Working the Cloud
Five years ago, “the Cloud” was a, well, cloudy concept for most businesses. Today, businesses are embracing cloud infrastructures at an accelerating pace. And for businesses that are yet to fully embrace the Cloud, many use cloud infrastructure to extend and enhance their computing resources available for everything from corporate infrastructure to sales cycle and CRM. Businesses can do a lot in the cloud – and cheaply. But some modicum of care is advisable.
Cloud computing offers significant benefits and causes new concerns. Balancing the benefits and the concerns is something each business owner, C-level exec and IT professional needs to do.
The Cloud makes available a vast amount of resources at bargain-basement prices. It’s an easy fix when the answer hardware replacement costs pennies an hour instead of hundreds or thousands of dollars in Cap Ex. But before pulling the rip cord and finding no parachute, businesses need to take stock of their ability to manage these new resources. Do you have adequate staff to utilize all this new computer horsepower? Do you have IT support up to the requisite re-design of the way they will be needed to support your firm in the Cloud? While cloud computing offers many benefits, it cannot hire you new staff or train your existing staff to fit.
Another thing to consider is that using cloud computing changes the cost of doing business. Instead of the sunk cost of physical hardware in your data center, the cost is measured very clearly by the amount of time you use hardware (a sort of real or virtual “pay by the drink”), the hardware and software you need, and the amount of data that flows through the system. Using cloud resources in a cost-effective manner means using only the hardware you need, only for as long as you need it and only passing data around if you really need to.
When using cloud computing environments, the costs are switched from Cap Ex (one big upfront cost in an asset that depreciates over time, and minimal cost per use) to Op Ex (little or no upfront cost, no depreciation, but pay per use). This means utilization can and should be optimized, requiring better tracking on number of active users, etc. Better communication about resource needs between management/users and IT can save – or cost – your firm significant sums.
Know what your dollar is buying you. Cloud providers offer different types of services, from backups to load balancing across time zones to uptime guarantees. Pay for what you need, and don’t pay for it if you don’t.
Cloud computing offers infrastructures that are more scalable and adaptable than ever before. Yet, that scalability and adaptability needs to be effectively managed if business is to optimize the benefits of the Cloud. Businesses shifting to the cloud may also need to re-train and re-tool staff and methodologies. It isn’t enough to embrace the Cloud, you need to “work it” too.