The CIO is evolving. As noted by Wired, the job description now goes beyond responsibility for cost-cutting IT and aligning tech purchases with business investments: CIOs are increasingly called upon to strategize new initiatives and act as the catalyst for corporate change.
Often, this means a shift — whole or in part — of IT operations from local stacks into a cloud environment. Yet jumping to the cloud isn’t without the risk of organisational injury: Here are six tough questions CIOs need to answer before they make the leap.
What’s the bottom line?
While CIOs may be evolving past a focus on bottom-line IT, they can’t ignore the total cost of spending on cloud services. Many cloud providers bill themselves as cheaper alternatives to in-house IT, but according to online publication CIO, that’s not always the case.
With CIOs now leveraging multiple cloud providers to address specific network needs, dealing with the spectre of cloud sprawl and managing the tendency of staff to “leave the lights on” and let public cloud instances run indefinitely, it’s possible for chief information officers to spend more on the cloud than they ever did managing on-premises options.
The solution? Ask hard questions about potentially hidden costs such as data movement, bandwidth boosting or disaster recovery, and dig into the divide between potential cloud providers: Are they willing to cooperate or will you have a fight on your hands?
Do you need extra staff?
Staffing issues now trump security concerns as the top worry for companies moving to the cloud, with 32 per cent of those surveyed citing a lack of resources or expertise as their biggest challenge. For CIOs, this means asking hard questions about staffing: Do you need to bring on cloud experts, retrain existing IT pros or consider outsourcing some of your technology expertise?
Hiring in is one possibility, but with a growing IT skills gap, this may be an expensive and time-consuming process. Training your existing staff can provide long-term value, but takes IT pros away from day-to-day operations during the education process and puts another expectation on their plate when they return.
Outsourcing third-party expertise — up to and including the C-suite level — is now a viable possibility, however, provided you’re willing to give up a measure of control and thoroughly vet any potential partner.
What’s the game plan?
While C-suite boardrooms still aren’t confident in their knowledge of the cloud, chances are you’ll get some basic questions about moving operations to the cloud. But make no mistake: These off-the-cuff answers don’t count as a cloud migration plan.
Plus, with 55 per cent of cloud deployments encountering issues because of existing network design and 44 per cent of companies without any means to chargeback or showback IT services delivery, the right plan is a must to empower your cloud initiative. Best bet? Ask yourself why the cloud is an important move for operations.
Track down one or two key services the cloud can provide, and then design a deployment around this data. In addition, take some time to evaluate existing network infrastructure and determine if any upgrades to capacity or bandwidth are needed.
What's your type?
When it comes to the cloud, you’ve got choice: Public, private and hybrid options are all viable depending on your needs and budget. Before you start moving operational services, however, take time to evaluate which type best suits your needs.
If keeping costs down is your primary objective, go full public and be choosy about what you keep “on-prem” and what goes onto public stacks. Want control? Pay more and keep everything in-house. If you’re looking for a balance of both, opt for hybrid strategies: As noted by Beta News, 71 per cent of companies using the cloud leverage hybrid environments to balance cost and control.
Are you compliant?
Twenty-five per cent of organisations have concerns about organisational compliance; expect this number to rise as even businesses peripherally involved in handling payment card, health care or utility data are scrutinised by federal agencies and private standards organisations.
As a result, CIOs need to ask how a transition to the cloud will impact their ability to comply with any applicable data-handling laws. Here, chief information officers are better served by a forward thinking approach that makes compliance a top priority rather than an afterthought — it’s easier to ensure proper data handling from the start instead of shoehorning data regulations into your network after the fact.
Do we need to spend on storage?
One of the biggest draws of cloud computing is access to near-unlimited storage, but even with costs in decline, purchasing huge amounts of space can easily blow your budget. Instead, determine how much space you need for backups and disaster recovery, then build in a small buffer and buy what you need.
As datacenter and server technology advances, storage costs are set to fall over the next few years making long-term data purchasing plans a more cost-effective strategy. Considering a move to the cloud? Not so fast — CIOs need to ask the tough questions about costs, staff, strategy, deployment type, compliance and storage spend to ensure the best return on operational outsourcing.
Image source: Shutterstock/Omelchenko
TJ Waldorf, VP of Inside Sales & Marketing, SingleHop