You’ve likely heard many benefits of the cloud as you start developing new digital transformation strategies. But being able to use cloud most effectively to meet these business goals is a whole other challenge — especially when you’re already maxed out and the daily to-do list is filled to the brim.

Don’t worry – with some advance planning and cloud deployment tips, you can get a head start in optimizing your cloud. Here are eight ways to keep moving in the right direction and ensure success in the cloud:

1. Define success.

It may go without saying, but if you want to get the most from any cloud computing platform, you first need to define what business process you’re looking to transform. Whether you need to overhaul process, streamline infrastructure, adopt new manufacturing systems, integrate AI and machine learning, or completely rethink how your audience interacts with your brand, your organization’s definition of success will drive the need for cloud.
For example, an eCommerce company may realize they need to evolve their online shopping experience to improve user experience and decrease abandoned carts. Their definition of success in the cloud might then be focused on a website or app upgrade that transforms the customer experience by improving the mobile interface, speed, and uptime. (See how Bang & Olufsen reached their eCommerce goals with cloud.)

2. Plan for the future.

You also need to keep the big picture and your longer-term goals in mind. For most CIOs and IT departments, that means flexibility and being able to move a workload from cloud to cloud without vendor lock-in. Reviewing both your immediate plans and future goals should be part of a cloud assessment, which can help you decide which cloud computing platform to adopt for which workload.

3. Understand your cloud options.

All the major cloud platforms, including Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS), offer high availability and redundancy backed by data centers spread around the world while adhering to compliance and regulatory frameworks. They all offer pay-as-you-go (PAYG) that charges based on your usage, and they’re all likely to have hooks so you can easily connect to major web services such as Salesforce, Office 365, Twitter, Dropbox and Google, which of course has its own cloud.
So, which is best? Ultimately, it comes down to the right cloud for the right job. In addition, many organizations are embracing hybrid cloud and multi-cloud environments — in part because lines of business are making their own choices without involving their IT department so they can meet their productivity goals.

4. Assess the strengths and weaknesses.

All cloud platforms have their own unique strengths while some features are table stakes regardless of provider.
For example, AWS offers a range of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offerings that encompass content delivery and storage, compute, networking, and database — all of which are tied to Amazon’s identity and security services.
Azure, meanwhile, offers four classes of offerings — data management and databases, compute, networking, and performance — also tied to its own security and management tools, including Active Directory. Both clouds have Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) options for deploying applications without dealing with actual servers, as well as container services.

5. Consider your existing infrastructure.

Your existing on-premise infrastructure could offer you further benefits. If you’re already a Microsoft shop like many of our customers, Azure makes a lot of sense when considering your existing skills and resources, as well as from an existing technology perspective.
For example, you can extend Windows Server and SQL to Azure. Visual Studio is also baked into Azure, so it’s ideal for building native mobile apps, responsive web apps or next-gen “experiences” such as mixed reality. And Visual Studio App Center includes automated builds and testing for hybrid and native apps on iOS and Android to streamline mobile development.

6. Make smart choices to avoid complexity.

Leverage what you can without the expense of investing in complex infrastructure. As one example, many large organizations are embracing open source for data science projects, which also require spooling of cloud-based compute instances.
Cloud solutions have become more open over the past few years, allowing you to bring your own tools, languages or frameworks, including open source technologies such as Linux. Azure, for example, can support Kubernetes as a Service and MySQL as a Service, while its automation portal supports Python scripts.

7. Think cloud-native.

This tip is more about the way you perceive and approach the cloud, as the true value isn’t in the infrastructure, it’s in the cloud-native tools. Your teams should be making use of containers – along with API-driven microservices – that allow you to build cloud agnostic solutions that can truly scale amongst platforms. This delivers unprecedented flexibility and power in deployment so that you aren’t limited to any single platform.

8. Partner to extend your expertise.

Although a key benefit of the cloud is not having to shell out the capital expense for compute and network resources, there is an investment that must be made in the expertise required to get the most of any cloud platform.
No matter which cloud platform you embrace — AWS, Microsoft, Google or other — selecting a partner to help you is likely well worth the while. Using Azure again as an example, there is a well-established ecosystem of Microsoft partners that can help you understand everything that goes into that solution. That allows you to focus on your core business and leverage cloud-native features while they manage the underlying infrastructure.

For more information on the business benefits of working with a managed cloud partner, download our eBook here.