Customers are under pressure to adopt cloud offerings, but the numerous hazards may outstrip the initial gains. For most, a considered, phased move to the cloud, with a blended offering, is likely to prove best.
Companies need to be able to differentiate their IT needs from their ‘wants’ and then assess a cloud offering for maturity to see if their needs can be met.
Cloud computing requires a robust and constant network connection. This probably isn’t a deal breaker for connectivity in the office or the home, but for remote working it needs to be factored in.
Cloud computing applications may not offer the same degree of functionality as on-premise offerings. For example, many enterprise-level CRM systems may not be matched by cloud counterparts. Ask your customer how much of the functionality of on-premise applications is actually used or needed routinely.
Cloud providers live or die on their security track record and invest huge amounts of time and money into it. This of course will be no comfort if your customer becomes the victim of a breach. Also, some cloud providers don’t offer adequate SLAs or guarantees for security levels or audits.
Cloud computing may also not address regulatory requirements. Your customer might consider keeping some types of data on the premises. There’s also the question of sending data across borders, since different countries have different disclosure laws.
And don’t forget: most cloud offerings will require moving to a single platform, which can be as proprietary as an on-premise system. Integration complexities and costs need to be considered.
How easy is it to get all the data from the on-premise system into the cloud? Will your customer prefer to keep the historical data in the on-premise version and integrate with the cloud replacement for newly created data only?
If the organisation is unhappy with one cloud provider, how easy is it to move to another? Few disclose the technological complexities and associated costs of changing provider at the time of the signing of the contract.
Cloud computing is spawning a new generation of startups, not all of which will survive. If they decide to go with a start-up, what happens if that provider collapses? What then happens to its client data?
Cloud computing might not end up being as cost effective as claimed either. Low up-front costs need to be weighed against the long-term running cost or the total cost of ownership.
In reality, I believe the overwhelming majority of organisations will adopt a strategy where some systems and applications are in the cloud while others remain on-premise. A gradual, phased migration to the cloud will be the path that most organisations choose to follow, at their own pace.
Matthew Edwards is chief technology officer at Bluesource
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