Cloud adoption is picking up steam and for a good reason. There are myriad advantages to running a business in the cloud and fewer risks than ever before. According to a LogicMonitor survey, 83% of enterprise workloads will be cloud-based by 2020.

While the odds are good that your business could reap significant benefits, cloud adoption isn’t as easy as flipping a switch.

Instead, you must create a well-defined strategy for your cloud endeavor to help your company realize its vision.

What’s Your Intent?

The first step of plotting out an ideal cloud strategy is determining what type of cloud environment will best meet your needs. If your primary goals are flexibility and scalability, internet-housed public cloud models such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure are optimal.

On the other hand, a private cloud allows you to maintain some on-premise resources and deliver computing power over a secure and private network. In industries where compliance is a significant issue, private clouds check all the right regulatory boxes.

If both public and private environments suit your company, you might want to consider a hybrid cloud solution that balances both approaches. For example, you might run high-volume applications in a public cloud while keeping a tighter grip on high-risk apps through a private cloud. Hybrid clouds allow these two environments to meld seamlessly. While this sort of strategy can be more expensive to implement, it can provide the best of both worlds.

Identifying your preferred cloud model dictates how everything else develops from there.

If you take the time to identify your goals and outlook before investing in a cloud approach, you’ll be set up for a smooth transition.

Create Your Cloud Adoption Strategy

Without a smart cloud adoption strategy, you risk investing in a cloud environment that doesn’t meet your expectations. In the worst case, you might end up with a cloud infrastructure that is a step down from your original solution — leading to lost customers and revenue. Avoid this scenario by creating a clearly defined cloud strategy with these five steps:

1. Create an in-house committee. 

Appoint a committee of stakeholders to evaluate possible cloud implementations. This group might include employees who use the applications regularly, IT data analysts, and other personnel.

If a committee is impractical, work with your cloud provider to determine the right adoption path for your company.

Most service providers will offer a free or low-cost consultation to give you an idea of price, and many will help you make the migration in increments to keep costs low and establish early buy-in.

2. Develop decision criteria. 

Consider your current environment — including the types of applications you rely on and their technical characteristics — the needs and constraints of your data, any regulatory requirements you must meet, and your performance requirements for managing workloads effectively.

All of these different factors must work together to deliver an optimal user experience while avoiding costly mistakes. Cloud solutions are flexible, so you’ll have many decisions to make. Determine the criteria you need to consider so that the cloud strategy you choose can best serve your operations.

3. Conduct an analysis of benefits and risks. 

Create an overview of your most common use cases, examining their potential benefits and risks. In many cases, you can take steps to mitigate the risks — or it’s possible the risks you perceive might be based on myths.

Get in touch with your qualified cloud provider to find out how to reduce or negate those risks. If you’re still left with a long list of liabilities, a private cloud environment might be most appropriate.

4. Ease in with cloud-based applications. 

Instead of jumping into the cloud, consider replacing some of your current applications with a software-as-a-service equivalent. That will make deployment, updates, scaling, and a ubiquitous computing environment more accessible.

Having the system and operation accessible can go a long way toward limiting disruption once it’s time to migrate to the cloud. When your organization operates in a partial cloud environment, there will be less of a learning curve associated with complete cloud adoption.

5. Create or update your disaster recovery plan. 

Part of the cloud’s appeal is its role in disaster recovery plans. The cloud can handle the heavy lifting when it comes to recovering data or limiting downtime. If your on-premise server goes down, you can flip a switch and operate out of the cloud in the meantime.

You also have a partner in recovery: Generally, the burden can shift to your cloud provider. Make sure your plan is clearly articulated, so stakeholders know what to do when disaster strikes. If an outage is due to your internet service provider, for example, one part of the plan would be to failover to your secondary line.

If your cloud servers go offline because of a disaster, then you might need to repoint your systems to new IP addresses temporarily. Be prompt about putting this into action so you can continue operations until the original servers or services can be restored.

Cloud adoption represents an exciting opportunity, but it’s not something that companies should rush into.

For the best results, organizations should develop a clearly defined cloud strategy that outlines implementation in a logical and well-thought-out fashion. A cloud strategy doesn’t just ensure that you reach the best possible end result — it also minimizes the amount of experimentation and the number of iterations necessary to get there.

Robin Hau

CEO of SimplyClouds

Robin Hau is the founder and CEO of SimplyClouds, a provider of powerful, affordable cloud services that utilizes a self-service marketplace. Hau also serves as CEO of SimplyClouds’ parent company, USWired.