Assessing your next move: How to ensure cloud is right for you – Part 4

Over the past couple of months I’ve spoken in some depth about important considerations before going to the cloud. Many of these are priorities that are top of mind for life sciences companies. But perhaps your first question should be, “Is the cloud right for me?” While there is broad assumption that the cloud is the answer, it’s not always right for the client, or more particularly the timing may not be right.

By Dawn Waite, Manager, Life Sciences in the Cloud

There’s no doubt the cloud delivers significant benefits in terms of allowing you to deploy systems a lot more quickly, and to grow or even reduce your system whenever you want to. However, there may be organizational reasons to hold off on a move or to at least consider an incremental approach.

Is the timing right?

For example, we’ve been working with a client on the management of life sciences products they handle on premise. There are two things standing in the way of a cloud move for them: The first is that in the last year or so they have been through a hardware refresh, and the second is that their systems are shared with other parts of the enterprise. Even if they moved their life sciences product management to the cloud, they couldn’t move the other parts of the enterprise. So until that hardware refresh comes up again, it’s probably not the right time for them to move to the cloud.

What they have acknowledged is that the next time the hardware needs refreshing, it might make sense to start moving to the cloud. That gives them time to plan for the transition into the cloud, which is also an important factor to consider.

On the other hand, we have a client who is less than a year away from a hardware refresh. They know they will have to have considerable outlay to replace their on-premise infrastructure, so it’s the right time for them to look at moving everything to the cloud.

Refreshing your hardware every 3 to 5 years is a large capital outlay that is removed when going to the cloud because your systems are, in effect, refreshed as part of the service. Therefore, your return on investment is significant when costs are calculated over that 3- to 5-year period.

A third scenario when questioning “Is it right for me” would be if you have a new product brought into the solution portfolio. In this case, you could choose to take that product to the cloud even if your existing solutions remain on premise, allowing you to move piecemeal to the cloud. That brings me to another consideration: integration.

From on premise to the cloud

This is a question clients often don’t think to ask: Can your service provider’s cloud solution connect with your on-premise solutions?

We’ve been working with a client to connect their users to the regulatory solution suite (RSS) system in a simpler fashion. We proposed to them that they use integration for the cloud implementation to enable the cloud system to connect directly to the electronic document management software (EDMS) source. The EDMS content is then made available to users once they connect to the cloud. It’s not something they had thought about in any great depth, but once it was put to them they realized just how valuable such a capability would be.

Cloud solutions that do not support integration may mean that EDMS source content would need to be pulled manually and made “submission ready,” which is a business process nightmare when you consider file systems’ lack of document versioning, locking, etc.

In another example, we have a client with a publishing solution who is looking at a global network. By putting their publishing tools in the cloud, their global network of clients gets better, smoother integration than if it was on premise.

A matter of choice

To a large extent, integration gives you flexibility. It’s about giving you the choice as to what you have in the cloud and what you don’t and it allows your move to the cloud to be gradual. It negates the need to move files from the cloud environment to the user’s local network. Instead, those files can stay in the cloud while being worked on, which gives a global network or users who are working remotely better, faster access. That’s especially important for people working from home, because working in the cloud means they don’t have to worry about their personal bandwidth.

However, integration does also raise the thorny issue of security. You still need to have a high level of encryption in your products when you’re working with people on different networks, even if you are moving it from a corporate network to the cloud.

Take time to prepare

Moving to the cloud and selecting a cloud provider is about knowing what to ask for and knowing what to plan for. It’s a move that can – and should — take time to work through. The move should be planned and structured. You need to make sure everything important is in place when you make that move.

The obvious considerations are security, but other issues like levels of integration, what support your provider offers, and how you’ll get your data into your system and back out again are important. Many of these are easy to manage with the right supplier, but you need to put some thought into what you require, ensure your move to the cloud is planned, and that it’s right for your business today.

I have covered many of these topics in previous blogs, including most recently assessing how experienced your cloud vendor really is and how much they know about the life sciences industry.

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