Cloud computing facts may unclench server huggers' hold

Some IT pros have white-knuckle grips on servers and traditional on-premises IT. But that may be because of misinformation on cloud.

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Every IT function you can think of is available as a cloud-based service these days: email and communications, payroll, human resources, file sharing, analytics -- the list goes on. Cloud services are often used by newer companies with no legacy infrastructure, but they're also pitched to replace existing on-premises systems. That's when the trouble starts, said Curtis Peterson, vice president of operations at RingCentral Inc., a provider of cloud-based business communications services that is an alternative to legacy PBX systems.

While higher-level executives may be open to the idea of cloud-based services, more entrenched, operational IT staffers -- so-called server huggers -- often are not.

Here's what Peterson hears from server huggers and what he has to say to those who just can't give up their beloved hardware.

"If we don't own it, we can't control it."

"I call this the delusion of control," Peterson said. He says IT teams can actually gain a greater degree of control over a cloud-hosted application, thanks to ubiquitous Web- or mobile-based management consoles. There's probably some truth to that, but also a measure of wishful thinking.

"I can run it better."

The reality is that cloud-hosted service providers have one goal and one goal only: to maintain the uptime and reliability of their service, and their systems are designed with that goal in mind, Peterson said. "Like most cloud providers, we perform updates every couple of weeks without any downtime," he said. "That's difficult for on-premises IT to do."

"I can provide end users with all the training they need."

But do you really know how much training is needed? IT staff members often underestimate that. They also overestimate how much time they have to train end users. As a general rule, SaaS applications are designed to be very easy to pick up. "We've learned the features that our users really need and put them right in the face of the user," Peterson said. The flip side is that the features that users need only rarely are buried deep within the application -- if they're there at all.

"My users need services only at the office."

Not these days, Peterson said. Any system that works only at the office is an outdated view of reality. "Users need access to IT systems wherever they may be, whether that's doing a demo at a customer site or sitting at a Starbucks," he said. No argument there.

This was first published in June 2014

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