Opinion

Why most enterprise companies can't afford to ignore the cloud

The term cloud computing came into common usage around 2008, and services we now commonly call cloud services have been around much longer than that. And while there are still some hardcore cloud naysayers, other CIOs and enterprise companies find themselves asking, "Can we afford to not be in the cloud?"

It's important to note that the cloud refers to a range of services -- from software to platform to infrastructure -- that IT shops are embracing across a spectrum of adoption levels, from not at all to shuttering the data center and moving to total cloud adoption -- though the latter instances are very rare.

And although, according to Laurence Hart, CIO at AIIM, a global professional organization, the primary advantages of cloud generally vary from organization to organization depending on existing IT maturity levels, there are some established benefits for all adopters.

One across-the-board benefit is that cloud allows an organization to focus less on 'keeping the lights on' and more on providing needed services to the business.

Laurence Hart,
CIO at AIIM

"One across-the-board benefit is that cloud allows an organization to focus less on 'keeping the lights on' and more on providing needed services to the business," Hart said. "IT departments are supposed to support the business, but they tend to get buried in the business of IT. Cloud computing allows IT to refocus on business requirements and not on managing the data center."

Shadrach White, president and CEO at cloudPWR, a cloud consulting firm, agrees that there are benefits across the board.

"The primary benefactors are end users," White said. "We are all looking for software that is easy to use and quickly accessible. CxOs benefit from a reduction in IT cost spikes due to hardware refreshes, expensive software upgrades and data migration projects."

So, should companies even be in the data center business anymore?

There's little reason to maintain a data center anymore, other than to protect jobs, said Hart, though he admits going total cloud is not a simple transition by any means.

"Moving to the cloud isn't an overnight journey," Hart said. "Each system move is a migration, and migrations take planning and work. In addition, there is the existing investment. Some organizations have large, virtualized data centers and have things under control. They don't need to rush to the cloud because they are already more responsive than most IT shops. None of this means they don't want to move, just that they have good reasons for not making it their top priority."

White said most experienced IT pros have cut their teeth with hardware and software in the data center. "IT people have an irrational attachment to the physical layer of corporate computing," he added. "That is changing as savvier IT folks realize it's OK to outsource these fundamental building blocks and move on to business-solutions development and business-continuity aspects of IT."

Data security in the cloud ranks high on the list of reasons many enterprises keep data on-premises. And in light of Edward Snowden's recent revelationsabout widespread government surveillance, some cloud critics have become even more skeptical. But for most businesses, Hart said, it's just not relevant. Organizations need to work with all their service providers -- not just cloud service providers -- and work to understand what their policies are for responding to government requests, he added.

Every company is looking for ways to control costs. Many still run expensive data centers in a time when there are plenty of quality cloud-based alternatives. There are several excuses for avoiding the cloud, but in the end most organizations can benefit by moving at least part of their IT operations there.

About the author:
Ron Miller is a freelance technology journalist, blogger and contributing editor of EContent Magazine. He has been writing about technology since 1988; his publishing credits include InsideCRM, CIO.com, Streaming Media Magazine, eWeek, BusinessWeek SmallBiz and Network World. He has also written white papers, documentation and training for a variety of corporate clients.

This was first published in August 2013

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