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5 Cloud Architecture Mistakes We Shouldn’t Still Be Making

Room full of servers
Shutterstock/Connect world

Adoption of cloud computing has grown rapidly over the past few years. Many organizations are now dependent on their cloud systems. This leaves less room for error when designing new architectures.

A poorly planned system can be a burden on the business that’s using it. Reconfiguring an architecture is a costly and time-consuming process, especially if the original cloud migration didn’t go smoothly. While some mistakes are unavoidable, here’s five gotchas that you should watch out for.

1. Blind Focus

Cloud technologies are still surrounded by a degree of hype and buzz. This can prompt organizations to fixate on the latest “big thing,” even if an older solution might actually be more appropriate.

Don’t move to the cloud just because you can. Evaluate your options objectively within the context of your operations. Assuming that the cloud will solve all of your IT infrastructure issues is one of the biggest mistakes that you can make. A successful migration requires you to adopt a cloud-first mindset, not a list of technologies and service providers.

A poorly considered cloud migration could compound any existing organizational problems. Widely distributing services across different platforms impedes your ability to oversee your systems. You’ll need to learn new management tools and processes so that you can retain control.

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Adopting cloud technology has a cost attached. This is normally borne out within the time frame necessary to retrain staff as they adapt to the new system. You should assess each workload to determine whether it makes sense to move it to the cloud. Not every migration will be worth it.

Don’t lose sight of where your data is stored. You need to know where your servers are located, how many servers you have, and how data is being distributed across them. Remember, you’re not moving to an all-encompassing cloud that you can set and forget. It’s important to document how your architecture functions and where your data resides.

Cloud migrations should be driven by a legitimate business need. You need to be able to identify what a cloud system will add to your organization. Otherwise, you can end up with costly infrastructure that’s underutilized and poorly aligned with your operations.

2. Provisioning Errors

The cloud makes it simple to spin up new instances of servers, services, and data stores. Unfortunately, this can result in unoptimized provisioning, which swallows your budget and can impact performance.

Shared servers might make sense for some components of your stack. If you have 10 servers that sit idle for most of the day, it might make more sense to consolidate onto a single machine.

Remember that “the cloud” still carries the basic rules of hardware architecture design. Although you can create dozens of servers spread across geographical regions, doing so can increase latency and requires sustainable levels of network throughput.

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These problems are particularly prevalent in larger organizations, where individual departments are permitted to create their own infrastructure. You can quickly end up with an instance count that far exceeds your cost estimates.

If an individual leaves the organization, infrequently used instances might be forgotten. Keep an inventory of your cloud servers so that you know when instances have become redundant. In small teams, it can be more sustainable to let co-workers spin up virtual machines on a shared server. Providing full access to a cloud environment could quickly prove regrettable.

3. No Room for Change

Cloud is the technology of today. If there’s one thing that’s evident from past decades, it might not necessarily be relevant tomorrow. Although the general notion of “putting it in the cloud” seems unlikely to disappear, individual technologies evolve and get replaced on a regular basis.

If you’re taking the time to migrate to the cloud, do yourself a favor and use the opportunity to assess how your systems can accommodate change. This exercise is also helpful in determining an effective migration strategy.

Designing for change often involves splitting up monoliths into individual microservices. That in itself might require substantial refactoring, but it can pay dividends in the long term.

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Once you’ve adopted a microservices architecture, you have the freedom to locate each individual service in the cloud that fits it best. If a technology gets superseded in the future, you’ll be able to focus on migrating the specific microservices that utilized it.

On a grander scale, cloud providers might evolve their product stacks, merge together, or shut down. You should make plans for how your system will respond to these events, however unlikely they might seem. Don’t assume that the situation today will remain the same forever.

4. No Migration Plan

Implementing a cloud architecture isn’t something that you do in an afternoon. Successful migrations require an action plan that fully considers all contingencies. You should make sure that all stakeholders are informed about what’s going on, why it’s needed, and how you’ll respond to any unforeseen issues.

You should aim to gradually migrate your workloads. If you move everything in one go, any problem will be much more impactful. Starting with a relatively low-traffic service will give you more breathing room if something goes wrong.

Evaluate each migration to identify learnings that you can apply to the next one. Gradually ramp up your cloud adoption until you’re where you want to be. A migration could end up being a multi-month exercise, but this gives you more time to analyze its effects on your organization.

If nothing else, a documented strategy is important so that you have a reference for the future. Your successors will thank you if you can point them to a migration plan that explains how your infrastructure reached its current state. It’s important to detail the business case for each stage as well as the technical details. This helps illustrate why a system was chosen instead of merely describing what was installed.

5. Deprioritizing Security

This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning security. Security needs to be more than an afterthought. It should be baked into every aspect of your architecture. Shifting security to the start of your decision-making process ensures that it can’t be overlooked.

RELATED: What Are the Three Pillars of Cybersecurity?

Don’t assume that your cloud systems are inherently secure. Use of big-name providers can provide false reassurance that your data is protected. In reality, no cloud is completely secure. Many serious breaches originate from basic configuration mistakes, such as unintentionally exposing an object storage bucket.

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Integrating security into your design reduces the risk of hidden issues. Having a single audit at the end of your process might cause you to miss vulnerabilities that lie within individual components.

Systemic security integration adds time and cost to the initial build but is vital for long-term use. You need to consider every eventuality in which an attacker could gain access to your servers, data, and configuration stores.

Remember to lock down access to cloud host control panels, too. It’s no good having stringent workload security protections if you’re using an unsecured password to access your hosting provider. Use a strong password, set up two-factor authentication, and only delegate access to essential team members.

Summary

An effective cloud architecture helps you maximize the opportunities provided by your systems. Cloud technology can be more efficient, more scalable, and easier to integrate with other services. That doesn’t mean that it’s your only option, though.

Assess the full spectrum of available technologies, create a detailed plan before you migrate, and be open to change. Integrate security from the start so that you know your data is safe. You might still make mistakes, but at least you’ll be better prepared to anticipate and resolve them.

James Walker James Walker
James Walker is a contributor to CloudSavvy IT. He is the founder of Heron Web, a UK-based digital agency providing bespoke software development services to SMEs. He has experience managing complete end-to-end web development workflows, using technologies including Linux, GitLab, Docker, and Kubernetes. Read Full Bio »

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