When I wrote about theevolving standards for cloud computing yesterday, I linked to a post by Frank Ohlhorst on our CTO Edge site because I thought he offered some great tips on vetting cloud providers. I also liked his (bad pun alert) down-to-earth advice on assessing your company's reasons for moving to the cloud. So did IT Business Edge's Paul Mah, who also linked to Ohlhorst. Frank's money paragraph, reproduced in Paul's post:
Make no mistake, moving to the cloud is a business decision, not a technology decision, and as such should be judged on the same merits used for any new business process. Ultimately, the final decision will be based on the metrics of return on investment, performance, sustainability and suitability to task.
Paul goes on to offer a real-world example of a cloud-based backup service he uses that, while it works well for him and might for some SMBs, won't be a good fit for others because it lacks an administrative console for any form of centralized management. His point: Don't jump into the cloud for the sake of it.
Prevoyance Group President Patrick Gray, writing on TechRepublic, makes a similar point about the cloud. First of all, he writes, cloud computing is hardly a new concept. Software-as-a-service, hosted applications, e-commerce and even "that boring, but ubiquitous relic from the 1980's" EDI (electronic data interchange) could all be repackaged as "cloud." He writes:
If hosted apps did not make sense to your organization a few years ago, putting another layer of buzzword frosting on a stale cake will likely make little practical difference, and basing your IT department's strategy on "cloud computing" with little understanding of the business risks and benefits is as solid a footing as a cloud itself.
He's right. And so are Frank and Paul. I've made the same point about other buzzword-laden tools and technologies, most notably anything under the big Enterprise 2.0 umbrella. White papers and other vendor marketing materials promote a fear among companies of falling hopelessly behind the curve and their competitors. But remember, vendors want to sell you stuff. Too often, after reading these materials, companies don't stop to consider whether a certain tool or technology can solve a real business problem or help achieve a real business goal.
In a recent post on Microsoft SharePoint, I shared advice from Fred Yeomans, a consultant at T4G Limited, who urged companies to come up with solid business reasons for implementing SharePoint before actually doing so. Not as much of a no-brainer as you'd think, judging by his reference to "conversations with potential clients who come to me saying 'Help us implement SharePoint' when they cannot clearly articulate why they want to implement it."