These days, wherever you go, there’s always someone extolling the virtues of cloud computing. How often has someone at your monthly C-Suite meeting said, “Cloud computing is the answer to XYZ?” But then the conversation takes an unintended turn, and the focus never returns to defining either the question or the answer.
According to Wikipedia, cloud computing is “the delivery of computing as a service rather than a product, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices as a utility (like the electricity grid) over a network (typically the Internet).”
Is your business ready to move to the cloud? Has your leadership team discussed all the benefits and ramifications of moving data to the cloud? How should your IT department get involved with managing your data in the cloud?
The integration of cloud computing as a one-stop solution (or in modern-day tech-speak similar to software as a service or platform as a service or infrastructure as a service, etc.) needs clearly-defined objectives and a plan of execution – in order for your business to benefit from the cloud.
Before moving to the cloud, there are five important issues you must consider:
How will cloud computing assist your employees to improve their productivity? Will you move email access to the cloud? Will you move data to the cloud so that employees can access their documents and work from various locations simultaneously?
Is moving data to the cloud a cost-effective option for your business? If you have separate budgets for software and hardware, do you have a line item for cloud computing? Prices change depending upon the type of cloud required and also based on your specific needs, depending on your industry and data. With some cloud services such as Infrastructure as a Service, you need to purchase more bandwidth than you need in order to allow for growth and/or heavy use periods. There are costs involved for quality products, and you need to understand the differences in the available options.
EASE OF USE and SECURITY:
Will all of your employees require access to the cloud? Also consider off-site employees. It’s a wonderful concept for employees to have access to their work product from anywhere, but what will happen if a virus or a hack happens and you experience catastrophic data loss? Do you have a disaster recovery plan? You need to know how your cloud provider will handle backups, or will your company be responsible for this? For critical infrastructure or data, it might be wiser to keep the hardware or data in-house. As it is getting easier to hack into networks, the cloud hacks will only get easier. Given that the “Cloud” is really nothing more than your data on someone else’s servers, albeit with better security (hopefully), you don’t have full control of your data. Finally, strict password policies should be in place for everyone. Keep in mind that it is going to be much easier to hack through your cloud data or infrastructure if it is located centrally as opposed to being spread out over many systems. And on the topic of security, what would happen if your data were breached in the cloud? Would you have a backup somewhere else that is easily accessible?
If your business must adhere to legal and other compliance regulations (such as, PCI Data Security Standard, Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX), and HIPAA), you may not legally be able to store data in the cloud. But if you are allowed to store in the cloud, you may only be able to store your data within state lines, so when you consider cloud venders, add the statement that your data must be kept in data centers within state lines to your SLA (Service Level Agreement). Check with your legal department before moving forward with any decisions about cloud computing.
You may recall a big story in the news back in October 2012. Amazon Web Services, a cloud computing provider, went down in the Southeastern part of the United States, and as a result, users who had stored their data with the company were unable to access their files. If something like this were to happen to your business, how long could you afford to “be down?” Do you have a business continuity plan in place? What would you do about an alternative to accessing your data and communicating with customers and/or prospective customers?
According to a recent study conducted by the IBM Center for Applied Insights, cloud’s importance to business users is expected to grow to 72%, exceeding its importance to IT users at a mere 58%. Click here to read more.
Now you’re ready to answer this question, is your business ready to move to the cloud?
To learn more about IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS:
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Image Credit: Thanks to Ted Goff for use of his cartoon with this post. Check out Ted’s work at http://www.tedgoff.com.
This post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit IBM’s Midsize Insider. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.