Demystifying the Cloud Panacea

Spend Matters welcomes a guest post from Mark Schaffner, VP of Marketing at Verian.

Although many would have you believe otherwise, the cloud cannot create world peace. It can't end hunger, lower taxes, or make your coffee taste better.

Although these specific claims haven't been attributed to the cloud just yet, the cloud has been so exaggerated and misunderstood that the average organization isn't really sure of what the cloud is.

If the cloud is not a panacea, what is it? The best and most accurate description I've ever heard came from our CTO, Bilal Soylu. The cloud, in his words, is simply another utility, delivering computing as a service, rather than a product.

The concept may be simple, but the impact of the cloud is extreme. Just as power delivery made electricity affordable, the driving force behind cloud adoption is cost. In one fell swoop, the cloud can provide shorter time to productivity, decrease IT costs, and rapidly increase ROI.

But the cloud's benefits are much deeper than cost savings. The affordability of cloud computing removed the economic barriers that kept great ideas from seeing the light of day, putting tools within reach of any business, regardless of size or budget. The speed of cloud deployment allowed organizations to experiment and take risks that were unthinkable before. It also created new businesses and models because the cloud changed the way IT is perceived and expected to behave.

Of course, the cloud has limits. As with any utility, there is a finite limit to what the service provides. The power company will deliver electricity right to your door, but they won't rewire your box or plug in your appliances.

In the cloud, your hardware, network, technology stack and maintenance are someone else's responsibility -- but that doesn't mean you can "set it and forget it." Like any utility, there are things still left on your plate, namely supplier risk, data interoperability, business process know-how and oversight. If you're fully prepared to handle the remaining responsibilities, you'll gain maximum value from its benefits. We've offered some suggestions for those who have their eyes fixed skyward:

  • Choose your weapons wisely -- solve your business challenge with the best solution, regardless of how it's delivered.
  • Befriend the firewall -- make sure your cloud solution can play nice with your on-premises solutions, avoiding data silos that don't talk or integrate.
  • Call security -- Make sure to ask the vendor who is managing and monitoring the data at rest and during transport. Be sure to ask if processes to handle equipment, data and application are documented and verifiable.
  • Anticipate the auditing -- Auditing physical facilities, storage devices and IT processes tend to be more complicated in the cloud. Of course, auditing can be done in the cloud; you just need to set clear expectations of your company's requirements upfront.
  • Have an exit strategy -- what happens if your company decides to move off the cloud? Does your provider offer an on-premises option or will you need to rip and replace?

Undoubtedly, the cloud is a powerful delivery system that is changing the way we look at computing and IT. But like any other utility, it's not a cure-all. If you're heading into the cloud, make your organization understand its benefits -- and limitations.

- Mark Schaffner, VP of Marketing at Verian

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