Migrating To The Cloud: How To Start

Migrating To The Cloud: How To Start

Mihai Tataran
General Manager & Partner | Azure MVP

The Cloud is not just a buzzword. It is one of the most innovative technologies we are living, and it is part of a profound transformation trend together with things like Virtual Reality, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, just to name a few.

I write this article because:

So I will describe the common fallacies we have encountered during the talks with potential customers, and how we mitigate them.

Fallacy 1: The Cloud is just another word for co-location or hosting

It might seem so if you just scratch the surface, but it is wrong. Here are just a few reasons why I consider the Cloud a huge paradigm shift:

  • Utility costs less even if it costs more or how to pay for what you use. One might compare the cost per unit of time of a Virtual Machine from a hosting provider, with the cost of a VM from a Cloud provider. And the VM in the Cloud might seem to have the same price. Yes, but in the Cloud, you do have great mechanisms which allow you to pay only when you use it, and not pay when you don’t. First, there is the commercial model which counts pricing per minute of usage, which no hosting provider does (at least not that I know of). Second, you have the tools (automation, etc.) which enable such Start/Stop actions very easily.
  • On-demand is better than prediction or how not to lose business. Forecasting the needed IT infrastructure for a solution is estimative. You either end up paying for more IT infrastructure than you need, or your infrastructure is not sufficient at the load peaks and you lose business. Just think about Black Friday, and consider that there are also “mini-black Fridays” every week for some businesses. What if your infrastructure could scale automatically based on some restrictions and configurations that you have done? For example: “if my number of web requests per second exceeds 1000, scale up with 1 machine, etc.” This is what the Cloud is about: elasticity.
  • Real-time computation or how to access tremendous amount of computing power instantly. Very often we see complex solutions which need huge computing resources for a limited amount of time. E.g.: salaries and benefits software, credit risk analysis, etc. The traditional approach is to invest in the IT infrastructure required to run such software even if it sits unused for 90% of the time. With the Cloud, you can activate/provision the required infrastructure within minutes, use it for as much as you like it, and then stop it. The Cloud offers this flexibility and speed for getting huge resources fast, and then dismissing them.
  • Become a data-driven company. Many enterprises sit on enormous amounts of data, which is not stored, categorized, and analyzed properly. Mostly because having Big Data analysis tools on premises is extremely expensive and hard to set up. You know exactly what I am talking about if you ever considered installing a Hadoop Cluster, or even manage a SQL Server Parallel Data Warehouse system. You require diverse skills (IT administrators, DevOps, Database admins, etc.) and it costs a lot. In the Cloud, you have such amazing technologies delivered as a service: first, you do not have the hassle of setting up the infrastructure, and second, you pay per use. You have hundreds of terabytes of data and you need to analyze it? You might want to try Azure HDInsight, or Azure Analysis Services – just to give some examples from Microsoft.

There could be other reasons, but I think they are enough to describe why the Cloud is such different.

Fallacy 2: It is hard to migrate to the Cloud

Yes, moving to the Cloud is not just a walk in the park. Especially if you consider moving the entire infrastructure or core solutions.

That is why we always recommend a step by step approach. While we try to give our customers a longer-term vision, we begin with a simple pilot project which brings immediate results. So, we do talk about cost savings in a 3-5 year period, but we start with a project which is cost effective in a few months, is sustainable from the budget perspective, and does not present enormous risks. Scenarios to start with can be many, but we have seen these most of the time:

  • Dev/Test: create Dev, Test, Staging etc. environments where the software development process becomes much more efficient and you see an immediate cost benefit.
  • Backup and Disaster Recovery: have backups of the most sensitive data in the Cloud, or even create a secondary site (active or not) in the Cloud, which could be turned on in case of a disaster in your primary infrastructure. I encourage you to read my article on Disaster Recovery.
  • Lift and shift: without benefiting from all the possible services in the Cloud, we take a workload from on premises and we move it to the Cloud as close to 1:1 as possible. This is a low risk, fast, sub optimal move to the Cloud.
  • Analytics on existing data: you already have data being collected from different sources, but for some reason (cost, complexity, etc.) you are not performing enough analytics on it.

After the successful project, you get a few benefits: there is an early win, your team gets some Cloud specific know-how, and you can further build on it.

Fallacy 3: The Cloud is not secure

Actually, one might be thinking about two different aspects: Data Privacy and Security.

Most of the relevant Cloud providers are doing a good job aligning to the data protection legislation in EU. Microsoft is the case I know best, and they have become a certification machine. A lot of technical details here. On top of this, Microsoft is the single Cloud provider who offers regions (groups of data-centers) located in EU and which are operated by local companies (more exactly in UK, Germany and France). (I only consider AWS and Google alongside Microsoft as real competitors in the Cloud today – I know I might upset some people, but IBM, Oracle and others are kind of niche players or very small compared to the other 3).

As per security, we must consider the fact that a Cloud provider is facing millions of attacks per day. They are facing them, and are learning from them as well. Think about it this way: any new type of attack is analyzed (using Machine Learning) and all customers of that Cloud providers benefit from these findings. As opposed to you staying on your island where you get no specific protection for sophisticated attacks. This is why the actual way to see things should be: “I need to go to the Cloud because of security”. More information about how Microsoft is acting on security here.

Conclusion

The Cloud is here, and you should think about using it because of the huge benefits it could bring. Yes, it is not an easy path migrating to the Cloud, but it has been done by many, there is a lot of expertise on how to do it, and you can take it step by step.

About the author

Mihai Tataran
Mihai Tătăran is the General Manager of Avaelgo, and a Microsoft MVP on Microsoft Azure, Microsoft Azure Insider, and Microsoft Certified Professional. Mihai has been teaching Microsoft technologies courses to software companies in Romania and abroad, being invited by Microsoft Romania to deliver many such trainings for their customers.
Creating a Culture of Business Continuity

Creating a Culture of Business Continuity

Diana Tataran
Marketing Professional

How often do disasters happen?
And how can they possibly affect my business?

How often do disasters happen? And how can they possibly affect my business?

Let’s start by defining “disaster” in terms of business.

Well, disaster is just about anything that disrupts your normal business operations.

From a cyber attack to adverse weather.
From fire to an unplanned IT outage.
From human error to transport network disruption.

Luckily, Business Continuity has moved beyond the basic recovery of technology and facilities and is focused on protecting the reputation and business value, whenever an organization is threatened by unexpected events.

Start planning for just about anything that may put your business operations at risk!

Backup fast, recover faster than before, and plan your business continuity!

Learn more about how you can protect your business and assure it’s continuity here.

About the author

Diana Tataran
Diana Tătăran is a marketing professional at Avaelgo. Previously, Diana worked as software developer for 7 years, and as project manager for 2 years. Between 2008 – 2011, Diana was recognized as a Microsoft Community Influencer for her contributions within the IT community.
The job of the IT Consultant / Advisor in the time of Digital Transformation

The job of the IT Consultant / Advisor in the time of Digital Transformation

Mihai Tataran
General Manager & Partner | Azure MVP

First of all I should begin with what I do: I manage a 40+ IT consulting, training and software development company, and I work as a trainer and consultant for customers in Romania and abroad, mostly on the Cloud technology. This article is based on what we do here in Avaelgo.

To set the context, I believe the change of the IT consultant’s job is influenced by at least 3 factors:

  • The IT world and it’s fast evolution
  • People in IT
  • The Customer

Today’s IT world is evolving very fast and is getting more complex. To quote Mr. Nadella (Microsoft CEO) „Our industry does not respect tradition – it only respects innovation.” We are living times with amazing developments in our industry, to name just a few: Cloud, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality and so on – all game changers, all paradigm shifters in the way we do business.

Another aspect is people: an estimate of Gartner says that by 2020 we will have 10 times more servers and 1.5 times more people in IT, which indicates that the current lack of qualified personnel will become deeper and more dramatic. While at a first glance this might seem as an insurmountable problem, actually this issue paves the way to innovation and automation at other levels, including the way we manage large software infrastructures.

And the third I mentioned: the Customer. Due to technological evolution (e.g. the internet) the Customer is much more informed about his needs than he/she was 10 years ago. A typical buyer journey has changed so dramatically, that by the time the Customer engages us as a potential supplier, they have already made up their mind in a percentage of more than 50%.

This means the salesman does not have the upper hand anymore, there is no information asymmetry, there is a much lesser chance to „influence” the Customer. This also brings a challenge: what if the Customer is poorly or wrongly informed?

The Journey of a Consultant

The consultant’s job is not a technical job only, it has never been, but the non-technical aspect is increasing more and more. What I propose here is to discuss in detail what a Consultant might do in the real world.

I marked with a different color what we typically believe is the job of a Consultant. Now I would like to explore the other aspects as well.

Value creation

All products and services start here. We sometimes assume what the Customer wants, but we need to better define how we will make it, how we will deliver it, and what will make us special so that the Customer will buy from us. One of the key elements in this stage would be to define the Differentiated Value Proposition. Here is a simple schema specifying how to do this:

value creation

Source: Gartner

Marketing Outbound vs Inbound

Because the Customer has changed, and he/she is much more informed than 10 years ago, and because no-one has the time and will to be interrupted with cold calls from desperate salespeople trying to sell something, we also need to approach marketing in a different way. It needs to change from Outbound, where we call out to whoever is at the end of the communication channel when we want, with activities like telesales, newsletters, user events, etc. To Inbound – try to attract Customers (when they want, on their own time and rules) by posting relevant content about their needs we can fulfill, with actions like blog posts, videos, slides, social media, conferences presentations, etc.

While both Value Creation and Marketing are mostly a marketing job, the Consultant can be of great help, because he/she knows best what the company is actually doing during the IT projects. So the tasks needed from the Consultant would be: write articles, produce short videos, make conference presentations – all about things he/she encounters during the real projects.

Sales

Many of us expect already that the Consultant would help during the sales phase, with activities like demos, technical presentations, proof of concepts, etc. What I value a lot in a Consultant is also the ability to sell: convince the customer our solution or approach responds better to the Customer’s problems.

Now, a huge problem a Consultant with a technical background trying to sell has sometimes (and I have done it a lot of times as well) is going to the Customer and talking about the product’s or service’s attributes. Things like: „the bandwidth is this or that, the delay is 40 milliseconds” – you get the picture. The Customer couldn’t care less about product features: yes, people in the Customer’s organization actually care about the delay between their premises and your datacenter, but that is at a lower level than the initial discussion, or in other words too much of a detail for the managers running the business you are trying to help. What they value are things like:

  • Time, reliability (peace of mind), ease, flexibility
  • Quality, status, aesthetics, emotional impactr

A much better approach to the Customer would be to talk avout Values, as opposed talking about product Attributes. Here is an example when talking about Cloud projects:

sales

Another very interesting aspect relevant to sales, is the Consultant’s profile. Thanks to my friends from Consalta (a Cloud marketing and sales organization) I found out that there are 5 behavioural patterns of a person, and only one of them has clear advantage. They are:

  • Hard worker
  • Challenger
  • Relationship builder
  • Lone wolf
  • Reactive problem solver

If you think the relationship builder has the biggest chance to bring more sales, you are like me, and you are wrong. I also thought this in the beginning and found out the hard way that the relationship builder is great as an Account Manager (whose primary task is to keep the Customer happy), but not as a Consultant helping sales. The best would be the challenger:

sales challenger

Delivery

Finally, the Consultant has to work, to do the actual project. This is nothing new to you, so I won’t explore this phase. We should always keep in mind, though, that we are not building a project (whatever that might be), but instead we are delivering a service to our customer. A very good description of what I am saying here can be found in Peter Leeson’s presentation at ITCamp 2017 called „Assembly of Japanese Bicycle Require Great Peace of Mind”

Recurrence

The project is done, long live the project!

Because of the technology advancements, partially described in the introduction, there is more and more need for companies to buy the IT projects we deliver in a recurrent model as opposed to a transactional model, which dominated the world since the apparition of server Operating Systems, ERP, enterprise scale Database Servers, etc.

Why? Because more of the whole IT is being purchased in a recurrent, subscription model. It is by far more attractive for the Customer to pay as they use (operational expenditure) than purchase in advance inside a multi-year contract (capital expenditure) which also means blocking the price at a certain level without benefiting from the price reduction the big IT vendors make every few months nowadays. There are business models through which a large enterprise can purchase Cloud with a monthly invoice, paying as they use, getting the new prices as the vendor reduces them, and not having to be locked into a contract for years.

Probably one of the most important ways to make sure a services company stays relevant in a recurrent model is to become a true Advisor. I define an Advisor through these attributes:

  • Acts as a trusted partner. Which means telling the Customer that „this” is not the best solution even if that means losing short term sales.
  • Play in their interest. For example, explain to them how they can reduce the total spending with IT: new services in the Cloud, new prices, etc.
  • Training. Enable the Customer to make the best out of the IT they purchased by periodical workshops/webinars/etc.

This model is pretty new, but it is catching, especially because even the Customer knows that the best IT resources for very specific needs are not in their organization, but outside in the companies which are specialized on those niches.

Conclusion

Our opinion here in Avaelgo is that the Consultant’s job, whom we might now call Advisor, is much more complex than it used to be. I cannot end this better but with the journey from nothing really to recurring business:

About the author

Mihai Tataran
Mihai Tătăran is the General Manager of Avaelgo, and a Microsoft MVP on Microsoft Azure, Microsoft Azure Insider, and Microsoft Certified Professional. Mihai has been teaching Microsoft technologies courses to software companies in Romania and abroad, being invited by Microsoft Romania to deliver many such trainings for their customers.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Public Courses

Advantages and Disadvantages of Public Courses

Whether you’re seeking education opportunities for yourself or exploring training for colleagues and employees, at some point you will likely come up against a decision: is your training need best met by an open course or a bespoke training?

Here is a look at the advantages and disadvantages of public courses.

Advantages of Public Courses

Less in-house administration
Sending people to a public course involves less work than with an in-house custom training. The training company is the one that builds up an agenda, provides the trainer and chooses the location. Coffee breaks, lunch, and refreshments are also handled by the training company.

Fewer distractions for your colleagues
Once you have sent your colleagues to a public course, they are essentially free from any responsibilities of their usual daily activities. Therefore, all participants will be able to fully engage their attention on the topics discussed during the training.

External networking
Public courses allow your colleagues to talk to people from other companies and different backgrounds. This way they will most likely gain different points of view and discuss different approaches to common issues.

Get comprehensive training for your team

Discover a wide range of relevant public courses, from fundamental to advanced levels, all led by well-known industry experts.

Disadvantages of Public Courses

A more generalized approach
Delivering a public course means that participants will be coming from various job roles. Therefore, the trainers will have to present the content in a manner that will please the majority of the attendees. This makes the public course less specific and not as tailored to a company’s needs as a bespoke training.

Cancellations or postponing
Public courses usually require a minimum number of attendees. If the minimum number isn’t met, the training usually gets canceled or delayed until the number is reached. This can be particularly annoying if you have organized everything around the idea of the training occurring on a precise date, only to find out that it has been pushed back a month.

More expensive
Besides the public course fee, sending multiple people to a public course may sometimes involve travel & accommodations involved. This will significantly raise the cost per delegate of sending your colleagues to a training and will also increase the time it takes out of their schedule. Depending on the number of people attending, this may end up costing their company more than simply having the training delivered on-site.

Before you go

Read our similar guide on the Advantages and Disadvantages of Custom Training for more information. Hopefully, by reading them both, you can make an easier decision on what suits best your company’s training needs.

Get comprehensive training for your team

Discover a wide range of relevant public courses, from fundamental to advanced levels, all led by well-known industry experts.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Custom Courses

Whether you’re seeking educational opportunities for yourself or exploring training for colleagues and employees, at some point you will likely come up against a decision: is your training needs best met by an open course or a bespoke training?

Here is a look at the advantages and disadvantages of custom courses.

Advantages of Custom Courses

More focused training

Running a custom training course for a single client usually allows the training to be a lot more focused on the specific subjects and skills that are relevant to your business. With a bespoke training, most aspects are customizable. Public courses are often generic because they address businesses of any sector or size that attend them.

Work-related examples

An in-house training means the course can be designed and refined to address your specific needs and issues, using real-life examples and therefore have the highest impact. Your colleagues will be able to work on current work or examples of work which relates to their roles, not on generic examples.

Training cost savings

For a custom training, the cost per participant is typically lower than public courses due to the fact the training company only has to send a trainer to your HQ rather than set up an entire training environment themselves somewhere else, and you could have significantly more people attend it. Therefore, reasonable cost savings can be achieved.

Travel cost savings

In addition to the training cost savings, having a custom in-house training saves you the trouble of paying for the travel and possible accommodation to get all your colleagues to the training.

Get comprehensive training for your team

We always work with you to make sure that the training’s agenda is best adapted to your business needs, as well as to establish the trainees’ technical level.

Disadvantages of Custom Courses

Extra administration

Although you save money by lessening the logistics needed by the training company, you do take on this burden yourself. Requirements of in-house bespoke courses could include a training room, providing access to the trainer in the building, equipment such as projectors, laptops and tablets among other things. These need to be sorted out and in advance to ensure that everything works before the training begins.

Trainees stay onsite

As much as this is a benefit, it is also a disadvantage to do an in-house bespoke training. The pure fact the candidates could be pulled out of the training in order to help with other day-to-day activities or emergencies suggests they probably will be. This makes it hard to actually get a candidate through an entire session without interruption.

Lack of networking

If the custom training happens in the same environment where your colleagues work, there is the chance the training to go stale. They will not meet anyone new, so they will be missing out on an excellent networking opportunity, as well as the fact different ethos’ and styles brought by employees from other companies, things which can provide a different perspective to your colleagues.

Before you go

Read our similar guide on the Advantages and Disadvantages of Public Courses for more information. Hopefully, by reading them both, you can make an easier decision on what suits best your company’s training needs.

Get comprehensive training for your team

We always work with you to make sure that the training’s agenda is best adapted to your business needs, as well as to establish the trainees’ technical level.

Is Your Web Application Secure? [Infographic]

Is Your Web Application Secure? [Infographic]

Want to keep your Web application from getting hacked? Then it’s time to get serious about building secure Web applications. But web application security is a path, not a destination. It’s about risk management and implementing effective countermeasures.

Security is fundamentally about protecting your assets. Assets that are tangible, such as a Web application, or that aren’t tangible but are really important to you – your company’s brand reputation.

Today we register an ever-increasing number and varieties of attacks that target your web applications. According to numerous studies, the preferred method for attacking businesses’ assets is though their Web applications.

Looking at the top 10 threat action varieties within a Web application attack breaches shows that some of the more well known type of threats like SQLi (SQL injection) or RFI (Remote File Inclusion) create a lesser impact compared to Social / Phishing attacks or attacks which make use of Command & Control (C2) servers or Spyware / Keyloggers.

But securing web applications is not an easy task. With continuous software delivery businesses need continuous and automated security analysis of issues, vulnerabilities and other potential threats.

If you’re interested in learning how to protect and secure your work to outsmart a malicious hacker, we prepared a Cybersecurity Awareness Seminar for you.

Click on the infographic below to download it to your computer.

Protect your business and data

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