It occurred to me recently that people are talking about “the cloud” these days almost as much as they talk about the weather. Need to reduce spending on IT infrastructure? Move to the cloud! Want to increase accessibility? Move to the cloud! Hoping to streamline processes? Move to the cloud!
Is there anything that cloud computing can’t fix? Of course there is. And sometimes, moving to the cloud creates new — and potentially serious — problems.
Cloud computing isn't for every enterprise. While some may be ready to leap into the cloud headlong, others may be better served through a more measured approach. There’s no question that the stakes are high, so how should enterprise leaders evaluate a potential migration to the cloud? What is the difference between prudent caution and a dangerous aversion to change?
Here are some important things to consider when determining if, when, and how to migrate to the cloud.
Be Wary of Absolutes
Although it may feel like industry consensus is that “everyone should move everything to the cloud as soon as possible,” that simply isn't the case. An enterprise company is a little bit like an aircraft carrier — significant changes in direction take time and planning.
A move to the cloud might be the best thing that ever happened to an enterprise. Or it might be the worst. It depends on how it’s done, and what is expected from it.
It's important for enterprises (and their consultants) to do the homework. Study the options. And remember that anyone who tells you that you have to do something is probably trying to sell you something.
Forget “All or Nothing”
Sure, there is some allure to being an early adopter — being among the first to say that you've migrated completely to the cloud. But there is also risk. If today’s cloud solutions don’t meet your enterprise’s needs, a full migration could spell disaster. But that doesn't mean you should avoid the cloud altogether.
When it comes to transitioning to the cloud, you really can do it one step at a time. Many enterprises have adopted successful hybrid models — migrating data and functions that support improved collaboration across the enterprise to the cloud; while maintaining more sensitive data on-premises.
As security in the cloud improves (or as comfort levels increase) additional functions can be migrated to the cloud. But it can happen on your timeline and according to your milestones.
You can embrace the cloud and continue to rely on on-premises solutions. In fact, for many enterprises, it’s the wise thing to do.
Know Your Industry’s Limitations
One of the reasons that cloud computing has become so popular is that security advancements have mitigated much of its risk. Enterprises can be confident that a well-managed cloud will offer sufficient protections for most corporate data and customer information.
But in some industries, basic security measures aren't enough. For enterprises working in legal services, finance, healthcare and other highly-regulated industries, a cloud-only approach may not deliver the necessary levels of security or control.
Consider a financial services company — the kind of enterprise that can and does face regular audits. These companies may be called upon to produce detailed records of who has accessed documents, along with where, when and how they've done so. Companies like these demand strict controls. While I am confident that the cloud will ultimately deliver an environment that can meet these rigorous standards, the truth is, we aren't there just yet.
So what should leaders in these industries do? Give up on the cloud? No way.
Savvy enterprises will wade in cautiously, using cloud solutions that maximize collaboration and relying on on-premises solutions when required by industry regulations. And they will be vigilant in watching for the arrival of new solutions that change the cloud computing game.
What’s Next for the Enterprise and the Cloud
As we look ahead to the future of the cloud, I see tremendous opportunities for it to play an important role in improving collaboration and productivity for enterprise employees. There is so much potential for reducing costs, improving mobility and scalability, and simplifying processes.
But the cloud isn't a utopia yet. There is always room for improvement (which is what makes our industry so exciting). So, in the short-term, I’d urge all enterprises to take a thoughtful approach to embracing the cloud. Move forward with what makes sense in today’s environment, and be ready to take advantage of new cloud-based offerings as they become available over time.
For now, my plan to keep my head in the cloud and my feet planted firmly on the ground.
Image courtesy of aslysun (Shutterstock)
Editor's Note: Kevin writes on a wide range of topics. Interested in more? Then read The Mobile Enterprise: Still a Ways to Go
About the Author
Kevin Conroy is founder and president of Blue Rooster, an interactive technology consulting firm building the globally connected enterprise, specializing in collaborative internal- and external-facing social business Web sites for large corporations. Blue Rooster works with the world's leading companies, helping them to Create, Build, and Experience powerful and intuitive Microsoft SharePoint solutions that are easy to adopt in the enterprise.
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