Cloud Integration: Best Practices

Why You Need The Cloud?
Benefits of the Cloud
Why Seamless Cloud Integration is so Important
Cloud Integration Challenges – Overview
IT infrastructure
Getting Existing Applications to Work Without Frequent Problems
Types of Cloud Solutions – Full or Hybrid Use
Case Study 1: Iaas Integration
Case Study 2: Saas Integration
How to Best Approach Integration With Any Platform
Determining Your Requirements
Let the fun begin! It’s Time to Integrate Cloud With Your Existing System
Step by Step Guide to Integration
My Final Thoughts


Before we begin, it is important to note that there is no one size fits all approach to cloud integration that is going to get rid of your headaches. The reason that cloud integration is such a hot topic on the internet right now is that it is riddled with so many potential problems that, if you are one of the unlucky ones, could mean months of sleepless nights and hours spent wishing that you had never been born.
This guide is intended to be a general overview of the entire process, including the benefits and drawbacks of cloud integration with your existing system. I intend this article to be more of a beginner’s guide to the entire process rather than a step by step guide that you can follow to the letter.


Since the ease and success of your integration will really be specific to your particular needs, your system, what apps or programs you intend to integrate, etc., even if I had the same number of people helping me as it took to build the Great Wall of China, it would be impossible to cover this topic in enough detail to please everyone.
What follows is a general overview of the process of cloud integration in which I will detail the general steps and pitfalls to cloud integration. I will focus particularly on SaaS hybrid integration as a case study as this is, in my view, the most complex type of cloud integration.

Why You Need the Cloud?


Whether you are a self-employed web developer or a multinational business, the cloud should be considered as an essential part of your business resources. The cloud enables universal access to a huge wealth of powerful computer resources and apps that can revolutionize the way we all work and do business.
These resources include anything from basic data storage to sophisticated web platforms that literally allow you to run your business from the safety of the cloud. The simple fact is that most of us in the west already use the cloud in some form or another, if not directly, still depending heavily on businesses and services that do.
So the question becomes, when not if, you integrate the cloud into your business and personal life. Since business is all about getting ahead, there really is no time like the present to get integrated with the cloud.

Benefits of the Cloud

• Huge number of programs and applications available
• Since all the applications are contained within the cloud, they can be accessed anywhere and at any time by multiple individuals at once.
• No expensive licensing fees
• Powerful infrastructure that can multiply existing capacity significantly
• Offers excellent off-site storage backup solutions
• Instant software updates
• They operate expensive and secure security systems

Why Seamless Cloud Integration is so Important


There isn’t a perfect IT system anywhere in the world. Those of us old enough remember Bill Gates’ infamous presentation during the launch of Windows 98, when the infamous and much feared blue screen of death stuck, know that no matter how rich you might be and how many resources you have at your fingers, things just sometimes go wrong.
Though on this occasion Bill Gates laughed it off, he later confessed to being profoundly embarrassed at this event, something that you can be sure that someone paid heavily for behind the scenes. If you haven’t seen the video and like me, enjoy to see those who have it all suffer, then pull up a comfy chair and click this link.
On a more serious note, I gave this example to demonstrate just how important system reliability is, no matter what you need it for. After decades of perfecting the reliability of in-house computers and server networks, a new technology has come to fruition and is now an essential part of modern business networks. Cloud integration is now going through many of the same pitfalls that our soon to be outdated operating systems and programs once had to go through.

Getting a particular cloud platform to integrate with so many different systems and programs is a tall order, especially when many of them aren’t even open source. We now have more operating systems being used than ever before, including 5 or 6 versions of Windows, Linux, Apple OS, Android and so on. To add to this headache there are thousands of applications across these operating systems that need to be compatible with the hundreds of possible cloud programs that are available. Here in lies the nightmare.
Failure to find a solution in regards to successful and stable integration with the cloud will inevitably lead to frustrating events such as partial or complete system failures, having to constantly enter data into two different systems, and complete loss of data, all of which will impact both businesses alike with loss of productive worker time and frustrated customers who may choose to take their business elsewhere. When you consider a room of 50 employees that are unable to work for just 1 hour apiece, this is an expense that will run into the thousands of dollars, which could double if overtime is required to make up the time. This is an expense, that should it happen repeatedly, could end up costing a business a small fortune, and even result in them going out of business.

Cloud Integration Challenges – Overview

The challenges facing you or your business in integrating with the cloud really begin with what type of cloud platform you intend to utilize. There are three main types of cloud platform, IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service), PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service), and SaaS (Software-as-a-Service), all of which offer differing resources and tools to their users. I am not going to go into these in detail in this article, so if you are unfamiliar with them you can find more information here.

In this article I am going to look at Iaas, which is more for individuals and small companies, and Saas that is generally used by serious professionals such as web developers and small to medium sized businesses. Before I begin, here are the main areas where that you will face challenges during cloud integration.

Main Challenges:

IT Infrastructure

Existing IT infrastructure is a vital component in how easily and how successfully you will be able to get setup on with any given cloud platform. Since most individuals and companies don’t have the resources to just upgrade to the newest and often most suitable systems, the system the one currently being used and what applications it is running is extremely important. With around ¾ of the world’s PC users using one of 7 operating systems other than Windows 10, not to mention the phone and tab market, it is easy to see the challenges that differing infrastructure presents. Though we all look back with a happy grin at Windows XP, I cannot emphasize more the importance of running an operating system that is still being supported. As recent malware attacks on XP have proved, it is simply security suicide.

Getting Existing Applications to Work Without Frequent Problems

I remember a summer job I had in a school helping with system maintenance. The school was buzzing with praise for the new IT manager for stabilizing the system and pretty much eliminating the frequent crashes and slow loading times that had plagued the system for years. How did he do it? Well, it turned out that he simply removed every program he could without creating a riot.Though this definitely caused dissent in some small quarters as these people were now unable to use these deleted programs, the basic fact was that he vastly improved system stability.

99% of the problems that arise in regards to cloud system integration come from software integration problems. Since, as I have already pointed out, most companies can’t simply throw away older systems and programs, the challenge for both them and the cloud platforms themselves, is to get both systems to work side by side in harmony. For the most part, the bigger and more widely used a program or app is, the better the chance it will integrate with the cloud more seamlessly.

Types of Cloud Solutions – Full or Hybrid?

There are really 2 main routes one can go in regards to the cloud, full or hybrid, which I will briefly talk about before we go any further.
In some cases, such as with IaaS platforms, people may choose to rely almost entirely on cloud based applications, rather than trying to integrate existing ones. Though the initial transfer of data can be painstaking work (should the program not be supported by the cloud platform, in which case complete data transfer is part of the easy integration process), once this has been completed, the reliability of this solution is excellent. Microsoft’s Office 365 is an example of this type of complete dependency on cloud based platforms.
Other individuals and businesses may choose a hybrid platform solution that enables them to use cloud based applications alongside their existing programs, where data can be easily shared between. They might also choose to use hybrid cloud solutions, mixing between Public and Private cloud platforms, which I will cover later on.

Provided data sharing doesn’t require painstaking transfer, most businesses opt for this as a viable alternative, should they not wish to throw out their existing software and start anew. Generally, hybrid solutions are more labor intensive however and do take more effort to manage and control. Other areas of difficulty include the management and security of data that is being passed between the two systems, as well as processes such as ensuring accurate performance logs of all processes between the various applications also.

Case Study 1: Iaas Integration


Iaas integration is the easiest of all the various cloud platforms to get up and running. This is because it only requires the user to set up it up by registering and customizing the in-cloud applications to whatever degree is possible. The main challenge with this type of cloud platform is transferring existing data onto the cloud and training staff to use the new system once it is up and running.

This solution currently is only able to meet a rather limited range of tasks because the cloud programs on offer are still in their relative infancy. So for larger businesses, or ones that have very specific needs like complex stocktaking processes, then this solution won’t meet their needs.
Since no software is installed on the user’s computer, the Iaas solution actually frees up a good amount of system resources on the user’s system, though certain resources such as bandwidth will come under greater strain. What’s more, the IaaS model actually encourages active user participation in order to improve the development of applications, meaning that over time their collective input helps to better mold the applications to better suit their needs.


A direct result of this customer input has led to the emergence of a new Iaas hybrid cloud system that is enabling these cloud applications to be connected to on premise applications, something which promises to make life a lot easier for many. If you are able to find an Iaas platform that suits your needs, then this is definitely the route to go as it offers really easy integration.

Case Study 2: Saas Integration

The real test of cloud integration comes with SaaS and PaaS platforms, particularly when users intend to hybridize their use with their existing systems. Failure to properly integrate a SaaS application alongside existing software will result in what is known as silos, a situation where data ends up being unnecessarily duplicated, leading to data discrepancies and inaccurate reports that cause havoc and are a nightmare to fix. The FTP method that has been traditionally used to transfer large data packets in one bulk transfer is quickly becoming an outdated method for just this reason.
Increasingly, cloud users are coming to rely on semantic mediation or data transformation, which is a process that deals with bridging the gap between different and often incompatible data sources so that they can be bridged in real time without huge delays or the requirement to transfer data manually. Integration technologies such as this and advanced API’s allow much better cloud and private system integration, increasingly making SaaS a flexible and versatile cloud platform for businesses of all types and sizes. Leading players in this area include IBM, Software AG, and Informatica Oracle, all of whom have highly praised and sophisticated Saas and PaaS integration solutions.

How to Best Approach Integration With Any Platform


These are the main steps I consider vital to ensure the best results when it comes to hybrid cloud integration. The reason I choose to concentrate on hybrid cloud is quite simply this is the most difficult form of cloud integration there is. For the record, I am not here to argue about definitions, I consider hybrid cloud not only to be the combination of Public and Private cloud, but also the integration of the cloud into existing systems and programs.

Determining Your Requirements

Before you even go near a cloud provider, it is important to really understand exactly what you need. A number of factors including your business size, and the amount and type of data that you plan to interlink will all affect your cloud requirements. The more data that has to be processed from different programs, for example, the more complicated integration is going to be.

Here are a few helpful questions:

  • What are your end game needs?
  • How much capital do you have on hand to do the upgrade? Do you have enough?
  • How fast do you plan to move towards full integrations?
  • How are your staffing needs going to change?
  • How will integration affect your existing system?
  • Are there any aspects of your existing system that will need to be upgraded to allow for more seamless integration? If for example, you are using an outdated operating system, do you have the resources to upgrade this?

Another essential part of IT infrastructure essential to cloud usage is your connectivity speeds. Since the cloud requires constant connectivity in order to operate, ensuring you have a fast and reliable connection is imperative. Don’t forget that using the cloud will increase the level of bandwidth required, so don’t make the mistake of assuming that just because your internet speed was fast enough before, it will be up to the task.

You should also make sure that your system is able to handle the mass data access requirements of the various programs that cloud requires. Slower server systems will cause data clogs that will certainly affect the performance of the system as a whole.
From this, you should now be able to move onto the next step.

What Cloud Model is Most Suitable?


You should now have enough information to choose between IaaS, SaaS or a Paas cloud platforms. Also important at this time will be to decide exactly which is the most suitable cloud deployment model for your needs. Here are the 3 possible options:

  • Private cloud (This is a secure service that is specifically designed for sensitive data. Cloud data storage, for example, generally falls into this category).
  • Public cloud (Includes applications such as Office 365 and is open to any number of people with authorized access. Despite this fact, individual’s data cannot be accessed by any unauthorized persons).
  • Combination of Private and Public

When choosing the appropriate cloud provider it is paramount that you do detailed research into their resources and applications to make sure they are suitable for your needs. In the case of hybrid cloud, this research becomes critical, as requiring multiple services and platforms to be used alongside each other can create some of the issues I have already talked about earlier in this article. Other important considerations are speed, security, flexibility, level of management control, customer service levels, and of course cost. For those people considering a more basic level of cloud integration, and are trying to do it on a small budget, click here to find out the top 10 providers of basic cloud.

Let the fun begin! It’s Time to Integrate Cloud With Your Existing System


Once you have found a suitable cloud provider, it is now time to begin the difficult process of system integration. I strongly suggest that you begin this process on a Saturday morning, and if possible over a holiday week. This will give you plenty of time to get the systems setup and to test them out fully before they are required for a regular working day. By this point, you should have done all the research required into how to setup and deal with any general issues such as data transfer etc.
This research should have led you to develop a clear road-map of what steps you need to take and when you need to take them. If migrating to Office 365 for example, then you should have a clear idea of how and when to transfer your existing data onto the platform. You should also spend the time to consider if and when you intend to remove the existing Office program from your system to free up system resources.

Step by Step Guide to Integration


  • Begin with the basics. Register and setup your cloud account.
  • Set up controlled interfaces that are essential in allowing the cloud API management systems to access existing applications and data.
  • Install/Setup and test each application one at a time. This will let you effectively isolate problems as they arise and prevent a sudden overload of issues.
  • During the whole process, you will need to establish administration functions and user access levels. This is a vital part of the process as users will require access to certain data but should not be given access to others. Just consider that accounting departments, for example, will require access to sensitive financial information that should not be accessible by others.
  • Once you have setup and tested all the applications, it is time to do scaled tests. It is worth testing the system on one or two workers at a time (in the case of larger businesses) in order to iron out any unforeseen problems. Small scale tests allow you to quickly and efficiently fix problems without too much loss of work time and resulting overheads. Scaling these small tests up step by step is the best way to ensure seamless integration.


I cannot emphasize more the need for adequate training for all members of staff who will be using the new system. Depending on the number of programs they will be required to use, and the complexity of those tasks, you should allow the appropriate time and resources for training. Anyone who spends all this time setting up an integrated cloud system and doesn’t allow for adequate staff training is quite possibly a dangerous individual.

Develop detailed user policies for both staff and if applicable customers

When you think about it, every war in history has been fought over boundaries, no matter how abstract they might be. You should consider your cloud access in such terms if you wish to protect your data and customers. You might think that this is an exaggeration but trust me your job might just depend on it.

Why You Need Clearly Defined Policies.


  • Gives clear and precise boundaries regarding appropriate use of new systems
  • Formulating these guidelines will allow you to access the framework for security gaps and issues
  • Allow you to create the appropriate training programs to ensure workers are fully able to complete their roles
  • Guidelines will enable workers to confidently give feedback, raise issues, and understand when they have experienced security flaws in the new framework

Ensure That Security in Place is Sufficient

Though the security systems of all the main cloud providers are extensive, cloud systems still have a weakness. Since they allow remote access to private systems that they don’t have any control over, they become vulnerable. Password protection, malware and anti-virus programs, and secure connection are just three of the areas that need to be addressed by the individual or business. Prior to the integration process, you should run a full system security diagnostic, including an assessment of any Wi-Fi routers to check for weaknesses.


When integrating the cloud, you should make sure that you setup each application on the platform to make sure that the security settings are set to the appropriate levels for your needs. This will involve restricting access to certain data, establishing individual passwords and domain access, depending on the person’s job role.

Establish a Clear Data Recovery Plan

The final part of cloud integration is making sure that you have an adequate data backup system in place. So far as the cloud based applications are concerned, short an asteroid strike that wipes out humanity, your data will be secure. You will need to review your data backup options with your cloud applications to make sure that your data is being handled in a way that best suits your requirements. Many of the basic cloud packages only offer once daily data backup plans, for example, something which may not be adequate for everyone.
The real challenge of data backup when it comes to hybrid systems is how to secure the data of the private system. Most users opt for some kind of solution that involves regular backup of their data onto the cloud. Keep in mind that the more frequent and the greater the quantity of this data the higher the cost.


My Final Thoughts

As I said in my introduction, successful and reliable cloud integration is the foremost challenge when it comes to integrating cloud based platforms into established private computer systems. I would argue that this aspect of the cloud is the biggest restricting factor to its inevitable dominance of both our personal and business computer worlds.

As I detailed in my Saas case study, the replacement of outdated and labor intensive modes of data integration with more automated semantic mediation techniques is an example of how rapidly cloud platforms are overcoming the problem of system and data integration. In the future, powerful API’s will effortlessly solve all our current integration problems and manage data integration in real time thereby removing the biggest restriction to complete system integration.

For now, we remain at a point in cloud development where we just have to suck up any problems we might encounter and try to find the most cost effective and reliable solutions to overcome them. Time, money and a little added patience usually fix most problems, so there is certainly hope for all of us. One of the points of view that I 100% agree with is that by supporting the development of cloud platforms, both through using them and of course paying for them, we are effectively investing in making our own futures brighter and hopefully one day making cloud integration as simple as clicking a button. Only time will tell how fast this happens, but in the meantime, good luck with your cloud integration.

Aran Davies

Aran Davies

Blockchain Expert | Developer | Writer | Photographer
Aran Davies