In many ways, getting on the cloud is like having a baby. You’re never truly ready—you just have to make the leap and hope for the best.
Fortunately, in both instances, you can do many things to prepare for the challenges ahead, whether that is painting the nursery or building your own internal cloud infrastructure. In the end, however, know that the results are rarely what you intended.
For many enterprises, the single most troubling aspect of the cloud is that it is not an IT initiative. In the past, techies deployed new systems and the benefits trickled into the business environment. These days, business units are in the driver’s seat and if IT can’t keep up, well, too bad. As Computerworld’s Sharon Gaudin points out, this puts the enterprise in a bad position: Either move forward at a rapid pace and risk cost overruns and/or performance limitations, or hold back while competitors embrace the new computing paradigm.
When it comes to the cloud, however, the cost of inaction may be greater than the cost of action. According to Forbes, a recent Netskope survey revealed that one in five cloud applications has data sharing as a core feature and that on average, every upload to the cloud is accompanied by three sharings. Additional findings include that an estimated 85 percent of data is uploaded using apps that enable file sharing and 81 percent of downloaded data occurred in apps that lacked encryption. Clearly, this represents a direct threat to the security of enterprise data that needs to be dealt with immediately.
But how is the enterprise to know when it is ready for the cloud? This is where the cloud readiness assessment comes in. As ABI Research analyst Jason McNicol notes at Processor.com, cloud readiness extends beyond mere technology and into business process and the corporate culture itself. Before you even get to cloud options and cost/benefit analyses, key questions should include such basics as: Why are we doing this? What are the short- and long-term objectives? And perhaps most importantly, how will we measure success?
Equally important in assessing enterprise readiness for the cloud, however, is assessing the cloud’s readiness for the enterprise. Top providers like Google and Amazon have been working feverishly to make the jump from consumer to enterprise workloads, but it’s been a tricky maneuver considering that the requirements are so much more exact in the business world. For example, does the provider offer dedicated physical connections to internal infrastructure? And how easy is it to build hosted private infrastructure so that critical data is not housed on shared resources? And does the provider even offer the kinds of apps that the enterprise requires?
Clearly, there are many pitfalls on the way to the cloud, and it will be the rare enterprise that doesn’t encounter a fair number of them. And as in raising children, success is rarely total. But if you maintain a level head and keep your eye on the big picture, you’ll find that your hard work today will pay countless dividends in the future.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata, Carpathia and NetMagic.