The benefits of cloud data integration have been well-documented—but what about the cloud integration challenges that often accompany them?
In today’s dynamic, constantly evolving business landscape, IT leaders have chosen to embrace cloud technologies, in no small part thanks to their convenience, performance, and cost-effectiveness. However, the flexibility and scalability of cloud services need to be weighed against the possible challenges that you’ll face during implementation and deployment.
The good news is that these difficulties are by no means unsolvable when you're transitioning to the cloud. Below, we’ll discuss 7 of the most important cloud integration challenges, as well as the steps you need to take to address and overcome them.
The 7 Top Cloud Integration Challenges
Once a fringe idea, cloud computing has now become a full-blown best practice. The cloud computing revolution could never have happened without major security improvements for businesses of all sizes and industries. According to a 2019 survey, a full two-thirds of organizations now believe that cloud apps are just as secure as, or more secure than, their on-premises equivalents.
However, this doesn’t imply that businesses always follow cloud security best practices. The same study found that only 20 percent of organizations employ a solution for cloud data loss prevention. Another 2019 survey of IT security professionals found that 84 percent of organizations find it “very difficult” or “somewhat difficult” to maintain their security configurations across cloud services.
Solution: The cloud is likely more secure than on-premises, but businesses still need to take precautions to manage cloud risk and compliance. A robust cloud security solution must include functionality for user authentication and authorization, data encryption, and data backup and recovery. Depending on your industry, you may need to choose a tool such as Xplenty that is compliant with standards such as HIPAA and SOC 2, which ensure that companies meet data security best practices.
2. Network Latency
Cloud environments are often preferred to on-premises because of their scalability: you can easily increase or decrease your usage of compute and storage resources in just a few minutes. But scaling your cloud environment will have limited effect if your network latency is too high, which puts a firm cap on the data integration workloads you can run.
Hybrid clouds make use of wide-area networks (WANs) instead of local area networks (LANs). But WANs may become clogged by transmitting too many small, uncompressed data packets over a remote database connection, overburdening the network.
Solution: To resolve the challenge of network latency, organizations have multiple options. First, they can design their cloud data integration architectures to efficiently operate within their limited network resources, which should avoid most latency challenges. Second, they can use software “agents," or small applications installed on database servers that compress data before sending and limit the number of communications back and forth, to reduce the strain on the network.
3. Choosing the Right Architecture
Choosing the right architecture for your cloud environment is essential. Most organizations have three options to choose from:
- A public cloud offered by a third-party cloud provider, such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure.
- A private cloud used only by a single organization.
- A hybrid cloud that combines aspects of both public and private clouds.
What’s more, many businesses pursue a “multi-cloud” strategy, in which they make use of services from multiple cloud vendors (e.g. different vendors for cloud computing, storage, and software). Public, private, hybrid, and multi-cloud all combine to offer a dizzying array of possibilities.
Solution: Using two or more cloud solutions will require you to seamlessly combine data and services between different providers, forming a singular, coherent cloud ecosystem. Be sure that you understand the APIs and integrations that would be required for your choice of cloud architecture, including whether you need to build your own solution.
Tools such as Xplenty can run on both public and private clouds, and they come with more than 100 pre-built integrations that make it easy to combine different cloud options.
4. Data Governance Questions
Cloud integrations exchange massive quantities of data. How can you ensure that data quality remains high while maintaining compliance with IT protocols and procedures? “Data governance” is the term for the data management policies that ensure the high availability, integrity, and usability of your organization’s data.
Unfortunately, as they move to the cloud, many organizations fail to implement a solid plan for data governance. Each new integration between different systems may introduce new issues and points of failure. Furthermore, as the size of your cloud environment grows, manually monitoring these integration points becomes increasingly infeasible.
Solution: Any proposal to move to the cloud must be accompanied by a robust plan for data governance. For example, automation is more and more important for many organizations’ data governance strategies to help detect potential integration issues. Each record should be assigned a “data owner” whose job is to be accountable for the quality of that asset. You should also clearly define policies regarding which types of data can be integrated or combined, and how to ensure security and integrity afterward.
5. Cloud Integration Anti-Patterns
In software development, an “anti-pattern” is a solution to a common problem that is usually ineffective and often actively counterproductive. Cloud integration, too, suffers from anti-patterns that can negatively impact performance and data quality.
According to Oracle, some of the most frequent cloud integration anti-patterns are:
- Scheduling jobs that execute for too long, starving other jobs of the resources they need.
- Developers creating their own connections to an application, which wastes time and makes the integration exponentially more difficult to manage.
- Reading very large files in memory.
- Failing to adjust integrations and workflows over time as your business requirements evolve.
Solution: For each of the anti-patterns above, there’s an equal and opposite cloud integration best practice:
- Limit the number of files that a single job can process, or the maximum time it can run for.
- Appoint a “data custodian” to identify and eliminate duplicate connections.
- Whenever possible, read files in segments instead of fully in memory.
- Periodically reviewing the existing integrations and workflows, adjusting them when necessary, and consolidating or deleting superfluous ones.
6. On-Premise Integrations
Beyond choosing the right cloud architecture (see above), you also need to choose the right balance between cloud and on-premises. Even businesses that want to fully commit to the cloud may find that they need to leave some legacy systems behind on-premises.
If you do decide that some of your data and/or workloads will remain on-premises, how do you plan to seamlessly connect your cloud and on-premises environments?
Solution: As with the issue of different cloud architectures, the challenge of integrating between cloud and on-premises needs to be addressed well before the project begins. Choose a cloud integration solution such as Xplenty that can run on the public cloud, private cloud, and on-premises infrastructure. Make sure that you have a secure, well-built solution for user authentication and access so that employees can pass between the two environments without a hitch.
7. Deciding Between Custom and Pre-Built Solutions
With 84 percent of organizations using a multi-cloud strategy, the question is less about whether you need to think about cloud integration challenges and more about what solutions you’ll use to address them.
The two basic options at your fingertips are custom-built and pre-built cloud data integrations. But it’s not necessarily an either/or choice. You might use both possibilities for different integrations within a single cloud environment.
Solution: Custom and pre-built cloud integration solutions both have their pros and cons. Although custom-built integrations are time-consuming and expensive, they may be necessary for highly unique use cases. On the other hand, pre-built solutions are extremely convenient and cost-effective, but may not work for every possible integration you need to perform. Make sure you understand the benefits and capabilities of both options before you decide where to deploy them.
25 percent of organizations say that they struggle to integrate new applications into their IT environment, and these cloud integration challenges are costing many businesses up to $500,000 per year. Fortunately, you don’t have to be one of them.
The 7 cloud integration challenges listed above are substantial, but they’re by no means insurmountable:
- Data in the cloud must be protected with encryption, backups, and user authorization.
- Network latency challenges can be fixed by compressing data and building more efficient architectures.
- APIs and integrations can help seamlessly transition between multiple cloud providers.
- Data governance strategies must incorporate data assets both in the cloud and on-premises.
- Avoiding cloud integration anti-patterns will improve performance and data quality.
- Cloud and on-premises systems need to be tightly integrated.
- Whether custom or pre-built, choosing the right cloud integration solution is crucial.
By following the solutions and best practices we recommend, you’ll be much more likely to successfully pull off your cloud integration project.
Another way to ensure cloud integration success is by employing a powerful, feature-rich cloud data integration platform like Xplenty. Xplenty offers a complete toolkit for building data pipelines between databases and SaaS applications, including more than 100 pre-built integrations.
Want to learn how Xplenty can help solve your most pressing cloud integration challenges? Schedule a call with us today for a chat about your cloud integration needs and objectives, or to start a free trial of the Xplenty platform today.