If you're looking for a short answer as to whether your business needs a cloud strategy, the answer is simple: yes. Read on to find out why
Even if you plan to do nothing for now other than to watch your business grow and to monitor how cloud computing changes as your requirements shift, that's a strategy. But is it the right strategy for your business?
Cloud computing and storage have crept into organisations in many forms. Tools like Google Apps, Microsoft Office 365 and Dropbox mean that the cloud is commonplace.
These 'shadow IT' solutions are often implemented in a piecemeal fashion, as particular needs arise. But as the cloud becomes more sophisticated and your business needs evolve, you may need to use the cloud in a more organised, strategic manner.
We're (nearly) all using the cloud
RightScale's 2015 State of the Cloud Report found that 88% of enterprises are using public cloud services (like Dropbox), while 63% are using private cloud (this means their own cloud applications that aren't shared with other organisations).
These companies have adopted the cloud to enjoy some significant benefits:
- Agility. Cloud services can be set up quickly. This means you can get the IT services you need almost immediately, with no need to set up any major infrastructure, like new servers or software.
- Cost-effectiveness. Replacing out-dated hardware is expensive, particularly for key equipment like servers. With cloud computing, you pay a regular fee instead of a large fee upfront.
- Capabilities. Technology is still growing in importance in most businesses. Big data, better customer relationship management, improved ecommerce - the cloud can help in these areas, and more.
However, to see the biggest potential benefits in these three areas, you really need to plan ahead rather than just reacting.
So, what is your cloud strategy?
A successful cloud strategy won't stifle your company's agility. But will increase your understanding of how decisions about the cloud can affect and improve the work your people do.
When developing a cloud strategy, make sure you focus on aligning your IT services with the needs of your business. (If you haven't done this in a while, you can go back to the basics of your IT requirements, thinking about how technology can help you achieve your business objectives.)
Regardless of your specific objectives, it's a good idea to aim for:
- A standard operating environment (SOE). This means you have a single set of software and cloud services used across your business. With an SEO, it's much easier to manage security, patches and updates.
- A single SOE management platform across your business infrastructure. This allow you to manage, monitor and automate cloud computing functions from one place.
- A system that will allow you to add capacity and deliver increased availability more easily than the software and services you rely on currently.
- A faster way to set up new users, features or other capabilities. (For instance, you should be able to create a user account for a new employee quickly and easily.
- A lower total cost of ownership (TCO). Because cloud-based systems are generally more effective, you should see your total costs reduce over the long term. (You can measure these over a period of 3+ years.)
Of course, your strategy should evolve in response to technological advances or market changes. Understanding how to adjust your strategy is key for it to remain fit for purpose.
Can a cloud partner help?
Coming up with a suitable cloud strategy can be tricky. The demands of day-to-day tasks may mean it's one of those jobs that never gets done.
As with other aspects of choosing and buying IT, you might also benefit from getting an external perspective on things. An independent consultant or local IT company may be able to help you develop a practical, long-term cloud strategy.
Copyright © 2015 Simon Mitchell, CEO at LinuxIT