Organizations have many reasons to move their IT infrastructure to the cloud. The ability to scale quickly and reduce overhead costs are two of the most common drivers for cloud migration. Cloud computing is also leading to faster innovation compared to traditional IT, thanks to the cloud’s data analysis, AI, and machine learning capabilities. However, cloud adoption is more than a simple “lift-and-shift.” Once they’ve deployed their chosen cloud architecture, organizations need to find a way to manage that environment and optimize it for cost, security, compliance, and performance. This process is known as cloud management.
What is cloud management?
Cloud management is the centralized administration of cloud assets, including any applications, data storage, and computing resources that an organization connects to via the internet. Successful cloud management ensures that administrators regularly monitor cloud costs, best utilize cloud resources, and keep the environment secure and compliant with regulatory standards. The term applies to the management of both private and public cloud environments (such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud) and can include multi-cloud and hybrid cloud architectures. To keep their cloud environment healthy, an organization should develop a clear cloud management strategy. For example, they might enact company policies that pertain to the implementation and use of cloud resources. An organization may also designate an individual or group of individuals to lead cloud management efforts. Many organizations choose to establish a cloud leadership team, often referred to as a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE), to serve as internal experts who design the architecture and guide the organization’s cloud practices.
Two approaches to managing the cloud
Regardless of whether a CCoE is in place, any organization can gain visibility into their cloud environment by adopting a cloud management strategy. Part of this strategy involves using technology to optimize cloud performance, spend, and security. Administrators can achieve these goals in one of two ways: by using cloud native tools and/or third-party applications. Native Cloud Tools: The first method of cloud management uses the native tools offered by the cloud provider itself. The advantage here is that cloud platforms today are robust and come with many tools to monitor, optimize, and report on cloud usage. However, these tools can be difficult to learn and master. It’s very easy for even experienced cloud managers to lose track of cloud resources, making cost management a challenge. Unfortunately, even a single misconfiguration can lead to major security vulnerabilities, and most often, these problems stem from simple user error. Furthermore, these tools are spread out across applications, meaning that reporting on cloud metrics can become a time-consuming manual process. Cloud Management Platforms: The second approach to cloud management is to use a third-party application — called a cloud management platform — to monitor the costs, security, and utilization of the cloud. Cloud management platforms bring visibility into the cloud all in one dashboard. They help administrators follow best practices surrounding cloud assets, spend, security, and processes. A cloud management platform may or may not be used alongside native public cloud tools.
Seven essential factors in a cloud management strategy
Cloud management is a complex process, but it can be simplified by adopting the right tools and effectively monitoring cloud resources. We’ve broken this concept into seven factors to consider when managing cloud resources — and the questions organizations should ask about their cloud environments:
1. Asset management
What inventory do we have? Cloud managers need to understand what’s going on in their cloud environment at all times. True cloud governance begins with an inventory. Organizations should ask which resources are being used and which ones are not. By tracking assets, using best practices around tagging, and pinpointing changes when they occur, administrators have visibility into their cloud and get a complete view of all cloud resources.
2. Resource utilization
How do we optimize performance? Once cloud managers understand what’s going on in their cloud environment, they can begin to gain insights that help them optimize cloud performance. One way to achieve this goal is to find unused, unattached, and underutilized resources and right size them appropriately. By paying attention to utilization, administrators can eliminate wasteful spending and ensure that they’re getting the most out of their cloud resources.
3. Cost management
How much are we spending in the cloud? One area of cloud utilization to focus on is cloud spend. Cloud providers make it easy to add virtual resources to an environment, which can quickly snowball into resource sprawl. Therefore, getting cost management under control is the best way to reduce waste and see the fastest ROI on a public cloud investment. A cloud management platform can help an organization find cost saving opportunities. These might include taking advantage of savings plans and shutting down instances when not in use.
4. Billing and cost allocation
How do our cloud costs break down? Organizations should always have a clear idea about where their charges are coming from. Billing and cost allocation for cloud services can vary from simple to complex depending on the type of business. As a result, large enterprises using multiple cloud services need ways to stay on top of their cloud costs and chargeback services to the correct business functions. Additionally, managed service providers may operate multiple cloud accounts for their customers and need clear insights into their clients’ cloud usage. A cloud management strategy should account for an organization’s unique cloud architecture and find ways to manage billing and chargebacks effectively.
Is our cloud secure and can we prove it? Security should be the focal point for every cloud architecture. Cloud security best practices should include reviewing user permissions, controlling inbound and outbound traffic, enforcing encryption, and protecting storage. These measures are essential for maintaining information security and avoiding potentially costly data breaches. Cloud security methods for protecting data within the cloud can vary among cloud services. However, they all primarily adhere to the shared responsibility model. Therefore, third-party tools may be needed to fill the gaps in meeting cloud security needs.
Does our cloud meet rigorous regulatory standards? Compliance in the cloud aligns to local, federal, and international regulations like HIPAA, PCI DSS, NIST, and others. By following compliance best practices, organizations stay audit-ready with a reliable “paper trail.” A solid cloud management strategy should include a tool that continually monitors cloud infrastructure for compliance and automatically remediates problems it finds.
How can we manage all of the above responsibilities? Automation is meant to help professionals work smarter, not harder. The goal of automation in cloud management is to take the guesswork out of what’s happening in the cloud. This then frees up IT personnel to focus on more critical responsibilities. Organizations should leverage automation to reduce cloud sprawl and human error. A cloud management platform can find opportunities for cost savings, heal security and compliance vulnerabilities, and right size resources — all with or without human intervention.
Simplifying cloud management
Cloud management is a continual process for all organizations in the cloud, no matter what their level of expertise. The seven criteria above are some of the most vital areas to monitor when it comes to the cloud. A cloud management platform can help simplify each one of these factors. CloudCheckr CMx provides Total Visibility into cloud utilization to help organizations see effective cost and billing management, ensure security and compliance, and automate manual processes. CloudCheckr CMx supports the most complex organizational structures, including large enterprises, managed service providers, and government agencies. The decision to choose CloudCheckr over native public cloud tools was simple for Kevin Kang, Leaf Group’s Information Security Engineer. He and his colleagues specialize in Information Security, he said, but not necessarily in public cloud management. CloudCheckr gave them a simplified view into their cloud data without requiring them to learn all the specifics of their vast hybrid cloud architecture. Kang said:
“When you have to go in and look at one account at a time, it’s this overwhelming task. Whereas with CloudCheckr, it’s a very simple, clear way to get the information that I want.”
CloudCheckr brings simplicity to the unique cloud architectures of enterprises and MSPs across industries. What can CloudCheckr do for you?
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