Cloud computing has been around for more than a decade. Most of the arguments for and against a move to the cloud have been rehearsed hundreds of times. So let’s move beyond those and talk about the value and obstacles of cloud computing — and the obstacles that might need to be overcome for your organization to take advantage of the cloud.
I’ll start with the values because that’s where most business discussions begin.
Speed — It’s a cliché to talk about how fast business changes today. You know your markets and competition are moving at high speed: A high-quality cloud can give you the computing speed you need to match the speed of your market. Notice that I said a high-quality cloud, and with it, a high-quality cloud provider. You have to do it right to get the speed you need.
Flexibility — Speed is no good if you’re going in the wrong direction. When your infrastructure is based on capital spending, a “quick turn” can take the better part of a five-year refresh cycle. That’s a long, long time. With cloud infrastructure, a quick test can be conducted in the time it takes to spool up cloud database instances: Hours for the machines, with applications as fast as your developers and integrators can make them happen.
Accountability — The Service Level Agreement can be your best friend when it comes to maintaining standards and accountability. For some organizations, the level of accountability possible with outside contractors is much greater than is possible within your own IT organization. And I don’t just mean accountability for technical performance and reliability: price protection and predictability and return on investment language can be built into agreements and partners held to those statements just as they are in SLAs.
Of course, there are challenges that come with realizing any value. There are three challenges, in particular, that you must be ready to face when you look at a shift to cloud computing.
Internal Perceptions — You’ll find some people inside your organization who tell you that moving to the cloud means “giving up” on your own IT department or giving up on the idea of controlling your own destiny. Both are wrong. You should be ready to provide facts to back up your plans and a sales presentation for your staff that’s as compelling as the presentation to your executive team. After all, capable professionals and a solid team are required to execute a cloud strategy.
Decisiveness — There are a bunch of options out there when it comes to the cloud. “Paralysis by analysis” can be a very real thing: Gathering data is necessary but you must cut through the options and make real decisions. Stay focused and choose a path. People and organizations were not perfect before making cloud decisions; the cloud is just another platform for making business decisions.
Internal Skills — It takes particular skills to make cloud computing work. If all you’ve known is on-premise computing, you might not have the skills on staff to make cloud computing successful. You can hire the skills, develop the internal skills or build an operational model based on outside sources: Which are you prepared to do to make your cloud a success?
At this point, some of you will ask, “Where’s security?” It’s a legitimate question but there’s a reason I left it off the list. Today, cloud computing with top-notch technology partners is at least as secure as hosted datacenters. Everything I’ve seen and experienced tells me that “cloud security” is a much bigger issue in perception than in reality. Once you’ve done the due diligence on your partner, you should pay the most attention to how you’ll address the perception issue: Your data’s security isn’t likely to be one of your greatest problems. Most likely security will be handled with some type of hybrid approach once buy-in from stakeholders takes place.
The big question in cloud computing isn’t “Can we?” or even “Should we?” Times and technologies have changed, so your big question today should be, “What’s the best way to…?” Cloud will almost certainly be part of the answer, so be prepared to look at the values, address the challenges, and see how each fits within your corporate strategy. If stakeholders are aligned and capable of fully executing the strategy then success is within reach.
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