The more I hear people say “send it to my Gmail account” or “I’ve uploaded it to dropbox” it is clear that cloud computing for business is no longer something that is ‘coming down the road’. But while the use of the cloud is something that is growing organically, every organisation should be seriously examining how the cloud can improve the efficiency and performance of, not just their IT platform, but their entire business.
Get specific: Start with a defined project and a clear idea of what success should look like as you leverage the shared resources of the cloud. Moving commodity services - such as e-mail, file storage, instant messaging and online learning - that are fully understood and are readily portable can help you achieve deliverables quickly. Building on this success, and carrying forward key learnings about cloud as it relates to your enterprise, will give you a solid foundation on which to scale.
Know your users: Who are your users? What is the impact on them when moving from a desktop application to a cloud-based one? Consider a limited trial before you move to wide-scale rollout to help build the picture and identify potential issues before it is too late. Moving into the cloud is as much a cultural shift as a technological shift.
Don't bring your mess to the cloud: Cloud computing is a major shift from traditional IT and offers a fresh opportunity to evaluate your business and IT processes. Do current processes make sense? Is there a better way to work? Seize this opportunity to make key processes simpler and more logical, and you'll reap the rewards, both for your cloud initiatives and your wider strategic agenda.
Take the best of both worlds: Private or public? In reality, the answer is both. Hybrid cloud, comprising of at least one private and one public is where it’s at. Determine what’s sensitive and what’s not. In some cases, such as private intellectual property, housing it privately, behind your own firewall, may be the right approach. For information which isn’t sensitive however, deploying the public cloud can deliver economies of scale and cost benefits. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2015, the majority of private cloud computing services will evolve to leverage public cloud services in a hybrid mode.
Consider new opportunities: Don’t just think about how the cloud can drive down costs and improve efficiencies within your existing IT platform. Consider what new opportunities it can deliver. For example, if you’re moving your CRM application to the cloud, is there an opportunity to integrate it with social media tools or a mobile application that gives your field staff realtime access to data? Ultimately, cloud computing can open up entirely new opportunities for businesses. Have your IT department look to the cloud for applications that are relevant to your business.
â€¨â€¨Look under the hood: All cloud components are not created equal. Do your utmost to ascertain the quality and resilience of the constituent technologies, including servers, backend storage and enabling connectivity. Are you about to entrust your critical apps to a white box server with memory acquired from the lowest bidder? Is the underlying storage world-class? If it matters to you, ask the questions. A cloud partner who's committed to quality will be happy to give the answers.
In my experience, the above points are important to consider in the typical cloud initiative to help make it a solid transition and keep your activities focused. In some shape or form, cloud computing is about changing the way IT is deployed and managed in order to deliver a better experience to users and the business. But more and more, it is a joint initiative between business and IT and is driving a major shift towards a business-aligned collaborative relationship.
Mark Cawley is eircom's Managed IT principal. To find out more about how Cloud Computing can deliver for your business, get in touch.