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Cloud Integration: What it Is and how it works

In an era where even milliseconds matter to customers and partners, businesses can’t afford delays due to disconnected systems or isolated data storage. Fortunately, cloud integration has made the transfer of data and applications lightning-fast.

Well-built cloud integrations get all your applications talking seamlessly and data flowing across platforms effortlessly—it’s where operational efficiency transforms from a buzzword into a daily reality. Whether you’re a budding startup or an established enterprise, understanding cloud integration is essential for unlocking the full potential of the cloud. And with platforms like DigitalOcean simplifying your journey, there’s never been a better time to start cloud integration.

Below, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about cloud integration, including its benefits, challenges, and must-follow best practices.

What is cloud integration?

Cloud integration is the process of configuring multiple cloud services and platforms to connect to each other (and to on-premise systems) to send data and business processes back and forth. Consider it the glue to your cloud-based systems and local resources, keeping everything working together.

At its core, cloud integration addresses a fundamental challenge: businesses often use dozens of applications and platforms that each serve a specific purpose but aren’t inherently connected. Think about all the siloed tools:

  • Customer relationship management (CRM)
  • Enterprise resource planning (ERP)
  • Ecommerce platforms
  • Data analytics tools
  • Marketing and advertising platforms
  • Content management system (CMS)

And that’s just getting started.

These systems often operate in isolation, meaning there’s disconnected data or a lot of copy and paste behind the scenes—neither of which is good for your business or bottom line. Cloud integration bridges the gap behind these tools to keep data synced, workflows streamlined, and processes automated.

Types of cloud integration

In the realm of cloud computing, integration isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. You can adopt different integration approaches depending on your business’s specific needs and existing infrastructure.

Here are three primary types of cloud integration:

1. Hybrid integration

Hybrid integration refers to integrating on-premises systems (those located in a company’s physical location) with cloud-based systems.

This approach allows businesses to retain their existing IT infrastructure while leveraging the benefits of the cloud.

Pros:

  • Flexibility: Companies can choose which applications or data remain on-premises and which move to the cloud.
  • Optimized costs: By maintaining some systems on-premises, businesses can optimize costs, especially if they’ve made significant investments in their current infrastructure.
  • Security: Sensitive data can be kept on-premises and protected by the company’s internal security protocols.

2. Multi-cloud integration

Multi-cloud integration involves using multiple cloud services from different providers. This can be a mix of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS) from different vendors.

Pros:

  • Avoiding vendor lock-in: By diversifying cloud providers, businesses aren’t overly reliant on a single vendor’s offerings or pricing structure.
  • Optimized services: Companies can choose the best offerings from each provider to get the best tools for each job.
  • Risk management: Distributing resources across multiple clouds can provide a backup in case of a failure with one provider.

3. iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service)

iPaaS is a suite of cloud integration services that facilitate the integration of different systems, applications, and data across both on-premises and the cloud environment. It provides a set of tools and integrations to connect a range of data sources.

Pros:

  • Rapid integration: iPaaS solutions often come with pre-built connectors and integration flows, speeding up the integration process.
  • Scalability: As a cloud service, iPaaS can easily scale to accommodate growing data volumes or additional systems.
  • Real-time data processing: iPaaS platforms often support real-time data integration, ensuring that data across systems is always up-to-date.

Should you invest in cloud integration?

“Given the current situation, the transition from legacy software and cloud adoption are logical steps,” says Evgeniy Altynpara, CEO of Cleveroad. “It becomes a must-have step for business continuity and an investment that pays off pretty soon for most companies.”

Here are some of the benefits of cloud integration:

  • Unified data management: No more hopping between platforms to gather information. With cloud integration, all your data is centralized, offering a single source of truth. This ensures that every department—from sales to customer support—works with the most up-to-date and consistent data.
  • Upgraded operational efficiency: Automated data transfers and synchronized cloud applications mean reduced manual interventions. Tasks that once took hours (like data entry or report generation) can be accomplished in minutes or seconds.
  • Scalability: As your business grows, so does the complexity of your operations. Cloud integration enables you to easily add new tools or scale existing ones without disrupting the existing ecosystem, ensuring your systems evolve with your needs.
  • Cost savings: Automating workflows and reducing the need for manual data handling can cut down on operational costs. Additionally, more accurate data helps improve decision-making, leading to better resource allocation and reduced waste.
  • Improved customer experience: Customer interactions across systems and touchpoints are tracked and updated in real-time. This means your customer support can access the latest interactions a customer has with sales or marketing, leading to more informed and personalized service.
  • Real-time decision-making: Integrated cloud systems provide real-time analytics and insights. Business leaders can make informed decisions quickly, adapting to market changes and capitalizing on new opportunities without time-intensive back and forth.
  • Enhanced security: Cloud integration platforms often come with robust security features, ensuring that data transfers are encrypted and access is restricted to authorized personnel. This reduces the risk of data breaches and leaks.

A cloud integration solution isn’t just a technological upgrade—it’s a business evolution. Bridging the gaps between disparate systems transforms your business into something new with enhanced efficiency, agility, and growth potential.

And in today’s competitive landscape, that’s a game-changer.

Cloud integration is at the heart of DigitalOcean. DigitalOcean’s cloud is built to serve the unique needs of startups and SMBs, from simple tools and predictable pricing to support designed for growing businesses. We want to help connect all your systems to keep your data and business processes streamlined and automated.

7 best practices to implement cloud integration

Cloud integration requires a strategic approach and long-term planning. It needs research, due diligence, and commitment for a successful implementation. Here are some best practices to consider when starting your journey into the cloud:

1. Assessment and planning

This involves mapping out all the systems, applications, and data sources you aim to integrate. Doing this creates a clear roadmap of the integration process, allowing you to identify potential challenges early on and allocate resources more effectively.

2. Prioritize data security

Prioritizing security protects your sensitive business data and maintains compliance with data protection regulations. Implement robust security measures to protect your cloud integration:

  • Encryption during data transfer
  • Multi-factor authentication for access control
  • Regular security audits
  • Firewalls and intrusion detection systems (IDS)
  • Frequent backups
  • Patch management
  • Security training for employees

3. Choose the right integration tools

The tools and cloud integration platforms you select for integration can make or break the process. Opt for cloud integration solutions that align with your business’s unique needs.

Whether you’re considering an iPaaS solution, custom-built middleware, or third-party connectors, confirm that they offer the features and scalability your business requires (today and tomorrow).

4. Standardize data formats

Data inconsistency can be a significant roadblock in the integration process. Adopt consistent data formats and structures to create smooth data flow between your systems.

Standardizing your data formats simplifies data mapping, reduces the complexities of data transformation, and keeps your data consistent and accurate across everything in your cloud integration platform.

5. Opt for modular integration

Modular integration (as opposed to bulk integration) allows for easier management, scalability, and flexibility. If a specific module needs updating or modification, it can be done without disrupting the entire integrated system, ensuring continuity and adaptability.

6. Design for scalability

As your business grows and evolves, so will your integration needs. Designing your integration architecture with scalability in mind ensures that you can easily scale up or down based on changing business demands.

This forward-thinking approach means you’re prepared for future growth without needing major system overhauls.

7. Document everything

Thorough documentation is the backbone of any successful integration process. Maintain detailed records of integration processes, data mappings, workflows, and configurations to facilitate easier troubleshooting and provide consistency.

Comprehensive documentation also helps onboard new team members and provides a reference point for future integrations.

Kickstart your cloud integration with DigitalOcean

Implementing cloud data integration tools for your business isn’t a matter of if—it’s a matter of when.

“Companies that do not fully understand cloud integration’s benefits may be at a competitive disadvantage,” says the team at Domo. “Those who take full advantage…will have access to more data and can better analyze it to make informed decisions on key business strategies.”

Mastering cloud integration is more than a technological upgrade—it’s about future-proofing your business.

Whether you’re looking to integrate multiple cloud services, bridge the gap between on-premises and cloud systems, or simply seeking a reliable platform to support your integration needs, DigitalOcean offers the tools, expertise, and support to make it happen.

Find the best mix of cloud solutions to meet your business’s unique needs.

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