allows on-premise applications to access AWS storage, through a gateway, can also be utilised for migration.

Servers

Reduce the need for physical server space and make managing virtual servers more simple.

Amazon Lightsail

Create virtual servers and web applications with the one product. Amazon Lightsail makes it easy to deploy with competitive pricing, Windows and Linux support, databasing, and the ability to set up development environments, all with simplified load balancing.

Amazon EC2

Amazon EC2 creates virtual servers to where you can configure different hardware and operating system environments to perform compute functionality with almost any taskload you could dream of, with flexible scaling offered with EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) Auto Scaling

Databases

Amazon RDS

Create and query relational databases like MySQL, SQL Server, Oracle Database and  Amazon Aurora, with inbuilt scalability using Amazon RDS (Relational Database Service). 

Amazon DynamoDB

Amazon DynamoDB is the service used for NoSQL databases and associated queries.

Hosting corporate applications securely on cloud services

AWS VPC

Concerned about running corporate applications in the cloud? Fear not, that’s where AWS Virtual Private Cloud comes in. This allows you to host applications in the VPC behind your already configured corporate firewall. Combine with Amazon VPN for on the go access.

License management

AWS License Manager

Keep on top of all your licensing subscriptions and ensure you’re only paying for the services you actually use. AWS License Manager provides visibility into the number of users accessing third party products and services, including those from the likes of Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM. Set rules to upgrade, downgrade, or renew licenses automatically as necessary.

Auto-scaling of AWS services

AWS Auto Scaling

You don’t want to be paying for AWS service space or time that you aren’t using. That’s why AWS Auto Scaling allows for automatic scaling of various AWS services you use, from zero to heavy loads.

Monitoring AWS costs

AWS Cost Explorer

Each AWS service has a different pricing model, some per use, some for time, some for space, etc. When you are not used to working with this type of model for your infrastructure and platforms, it can be difficult to see where and how money is being spent and savings can be made – which is why AWS Cost Explorer is important. Combine with AWS Budgets for even stricter controls, plus Amazon CloudWatch to dig down into the finer details of how your AWS resources are being used.

Beyond basics: Other useful services for now or in the future

Business Intelligence

Amazon QuickSight

Move from spreadsheets and generated graphs to intuitive Business Intelligence dashboards that gather data from on-site, AWS, and third party services. AWS Quicksight allows departments to view historical progress graphically, uncover trends and provide forecasting, for example in sales or hiring. Great for everyone; employees on the ground, managers, and producing reports for external stakeholders.

Machine Learning

AWS Lake Formation

Create data lakes (massive data stores) by importing on-site data to S3 cloud storage using AWS Lake Formation, which organises, transforms, reformats, and cleans data, putting it into a data catalogue full of datasets, ready for analysis. 

Amazon SageMaker

If you’ve been gathering data for some time now (or intend to soon), be it website traffic and clicks, usage of your custom app, or financial data sets, Amazon SageMaker is Amazon’s machine learning platform that helps you build, train, and deploy ML solutions to gather deep insights into data. 

IoT devices

AWS IoT Device Management

As more and more IoT devices make their way into the office, management and coordination of disparate apps can become clumsy. AWS IoT Device Management allows businesses management, monitoring, and insight into an ever-growing collection of smart devices.

Syncing data across applications and gaining insights

AWS AppSync

AWS AppSync is an API builder that allows developers to sync data across websites, apps, dashboards, and IoT devices, or to sync when devices come back online. Combine data sources to develop always-correct business apps, and run analytics on combined data for the total picture.

How security comes into play

A key concern of businesses migrating services to the cloud is security. In the SANS 2019 Cloud Security Report, over 50% of businesses reported they were concerned about unauthorized data access by outsiders, as well as unauthorized access to sensitive data from other cloud tenants. 

The reality of the situation is often that on-site security is much laxer than AWS. This is a company who has billions of dollars at stake – they are doing everything they can to ensure your services and data are guarded like a fortress.

That’s not to say that you can click and forget. Most often data leaks are the result of misconfigurations of services or accidentally setting them to public. Following AWS Security best practices for each of your services and orchestration efforts is imperative.

As for user management, AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) is included with your AWS subscription/s. You can also choose AWS Directory Service for direct integration with your existing Microsoft Active Directory.

When clouds combine

Just because you’re keen to roll over some of your workplace infrastructure to AWS, doesn’t mean that you can’t utilise other clouds, such as competing Microsoft Azure

In fact, in RightScale’s 2018 State of the Cloud Report, organisations report currently using an average of 1.7 public clouds, and are experimenting with 1 more, with public cloud rollover an increasing priority year on year.

While it is certainly easier to work within the one cloud ecosystem, it’s possible to share, export, and even sync data between two cloud providers if necessary. Why would you choose more than one cloud provider? It’s not simply a case of not wanting to put all your eggs in the one basket. Perhaps one provider has a particular superior service or is significantly cheaper than the other. 

Sometimes integrations are easy and offered in a few clicks as part of the platform, and other times you will need to build in connections between the two clouds with the help of developers.

How to perform a successful migration

Do you have people on your team who have successfully created and then implemented AWS cloud migration plans? If not, then it’s not a great idea to train people up to do it and use your business as a guinea pig.

Instead, it pays to seek out a service provider with experience in helping a business just like yours with an AWS migration.

A1 Technologies are an AWS partner with experienced professionals on board who know the ropes, completing AWS certifications such as AWS Solutions Architect, that make us a clever choice if you’re migrating to the cloud.

It’s in our best interests to get things right for you, which means careful consultation: evaluation of your current systems, seeing where relevant AWS solutions might fit in, running cost-benefit analyses, and providing a complete plan before even touching the AWS platform.

From there, we help roll systems over in a failsafe manner with as little downtime as possible, configure AWS services to your specific needs, provide training if required, and ensure the whole transition goes smoothly. 

Who manages cloud configuration and products?

Generally, further AWS service configurations and adding to your product suite (when new relevant products are released) is done in house. If you are happy with the migration, and are satisfied that your team have the training to be caretakers of your AWS services, then we’re just here if you get stuck and need a second opinion.

However, for some businesses, they would prefer to have AWS configuration, scaling, and cost-effectiveness outsourced so that human resources inhouse aren’t required. We also can offer this service to our customers as an MSP if you so wish.

We can also develop solutions such as integration with other cloud providers, internal applications, or even client applications by utilizing AWS APIs for each of their products.

Amazon have built their AWS products for reliability, scalability, security, and performance, so if you’re thinking about making the migration, then get in touch to set up an intro to AWS for your business.

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