Considering a move to the cloud? You're not alone - 32 percent of IT professionals surveyed said they were interested in moving all of their data center infrastructure to the cloud, according to a June 24 article from ZDnet. But not everything in the cloud is smooth sailing. As noted by a recent InformationWeek piece, companies used an average of three cloud vendors to find the right mix of services and price, and many struggled with the new IT skills required to manage cloud services.
Bottom line? The cloud's not perfect. But increasing adoption says there's real value in this disruptive technology - here are the big three business opportunities enabled by the cloud.
Ask any CEO or CIO why they've transitioned to the cloud, and you'll likely hear about reduced costs. With IT spend now a part of boardroom discussions and return on investment (ROI) expectations tied to tech purchases in the same way as any other business asset, this is no surprise. And it's true - public, private and hybrid clouds can reduce the amount a company spends on server hardware, maintenance and upgrading, all of which improve the bottom line.
But that's just the beginning. As author Minda Zetlin points out in a recent CIO article, these savings actually enable massive business opportunity: Innovation. While a Redhat survey found that 48 percent of CIOs said IT departments had to spend more than half of their time and resources on maintenance, Zetlin found in a series of interviews that there were outliers: CIOs whose departments spent only 20 to 40 percent of their time on maintenance tasks. The difference? Cloud use.
By shifting even a portion of your infrastructure to the cloud, it's possible to significantly increase the time IT professionals have to innovate and respond directly to the needs of other departments. In other words, reduced cost is just the ground floor. Innovation is the next level.
The cloud is also transforming business structure, giving rise to what Computer Weekly describes as networks rather than hierarchies. Why? Because many cloud tools are easy to deploy, simple to use and require virtually no maintenance. As a result, front-line employees and C-suite executives have gained a measure of technical expertise. Combine with the evolving bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend and the stage is set for an evolution - or revolution, if companies aren't careful.
As IT responsibilities shift, it's natural to see pushback. What was once the bailiwick of IT professionals exclusively has become easily visible and couched in plain language, meaning users are willing to go around IT rules if they believe such action best suits their needs or project. The result is what's known as shadow IT, groups of employees (and even tech pros) using cloud services and apps that aren't officially authorized.
Sounds worrisome - but it can be a huge opportunity if properly utilized. By empowering IT to innovate, as noted above, and creating cross-disciplinary teams to tackle technology issues, it's possible to take make use of shadow IT knowledge and become a company that's fundamentally tech-savvy rather than simply following the crowd.
Increasing data transfer speeds, improved wireless connections and the rise of content delivery networks have created a global cloud economy - it's now possible to use a local cloud provider and reach customers on the other side of the world, or host your data in another country to take advantage of low-cost storage and high-availability access. Bottom line? Even startups can become global competitors based on technology use, not physical size.
This global transition also presents a critical business opportunity: Commoditization. Why? Because intelligent monitoring tools and metrics now make it possible to treat technology deployments like any other company asset. It's therefore possible to commoditize their use, to place them in context rather than outside the business paradigm. As a result, public, private and hybrid cloud deployments become building blocks that can be assigned value, attached to specific outcomes and evaluated for performance once a project is complete - while the concept of cloud computing remains somewhat nebulous, using the cloud offers measurable gains.
Considering a move to the cloud? It's not without risk, but the business opportunities are substantial: IT innovation, employee evolution and asset commoditization.