Think you’re ready for the cloud? Think that the cloud will magically solve your company’s storage problems? For some, the cloud will be a great technological advancement. For others, it won’t be the right fit.

At Forrester’s Content and Collaboration Forum this afternoon, Forrester principal analyst Rob Koplowitz debriefed us about the Current State of Collaboration in the Cloud. Here’s what we learned.

Rapid Evolution

Five years ago, the cloud was an unknown, dangerous place. You could put your data there, but you wouldn’t want to. Despite the space available, most companies couldn’t afford the risk of setting up property in the cloud. But now, life on the cloud is much more secure and for most companies, a great place to put their information.

Though life on the cloud promises a seamless integration of information and access, there’s still some things you must do to determine if the cloud is the right way to bring innovation to your employees.

Collaboration + Web 2.0

Vendors like Cisco and IBM have been in the collaboration business for awhile. Web 2.0 technologies like those provided by and Jive gave them a new purpose. Together, it’s a force to be reckoned with. But like any decision that affects your company infrastructure, Koplowitz says that there are few indicators that makes a vendor ideal for your cloud computing needs, including:

  • Data center efficiency reliability: you can’t spend enough time or money on this.
  • Applications designed for multitenancy: one server, multiple clients
  • Enterprise experience: make sure you “get it” before you get it.
  • Seamless on-premise and cloud management: have them define seamless?
  • Application usability: is the functionality relevant to your company’s needs?

Defining Collaboration in the Cloud

So the cloud is good for collaboration, eh? But what kind of collaboration? If going on the cloud makes life easier, while driving costs down, it’s a no-brainer. But there are instances where your company would benefit from more customization, that’s not available on the public cloud. If by driving costs down, you’re moving away from a differentiated solution, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate.

The cloud shines best when it makes economic sense to be there. It also works for when there’s little need for complex customization or integration, and when cross organizational-support is required.

Multi-Tenant: Public

Life on the cloud often brings up real estate metaphors. Think of an apartment building. The public cloud has multiple tenants, who all get the same thing. Customization isn’t aloud nor is tinkering. On the multi-tenant cloud, functionality is universal. If you break it, you break it for everyone.

Multi-Tenant: Private

So maybe you decide apartment living isn’t for you. A condo is more your style. The cost is a little more but you have a little more flexibility as a result. You still share functionality with other tenants, but the policies are little more inclusive.


If condo-life is still intrusive, maybe you need a house where you change all the hardware, knock down a wall and take comfort in knowing that you don’t have to share space with anyone. In this case, your beyond the cloud and your data lives on-premise. This is by far the most expensive, but provides the greatest degree of customization.

Lots of Storage, Little Control

Regardless of how cool life of the cloud looks, in order for it work the way it’s supposed to, it needs to align with your collaboration strategy. Making an informed decision can be the difference between streamlining communications and disrupting them.

The cloud isn’t meant for everyone and it still struggles to support large data migrations. Ultimately the cloud doesn’t work if your company doesn’t account for risk. There are many benefits to being on the cloud, but unless you can relinquish some control, there may be other solutions worth checking out.