Moving To Cloud? Considerations Before Taking The Leap

We have to face facts: cloud uptake is on the rise – indeed, deployments are set to double by 2015, and up to 200,000 UK jobs will be created by cloud computing technologies between 2011 and 2015. CIOs therefore have to accept that cloud is here, and here to stay.

So what considerations must a CIO make when moving to the cloud, even if he entirely unwilling to do so?! Below, I have outlined some tips for any CIO who is either looking to move to the cloud, or indeed, is being pushed into making the move by his CFO or CEO…

Do I understand what cloud is and what it can do for my business?

As cloud computing adoption grows, so does the hype surrounding it. Everyone’s talking about the benefits that can be achieved by moving to the cloud, but does the CIO truly understand what it can do for his business? Whilst a solid understanding of what cloud computing actually entails is good, that knowledge is wasted without an appreciation of how cloud computing can precisely meet the needs of the business.

And this is not simply a case of understanding the differences between public and private cloud models, for instance. Instead, it is about appreciating what each type of cloud solution could do for the business. The CIO therefore, must define his business case for cloud – first identifying the company’s requirements by engaging with the board members to find out where the business currently is and where it is heading, aligning his IT team with those objectives and picking a cloud-based solution that best fits the business’ purposes.

Am I being honest about how much my internal IT department is costing the business?

Although Osborne’s budget statement last week was not all doom and gloom, we are still facing very tough economic times. Costs therefore, are being scrutinised across all divisions of the business like never before, and this has become no more apparent than in the IT department.

And could the CIO be spending his budget more efficiently? Can any IT department ever be as good at providing infrastructure as dedicated IT services providers are? Probably not. So why therefore are we continually seeing teams of five IT personnel in SME IT departments, where at least two are dedicated to providing infrastructure support?

This is not a good use of their time, and it’s certainly not a good use of the CIO’s shrinking budget. Whilst people are a company’s best asset, they are also the company’s greatest investment, and if that expenditure can be reduced by moving the business’ IT to the cloud, why wouldn’t the CIO want that for the business?

His budget could be dedicated to other areas within his department to bring in new applications and skill sets, thus allowing the IT team to meet the key business objectives and earn the CIO a few more brownie points with his CEO!

Have I sufficiently outlined my reasons to the board for embracing the cloud?

The way the industry is heading, CIOs need to embrace the cloud, and fast, if they are to remain in their position within the company. All too often, fearful for his and his team’s jobs, the CIO will blind his CEO with as much technical jargon and reasons why not to adopt cloud computing as he likes.

As soon as the CFO gets wind of the fact that cloud computing could potentially be saving the business hundreds of thousands of pounds however, it is then and only then that the CIO’s job could be on the line. As part of understanding what cloud can do for a business, and being honest about the true costs of an on-premise IT department, it is beholden upon the CIO to present to the board the kind of cost savings that could be achieved by moving to a cloud-based solution and outline the reasons why moving to the cloud could be the most suitable approach for the business to take.

Is my IT department protecting the business in the best possible way?

One of the CIO’s key objectives should be to protect the business as best he can, and there are two separate areas which must be considered. Firstly, how secure is the data, and secondly, is there a solid disaster recovery (DR) policy in place?

Data security is always going to be a prime concern for businesses – after all, a security breach could result in a competitor stealing your ideas for the next financial year or even your customers’ sensitive data becoming public knowledge, both of which could prove disastrous for the future of any business.

But how many organisations could confidently say that their data would be more secure if held in-house compared to if held in a highly secure, Tier 4 data centre by an ISO 27001:2005 accredited cloud provider? The two solutions are simply incomparable.

Secondly, the importance and value of a DR policy cannot be underestimated. In the event of a fire in the server room for example, a company without a DR policy is in real danger of being wiped out, or at the very least, suffering serious damage to its shareholder value and reputation.

Why take that risk? What price can be put on losing the business’ entire data storage, if any?! It is very easy to build a DR facility into a cloud-based solution, whereas on-premise, the IT team does not typically have the economies of scale to be able to afford a secondary supply of infrastructure, kit and equipment in order to run a replicated site in the event of a disaster.

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Keith Bates has been Chairman of the Cloud Computing Centre since its launch at the beginning of 2010. Formerly Chairman of ESG Group, he has been at the forefront of the technology industry for over 25 years. Keith is driving The Cloud Computing Centre’s financial and technological future and is responsible for the development of its long term strategy and planning. Prior to ESG Group, Keith co-founded Concept Integrated Systems, the company that developed the Concept Agency Management system which is today widely recognised as the leading advertising and media agency management system deployed by more than 140 of the top tier communications companies. Prior to this Keith held a number of senior management positions in software and hardware companies including Unisys and NCR.