Despite the increasing popularity and adoption of cloud services, many misperceptions still abound about their potential disadvantages. Companies considering a cloud service purchase should carefully sort through both the hype and the myths about cloud computing before making a purchasing decision.
Cloud misperceptions vary, but three primary myths have emerged that might cause IT decision makers to stop and reconsider their cloud purchase plans. However, the reality behind these myths should give buyers reassurance when it comes time to make a cloud decision.
The Data Center Death Knell Myth
With data and functionality increasingly moving to cloud services, IT employees may be concerned about being replaced by the very technologies they choose to deploy.
While this isn’t a completely unfounded concern, the reality is that cloud services are largely being adopted by younger and smaller companies that don’t already have in-house IT departments. The ability of the cloud to provide IT services that such companies would otherwise have to build from scratch is one of its primary advantages.
For companies that already have an established IT team, cloud services aren’t likely to steal away jobs anytime soon. Companies may move some of their data and processes, particularly storage, to the cloud, but most companies will continue to house critical data on private networks in a hybrid approach. In-house IT will continue to be needed to support private network operations.
The Security Myth
One of the most common and persistent misperceptions about the cloud is that it opens up companies to a variety of new security risks. The thought of having data leave the safety of the corporate security fortress and travel via potentially unprotected connections to a public cloud creates concern over attacks on a company’s critical data.
In reality, because of their singular focus on providing data services, cloud providers often have some of the best security experts on staff who focus entirely on predicting security vulnerabilities and protecting against attacks on client data.
The Data Black Hole Myth
Some companies worry that once they allow their data to transfer to a cloud service, they will lose control over it or have difficulty moving it or getting it back. This myth likely circulates because in the past, it had some truth to it. Making a cloud transition sometimes meant data was locked in with the chosen provider.
But trends surrounding this cloud concern are changing. Some of the larger cloud providers offer tools that make it easier to control and move data when the company chooses. Amazon’s Snowball appliance allows customers to easily migrate data, and Velostrata introduced an appliance that eases the migration of data to and from the public cloud.
Making an Informed Cloud Purchase
Cloud services provide many benefits to companies that want to improve their operations and increase efficiencies. IT decision makers have a responsibility to choose a cloud service that protects the company’s data assets and provides the right services for its users.
All technologies have pros and cons. Deciphering myth from reality surrounding security, data availability, and future IT employment can help decision makers make the right cloud choice.
IT personnel are an integral part of businesses and are instrumental in making sure processes run smoothly by monitoring and ensuring the health of the company’s networks and applications. Until recently, IT professionals primarily performed an internal role, providing services to employees but having little to do with external, customer-facing assignments.
However, that dynamic is changing. As network functions become more integrated with customer-service functions, companies must ensure their IT teams are ready and able to provide customer-facing IT functions. Attracting and retaining IT personnel who can deliver both the critical internal IT service and the customer-facing services necessary in today’s environment can offer a competitive advantage.
Break Away From the Typical IT Mold
When looking for IT personnel who will work well in customer-facing processes, consider candidates who deviate from the typical IT stereotype. IT personnel tend to be introverted and more comfortable working with code than with people.
When identifying internal or external candidates for customer-focused IT roles, seek a different personality type than the typical IT employee. Consider candidates with different skills and personalities that can expand the IT team’s capabilities. Outgoing, passionate, socially focused people will typically function better in customer-centric roles than quiet, shy individuals.
To identify and attract such candidates, examine hiring processes and develop a strategy for meeting the company’s core customer-service requirements. It’s important to show candidates how their contributions will be valued and offer flexibility and opportunities to grow and advance.
Offer Customer-Focused Opportunities
Many IT departments have adopted systems that streamline interactions with the IT department but also tend to eliminate interpersonal interactions that are critical in customer-focused processes.
In order to regain customer-facing skills, companies can offer opportunities for internal IT employees to interact with customers. This might mean visiting customer operations or shadowing customer-facing employees. In addition to sharpening customer-service skills, such opportunities can help IT staff better understand customer needs, requirements, and the relation to the company’s IT systems.
Address Company Culture
While attracting and training customer-focused employees is important, making sure the company’s culture and reputation reflects strong customer-centric values is also critical. Potential candidates are likely to be attracted to companies that are stable, innovative, and willing to take risks. Clearly demonstrating how employee contributions affect customers can motivate candidates to become a part of the team.
Customer-service values should not just be presented to outside candidates but be embraced by internal IT teams, contractors, and business partners. Emphasize the value of both the internal and external customer as well as the critical role the IT team plays in both areas.
Finding, hiring, training, and retaining IT personnel capable of providing traditional internal IT services and customer-facing interactions is a likely key to success. For a successful and long-term fit, companies must not only find the right candidate for the job, but also demonstrate why they should want to be part of the company.
As recently as a few years ago, entrepreneurs requiring computing solutions would have had little choice other than to make major IT investments. However, the advent of the cloud has changed the playing field, both for business owners and their customers.
Recent studies have quantified the impact cloud computing has had on global businesses; according to Gartner, a leading market research firm, cloud computing services generated over $150 billion in revenues in 2014.
The cloud offers a convenient and cost-effective alternative to traditional IT delivery methods, allowing entrepreneurs to access and customize software programs, data storage and backup services, and a wide range of other specialized functions and applications over the Internet.
Major benefits of the cloud include:
- Significant cost reductions – Cloud solutions reduce the need to purchase in-house hardware and software. The cloud also eliminates the need for physical storage and backup of files and documents.
- Scalability and flexibility – Cloud technologies can be upsized or downsized according to the changing needs of a business.
- IT savings – Cloud-based applications reduce resource or eliminate demands on in-house IT departments.
Cloud Computing Deployment Methods
Businesses seeking to take advantage of cloud computing have four main deployment methods available:
- Public cloud – This deployment model is easily accessible, hosted on the World Wide Web.
- Private cloud – Companies can create private clouds behind firewalls for added security.
- Community cloud – This model is a partnership of companies or organizations sharing the same private cloud space.
- Hybrid cloud – An emerging deployment approach that combines aspects of the private, public, and community cloud models, creating a customized, flexible solution.
Business Functions Supported by Cloud Computing
Cloud computing has a wide range of applications in the business world, but there are four primary ways in which the technology is used:
- File storage and data backup – Cloud computing has emerged as the most flexible and convenient way to store files and back up important data. The remote storage of digital documents frees up much-needed space on local devices. Cloud technologies also offer secure data backup capabilities, ensuring business continuity in the event of a disruption.
- Collaboration – Cloud computing has transformed the workplace, making it much easier for people working from different or remote locations to communicate, collaborate and share information. Roughly two-thirds of small and medium-sized enterprises report the need for employees to be able to work anytime, from anywhere. For businesses such as these, cloud solutions offer a major boost to productivity and operational efficiency.
- Resource accessibility – Software, data, and documents stored in the cloud are quickly and easily accessible. Server management is monitored by cloud providers, further liberating businesses from administrative costs.
- Effective management of business growth – In the past, growth forced businesses to make further investments in IT resources. Now, the near-instant scalability of the cloud provides flexible, cost effective computing resources.
How to Choose a Cloud Provider
Businesses should carefully assess cloud providers based on terms, pricing, and service level agreements, as well as security and reputation. Many providers offer low-cost trial periods, which businesses can take advantage of to test compatibility.
It’s important to make a thorough needs assessment in partnership with providers. Topics to address should include:
- The best deployment model
- Security needs
- Software, infrastructure, and platform requirements
- The availability of new applications
- Merging existing IT infrastructure with the cloud environment
The cloud offers a scalable, flexible, affordable route to improved IT performance that is ideal for businesses with limited IT resources.