Easier administration, and the lower operating expenses that go along with it, are among the top benefits of replacing locally hosted solutions with cloud-based ones. There\u2019s a big difference, however, between \u201ceasier\u201d administration and none at all.\u00a0\n\u201cSometimes customers go in believing that when they move to a cloud solution, the role of IT in management goes away,\u201d says Mike Schutz, general manager for cloud platform marketing at Microsoft. \u201cThe truth is, they\u2019re still responsible for a lot.\u201d Knowing in advance what those responsibilities are and how to tackle them makes cloud management obligations significantly easier.\u00a0\nDifferent Clouds, Different Duties\nIT management duties in the cloud vary based on the kind of service you\u2019re utilizing. Users of infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) solutions, for example, don\u2019t have to worry about hardware maintenance but remain on the hook for pretty much everything else. \u201cYou still have to manage the underlying operating system and the applications on top of it,\u201d Schutz says. That can be difficult, he notes, if your IaaS provider doesn\u2019t support the management tools you use to administer on-premises systems.\u00a0\nAdministrative tools can also be an issue with platform-as-a-service (PaaS) solutions, which take operating system management off of your hands but still leave you responsible for application support. \u201cIf you don\u2019t have the right tools, there\u2019s no way to monitor and manage performance, so you can\u2019t be sure what kind of experience your users are having in the different regions you serve,\u201d Schutz notes.\u00a0\nSoftware-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions free administrators from both OS and application oversight, but can pose thorny identity management challenges. \u201cEvery time someone leaves the organization, they take their access credentials with them,\u201d Schutz says. This puts the burden to find and disable what could be dozens of accounts across all of the SaaS products your company uses squarely on the IT staff\u2019s shoulders.\u00a0\nRules to Manage By\nBusinesses can simplify their role in managing whatever cloud services they deploy by following a few basic guidelines:\u00a0\nPick cloud solutions that support existing tools. \nWhenever possible, look for cloud services that you can administer with the same tools you use to manage the rest of your infrastructure. \u201cOtherwise you have to learn and potentially buy new systems, which can be disruptive and expensive,\u201d observes Schutz. Companies familiar with Microsoft\u2019s System Center management suite, for example, can use that product to administer both their in-house and Microsoft-based cloud solutions.\u00a0\nBudget some time for staff training.\nManaging cloud solutions isn\u2019t more difficult than managing on-premises solutions \u2013 it\u2019s just different. \u201cImplementation plans should include time for learning about those differences,\u201d says Frank Johnson-Suglia, a managing partner at cloud services provider Strategic SaaS LLC. \u201cThere\u2019s plenty of information out there,\u201d he says. \u201cYou\u2019ve got to dedicate the time and institutionalize the knowledge transfer.\u201d\u00a0\nAsking your cloud partners for tips early in the implementation process can give you a head start on that process. \u201cFigure out from your software vendor what other customers have had challenges with, and make sure you plan ahead for all of those things,\u201d suggests Alex Bakker, research director at Saugatuck Technology Inc., an IT research and advisory firm.\u00a0\nDeploy a good identity and access management (IAM) system.\nSolutions such as Microsoft\u2019s Azure Active Directory service give technicians centralized control over SaaS application user accounts so, for example, you can cancel all of an ex-employee\u2019s privileges quickly and easily.\u00a0\nFurthermore, at a time when the challenges of jumping back and forth among multiple SaaS systems is becoming an increasingly common and painful headache for end users, IAM systems empower IT managers to improve user experience and productivity by providing single sign-on access to every SaaS system they run.\u00a0\nStep up from IaaS to PaaS.\nOn-premises applications usually run fine without modification in an IaaS solution but may require some recoding before you can use them in a PaaS environment. As a result, companies often rely on IaaS initially when migrating existing systems into the cloud. Unfortunately, that decision puts them on point for administering operating systems as well as applications.\u00a0\n\u201cInfrastructure as a service provides an easy on-ramp to the cloud, but it does come with more management overhead,\u201d Schutz notes. Gradually modifying IaaS applications as needed and moving them into a PaaS environment will lighten your administrative load. According to Schutz, selecting a cloud vendor with integrated IaaS and PaaS solutions will make that migration process significantly simpler.\u00a0\nThat\u2019s just one more example of why advance planning plays such a critical role in cloud management. \u201cThere\u2019s really no excuse for not knowing what you\u2019re getting into ahead of time,\u201d Bakker says. Doing your administrative homework before journeying into the cloud will position you to collect cloud computing\u2019s significant management savings sooner and in larger amounts. It will also enable you to move your precious IT resources up the value chain to more strategic areas of focus, like how to empower an increasingly mobile workforce to access, share, analyze, and act upon the explosion of data that comes with the shift to the cloud.