The widespread take-up of cloud-based technologies has been well documented. But what the statistics don’t convey is that many businesses have proceeded with extreme caution and are often reluctant to go beyond migrating one or two applications because of concerns around how the cloud really fits into their individual business strategies.
On the other hand, the providers, buoyed up with the promise of the cloud, have in many cases proceeded like the proverbial bull in a china shop, creating a series of cloud solutions all offered in a ‘one size fits all’ service: their size or none at all.
This prescriptive approach is out of kilter with today’s need for agility – and today’s expectation of a level of personalisation within the service, strange because these are the most valuable assets the cloud has to offer.
Take cloud infrastructure as an example: there are a multitude of options available so providers need to consider the business goals of each individual customer to understand what kind of infrastructure will give them the competitive advantage. The best implementations will begin with no predetermined decisions.
It’s unsurprising then that a hybrid cloud strategy is fast becoming the norm. Using best practice solutions, it means customers can create a mix of physical, virtual, on or off premise, private or public platforms dependent on their strategic needs. In other words the focus is on what the customer needs – and their own business model and priorities, not the solution a provider wants to sell. It also allows businesses to answer the difficult questions of security, data protection and data sovereignty.
Whether or not data sovereignty is a major worry depends, of course, on the nature of the content. The USA Patriot Act is the much-quoted reason for wanting to keep data outside of the US -but recent rulings have shown that even US companies with European data centres are considered by the US courts to be subject to this law – although I’m not certain the European courts agree.
The situation is such that many companies opt to keep data within the EU – or for further peace-of-mind, within the UK. A hybrid cloud enables them to do this – but without forgoing the cost and agility benefits of the public cloud for less sensitive data.
Many businesses are just as concerned about broader data security issues and need convincing that their data will be safe and private. In fact, for the vast majority of mid-market and even enterprise customers, the cloud is more secure than storing data on-premise and providers are working vigilantly to ensure this as their livelihoods depend on it. They can’t afford to have breaks in their security, as they risk putting their whole brand and even the future of their business on the line.
In reality solutions such as IaaS and PaaS already provide a far more robust and reliable alternative than an outdated system based on antiquated hardware, especially as increasingly, providers are incorporating cloud-based back up and disaster recovery too for a fully resilient solution with guaranteed availability.
The signs are that cloud services will in the future become more customer-focused. After all, Gartner forecasts that in two years’ time 50 per cent of enterprises will adopt hybrid cloud – and to achieve this, providers will need to overcome current barriers and misconceptions.
But cloud providers need to address market concerns about data sovereignty, security and movement of data for this to happen. There needs to be more trust and transparency and a recognition that each business is different and can only be served by an individual and flexible model.
Adam Jarvis is sales director at Calyx Managed Services.