Cloud Management Essentials for Modern Businesses

Feeling overwhelmed by the sprawl of your cloud resources? 

As a small or medium-sized business (SMB), the benefits of cloud computing – scalability, cost-efficiency, and remote access – are undeniable. But managing multiple cloud services, data storage, and cloud security can quickly emerge as a challenge without proper controls in place.

An unoptimized cloud environment is a potential long-term burden that can lead to wasted resources, security vulnerabilities, hindered business growth and lack of competitive edge.

This guide will equip you with the cloud management essentials, and explore strategies for optimizing your cloud environment to help you maximize the return on your cloud investment.

What is cloud management?

Cloud management is the administrative control of cloud computing products and services, such as public cloud, private cloud, hybrid cloud and multi-cloud environments. The term encompasses the tools, technologies, and processes that enable organizations to maintain operational control over the cloud, in an effort to ensure ongoing security, compliance, performance, and efficiency when deploying, managing and optimizing cloud resources.

Cloud management is becoming more prominent in the discussion and implementation of cloud solutions today as small businesses and enterprises alike adopt cloud platforms in vast numbers. According to Gartner Research, global end-user spending on public cloud services was $563.6 billion USD in 2023, and is expected to grow 20.4% to total $678.8 billion in 2024. 

This growth is driven by the indispensability of cloud services and the innovation they bring to business models, particularly with the deployment of generative AI (GenAI) services – for example, many companies are looking to the public cloud due to the scale of infrastructure required for generative AI deployment. 

But while cloud services can better scale with your needs in such an area, companies of all sizes across all business sectors need mechanisms in place to manage spend and maintenance of these solutions to ensure costs and resource allocation doesn’t get out-of-hand.

Who is cloud management for?

Cloud management is an essential practice for both SMB and enterprise because it helps your business keep cloud costs under control, direct resources to the right cloud deployments, and keep your IT infrastructure and sensitive data protected with the right cloud security systems. 

Here’s why it’s specifically crucial for SMBs:

Cost optimization:

Cloud management platforms provide insights into your cloud spending, allowing you to identify areas for cost reduction and manage costs overall. You can better ensure you’re only paying for the cloud-based resources (applications, data analytics, security, storage) you actually use.

Enhanced security:

Cloud management solutions offer robust security features as part of their platforms (for example, Microsoft Azure has a security service called Azure Security Center) to safeguard your data and applications in the cloud. Cloud security is especially important as cyber threats continue to evolve in number and complexity.

Improved efficiency:

Managing multiple cloud resources can be complex. Cloud management tools automate tasks and streamline workflows, freeing up your IT team to focus on strategic initiatives (for example, Microsoft Azure Resource Manager solution for template-based cloud infrastructure deployments).

Simplified scalability:

As your business grows, your cloud needs will too. Cloud management platforms enable you to easily scale your resources up or down as needed, ensuring you always have the right amount of power for your workload.

Embracing cloud management is not just an option, but a necessity for any business undergoing digital transformation using cloud platforms to stay competitive and agile in your respective market, and ensure you know every effort that goes into your cloud environment’s deployment, operation, and maintenance, from data storage to application functionality and beyond.

Recommended reading: The Ultimate Guide to Cloud 2024

Main Practices of Cloud Management

What are the main practices of cloud management?

For small and medium-sized businesses leveraging cloud computing, effective cloud management encompasses a number of different practices. Below, we list the five most important practices, each illustrated with an example from one of the leading public cloud platforms: Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), or Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Resource tagging and organization

Practice: Resource tagging and organization is the process of implementing a systematic approach to tagging and organizing your cloud-based resources for easy identification, management, and cost allocation.

Example: In AWS, businesses can use resource tagging with Amazon Resource Names (ARNs) to categorize resources by project, department, or environment. This allows for more straightforward billing reports and resource management, helping your SMB track costs and usage within your AWS platform more effectively.

Automated backup and disaster recovery

Practice: Automated backup and disaster recovery (BCDR) with the cloud involves setting up automated backups and disaster recovery processes for your business processes and systems hosted in the cloud to ensure data durability and business continuity.

Example: Microsoft Azure offers Azure Backup and Azure Site Recovery services, a cloud-based scalable BCDR solution within the Azure platform that enables your SMB to automate the backup of virtual machines, SQL databases, and other critical data, as well as orchestrate disaster recovery plans with minimal downtime.

Identity and access management (IAM)

Practice: IAM with your cloud platform involves managing who has access to what resources in the cloud environment, ensuring that your employees have access only to the resources necessary for their roles.

Example: Google Cloud Platform’s Cloud Identity & Access Management tool allows you to define fine-grained access control policies, ensuring your end-users only have the necessary permissions to perform their job functions, thereby enhancing security and reducing risk.

Performance monitoring and optimization

Practice: Just like with on-premise assets, this practice involves the continuous monitoring of your cloud-hosted resources for performance issues, and optimizing infrastructure configurations for efficiency and scalability.

Example: AWS CloudWatch provides detailed monitoring of AWS cloud resources and applications, allowing your SMB to collect and track metrics, collect and monitor log files, and set alarms. This data can help in identifying underutilized resources that can be downsized to save costs, or pinpointing overutilized resources that need scaling up to maintain performance.

Cost management and budgeting

Practice: As with any new technology or platform, the practice of monitoring and managing cloud spend is essential to avoid unexpected charges and keep costs within budget, and there are plenty of cloud-based services, particularly in the public cloud, that can help you do so..

Example: Azure Cost Management + Billing tools enable your SMB to analyze where they are incurring costs in your Azure environment, set up budgets, and receive alerts when spending exceeds predefined thresholds. This helps you to stay on top of cloud spending, and make informed decisions about overall resource usage and optimization in your cloud deployment.

Security policies and compliance standards

Practice: Cloud security is a key part of cloud management and involves developing and enforcing a set of security policies that comply with regulatory standards to protect your business and customer’s sensitive information and maintain data privacy. These cloud policies should address aspects like application security, data encryption and network security.

Example: On AWS, businesses can use AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) to create and manage AWS users and groups, and use permissions to allow and deny their access to AWS resources. AWS Config is another service that helps to assess, audit, and evaluate the configurations of AWS resources, making it easier to comply with internal policies and regulatory standards. This ensures that your cloud operations are in line with industry best practices and legal requirements, such as GDPR for data protection, or HIPAA for healthcare information.

Implementing cloud management practices in your SMB requires strategic assessment of your operations, careful planning and continuous and ongoing management. But the effort and investment will significantly enhance the efficiency and security of your cloud operations. Having established cloud management practices can also instill confidence in your cloud investment, ensuring the new tools and solutions don’t go to waste among your workforce and end-users.

Cloud management: Next steps

Understandably, cloud management is not something every SMB can handle on their own, particularly if you have just made the move to the cloud, or do not have a dedicated IT department to lead the charge. This is where managed service providers (MSPs) can help you get up-to-speed with your cloud management efficiently and at your budget, with tailored solutions and specialized expertise across all cloud platforms and deployment types.

SparkNav is a MSP with specialized knowledge in Microsoft Azure and our team of expert cloud operators can help ensure the seamless management of your cloud infrastructure and resources. Speak to one of our team today to learn more about our managed cloud solution.

Robert Griffin
Robert Griffin
As COO, Robert Griffin plays an instrumental role in aligning operational excellence with strategic goals by leveraging his decades of experience in enterprise leadership. With deep knowledge and expertise in security, governance, risk, and compliance (GRC), and AI, his insights are often shared through thought leadership channels, including LinkedIn and blogs. → Follow Robert on LinkedIn.