One of the current biggest buzzes in the ICT world is the momentum building towards services cloud based being the next big thing, if not already there.
Before blindly rushing ahead with moving to a cloud based environment, an organisation needs to seriously consider whether the cloud is a good fit and an appropriate platform for any part of its business.
Let’s take as a point of departure that you are considering moving to the cloud and wondering whether your business would benefit.
Benefits will include:
Operational Cost. The generally accepted wisdom is that outsourcing brings cost reductions, or at the very least cost certainty. The exact quantum depends on the type and extent of outsourcing contract and the details in it.
An outsourcing assessment will be part of the cloud assessment. Just what can and will be outsourced and what is to be retained in-house are dependent on the degree and extent of the transition to the cloud.
Customer Service Improvements. The type of business will have different areas of improvement. Social media as a means of interacting with the organisation. A manufacturing concern might embrace e-commerce. A design company might provide online collaboration systems between customers and designers.
This potentially is one of the greatest areas of subjective improvement. Management gurus are saying the way forward is to move closer to your customers. Giving customers the opportunity to use your systems to manage their requirements gives them an added feeling of control and closeness. Also, as the financial sector has demonstrated, by having customers use online services rather than internal resources, it can reduce your own operational overheads.
Public Profile. Existing and prospective customers who see an organisation embracing new technologies will see it as a forward looking vibrant organisation.
Despite the undoubted advantages of Cloud Computing, prospective users must take careful note:
It could well be that some business areas cannot be cloud-based. A risk analysis will throw up areas of concern. For example, a third party having access to research and development data potentially makes it more accessible to hackers, either electronically, or by suborning a third party employee. In some jurisdictions, there are stringent data protection requirements around storage and management of personal data. The conditions around a third party holding, and having access to employee personal information may mean that HR and payroll cannot be moved to the cloud.
The ownership of hardware and software will also need to be reviewed. In some business areas, particularly education, software licensing and the associated costs are specific to a particular installation and software licensee. If you outsource your applications software to a third party, you may lose the benefits of reduced prices, and in the worst case, may not even be allowed to use the software.
Data security and business continuity are a major consideration. If your business sustainability depends on your systems being available to prospective and existing customers and staff 100% of the time, then the cloud might not be an appropriate fit. There will inevitably be service losses.
Having up to date, complete, accessible and tested backups and appropriate policies to bring you back online will make life a lot easier.
Malware protection needs to be of industrial strength. Appropriate polices for keeping signature files and detection engines up to date must be in place.
As a result, your internal procedures and policies will need review and amendment.
You have carried out the risk assessment and decided in principle to proceed.
The first question is public, private or hybrid cloud. The answer in all probability is a hybrid cloud.
If your business already has an Internet presence, then the basic infrastructure is already in place. Moving to the cloud may only be providing gateways to the internal systems you have decided are to be accessed via the cloud. Sounds simple, but probably isn’t. Secure portals need to be implemented for internal systems. Some software may need to be updated.
If you don’t have, or have a limited Internet presence, then the task is that much larger. Outsourcing becomes a real option to bring in the skills and expertise to set it up.
An assessment of business fit needs to take these aspects under serious consideration.