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Limor Wainstein
Limor Wainstein

The Business Analyst and the Cloud

The age of cloud computing is now so firmly established that research firm Gartner predicted by 2020, a corporate "no-cloud" policy will be as rare as a "no-internet" policy is today. In the same press release, Gartner went on to predict that spending on compute power sold by cloud providers will exceed that of compute power sold and deployed into traditional enterprise data centers.


Given the ubiquity of cloud computing, business analysts need to prepare for the cloud and understand how it affects their roles. As valuable problem solvers within all organizations, business analysts will help to streamline and optimize business processes for deployment in the cloud. Below are five things you need to know about the cloud if you are a BA—these insights will help better prepare you for your company’s likely move to some form of cloud computing service. You’ll find out about motivations for moving to the cloud, some popular products offered by cloud vendors, such as AWS Amazon EFS, and much more.


Why Move to the Cloud?

Given its explosion in adoption over the last few years by all kinds of businesses, it’s helpful to understand the motivations behind the buzz about cloud computing.

Perhaps the most important reason for its surge in popularity is cost-efficiency. Without a cloud solution, organizations must fund data centers, servers, hard drives, network capacity, security, and infrastructural upgrades. Moving to the cloud reduces, and, in some cases eliminates many of these costs. In the cloud, you typically pay only for what you use, and infrastructural costs are much lower because there are fewer IT assets on-premises to maintain or upgrade.


The second consideration is scalability, meaning the ability of a computer application or service to handle growing workloads by adding more computing resources or upgrading existing computers. Scalability is difficult in traditional on-premise IT systems. However, in the cloud, scalability is as simple as requesting more cloud computing instances or requesting your provider to upgrade existing instances.

Cloud Computing Options

Organizations typically use three broad types of cloud service:


  • Software-as-a-service (SaaS). The most comprehensive option, SaaS outsources infrastructure, software, and its underlying platforms (OS, databases, etc.) all to the cloud vendor.

  • Platform-as-a-service (PaaS). The middle ground cloud computing option in which the vendor provides infrastructure and essential tools such as databases and operating systems. Businesses then build custom applications which run using the provided infrastructure and platform.

  • Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS). This option provides core infrastructure in the cloud while the organization manages everything else.

Cloud Vendors

A significant number of vendors provide cloud services for enterprises, and it can be tough for businesses to choose the right option for their use case. Perhaps the most well-known of these vendors is Amazon Web Services (AWS), the current market leader in cloud computing according to IDC.


AWS offers several types of cloud solution, including Amazon EFS, which provides cloud storage on Amazon EC2 cloud computers, and is commonly used for analytics, Big Data, and web serving. There is also Amazon S3, which is low cost storage typically used to distribute static web content or host static websites. To dive a little more deeply, see this post about managing Amazon EFS volumes in the cloud and how to get started with EC2.


Other options outside of AWS include Microsoft, which has IaaS, Saas, and PaaS options, and IBM Cloud.

Cloud Computing Issues

Just because cloud computing is so popular either as a hybrid solution (combining on-premises and cloud services) or as a fully-fledged cloud-only solution, this does not mean it’s without concerns.


Security

A 2012 breach of popular SaaS service Dropbox resulted in the compromise of 68 million passwords, and there have been other security breaches since. Such incidents lead to speculation about the security of cloud computing services and how cloud hackers might get access to customer data or halt mission-critical business processes.


Despite these incidents, the cloud is very secure, and most cloud vendors enforce rigid security measures including access control, encryption, and authentication.


Outages

When a business relies on cloud providers to help provide its mission-critical apps and services, any outages experienced by the cloud provider can send businesses offline too. A 2017 Amazon S3 outage caused problems for many websites, making some completely inaccessible (more details).


Businesses can combat potential outage issues by using disaster recovery services. It’s also worth noting that disasters can happen to IT centers on-premises so this is not an issue unique to the cloud.

Business Analysts and Cloud Computing

As a bridge between the problems cloud computing attempts to solve and the implementation of cloud technology, the BA has a vital role in ensuring an optimum cloud computing strategy, whether hybrid or cloud-only.


The BA helps to:


  • Identify which processes or services should be moved to the cloud

  • Outline the required governance and policies to ensure the integrity and security of sensitive organizational data

  • Help businesses understand the levels of service required by its cloud providers to ensure any cloud solutions achieve what businesses need from them

  • Indicate how best to monitor cloud performance and identify personnel responsible for this monitoring


Business analysts are the best-suited professionals at any organization to fulfill the above duties and ensure a smooth integration with cloud technology.


Conclusion

Cloud computing will provide more exciting opportunities for business analysts to flourish and use their skills to do what they do best—solve real business problems. Whether your business opts for a SaaS solution like Salesforce, or one of Amazon’s IaaS/PaaS services such as Amazon EFS or S3, the above information should ensure adequate preparation for the main concerns you’ll need to deal with as a business analyst in the age of cloud computing.

This entry was published on Dec 25, 2017 / Limor Wainstein. Posted in Business Analysis. Bookmark the Permalink or E-mail it to a friend.
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