Separating fact from fiction in the cloud

No one can deny the transformative power of the cloud. The availability of cloud deployment options has changed the way we think about how business use, implement, and purchase technology. But it’s often misunderstood and oversimplified, to the point where people either herald it as the magic bullet to tackle any intricate IT challenge, or else see it as just a buzzword with no value behind it.

As in all things, the answer is somewhere in the middle. It offers real, powerful benefits to organisations of all stripes, but, like any other valuable business strategy, needs to be carefully planned and executed at every stage.

Let’s tackle five of the biggest myths about the cloud.

Myth #1 – Moving to the cloud is a technology decision

Moving to the cloud is always a business decision at its core – and must be dealt with accordingly. Organisations need to base their choice of cloud-based system on far more than a simple discussion on whether it is technically feasible, or knowing what type of cloud would best suit the company.

Whether shifting one single solution or deploying cloud technology across the entire organisation, CIOs must consider a holistic plan, working with business leaders across their organisation before migrating workloads. Any plan must include the company’s strategic goals, any potential business benefits or downsides, possible productivity gains and, of course, information security concerns.

Myth #2 – Cloud technology is not secure

'There is no cloud, it’s just someone else’s compute'” is the often smug refrain of the cloud sceptic, conjuring images of your vital corporate data sitting on a box under a desk in someone’s basement. Banal aphorism or not, it seems people believe it. Just last year, the Cloud Security Alliance published a study which revealed information security is still the primary concern preventing businesses from moving systems to the cloud. There is wide disconnect between this perception and the reality.

Each cloud vendor’s core business is IT service provision. As a result, they must guarantee that not only the technology, but also physical locations and personnel, all adhere to rigorous security standards. Quite simply, doing security right is hard. Many individual enterprises just don’t have sufficient resources to achieve the high levels of security and compliance that are the norm for cloud providers for whom data security is a core competency.

This doesn’t mean you should take vendors’ assurances of security at face value. Businesses should ask cloud providers to demonstrate their security capabilities, as well as outline their security processes and certifications. Additionally, it is vital that organisations take steps to fully understand the security, governance and regulatory compliance requirements within their specific industry. Without understanding what is required from a cloud vendor, businesses cannot ensure that they will be able to offer the necessary services and security levels.

Myth #3 – Cloud is an all-or-nothing proposition

Plenty of vendors maintain that a cloud-first strategy is the only way forward. Yet, in reality, it doesn’t always make business, regulatory or technical sense for a company to move all IT assets to the cloud.

More often than not, businesses are making the most of hybrid deployment options. Many keep a selection of systems and processes on-premises, while deploying others in a private or public cloud. When it comes to the cloud, no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution exists – every individual deployment, business, and cloud instance will be different. While cloud may offer the right answer for some use cases, others could require on-premises systems or hybrid offerings in order to generate success. This can be due to regulatory or data sovereignty requirements but, occasionally, IT will recognise that business drivers require certain data to be kept within the confines of the organisation.

With cloud technology, organisations today are faced with a range of options but, in the end, companies must thoroughly explore each of them to ensure it works from both a technical and business viewpoint.

Myth #4 – Moving to the cloud saves money

Moving to the cloud can reduce costs, and consolidating systems does help increase savings. However, this is only one part of the story – any cost-saving benefits should correspond to the factors underlying the decision to migrate.

Some businesses will increase productivity – and save resources – by avoiding the admin and maintenance required to sustain software. Others will improve service levels, offering up 24x7 support despite limited staff numbers. Whatever the end results, it’s important for businesses to focus on benefits at a strategic level. This means analysing wider organisational gains and total cost of ownership instead of focusing in on upfront costs.

Myth #5 – Cloud equals Software-as-a-Service

Software-as-a-Service may be the most obvious use-case for the cloud – but it is not the only one. Many organisations do evaluate how the cloud can provide services to their business, from e-commerce and supply chain transactions to platform or infrastructure services.

That said, plenty of businesses look for a managed services offering instead. This includes hosting applications in a private cloud environment, with access to dedicated functionality, application customisation and integration.

As the number of options around cloud technology increase, businesses need to thoroughly assess what they want to accomplish. Don’t be rushed into a decision by a third-party vendor: plenty of deployment options are available but it’s worth hunting out the perfect option for your specific business requirements.

Lynn Elwood, VP Cloud Services, OpenText

Image Credit: Lightspring / Shutterstock