No. 1 on Gartner’s top 10 strategic technologies for 2010 was cloud computing. It was once again top of the list in 2011, but then 2012 saw cloud computing demoted to No. 10. It danced around the list over the next few years and eventually started to take on different personas. Personal cloud was given a middle-of-the-road placing in 2013, and then in 2014, it advanced into the architecture behind the cloud. Makes sense. And then 2015 introduced us to the concept of computing everywhere. If we do a little bit of forensic analysis, it seems that by 2016 enterprise organizations had embraced the cloud, and it moved from trendy to operational.
The reasons are many. Offloading the heavy lifting required to acquire, set up, and maintain the internal infrastructure required for today’s technology is a huge weight off any corporate executive’s shoulders. The ability to access applications and data regardless of location or time zone means an increase in productivity. There is an often-heard argument that cloud computing is more cost-effective, although there is always another side to that argument. Nonetheless, many enterprise organizations have made the move to the cloud. But not all. One cannot help but wonder, with all of the positive press around the cloud, not to mention the skilled sales tactics employed by profit-maximizing vendors, why there still are organizations resisting the urge to jump on board and migrate to the cloud?
Reason No. 1: Security
Stripped of all the fancy wrapping, the cloud is really just someone else’s server. Which means that the security around the service that is provided is only as good as the practices employed, not to mention the skillsets of service provider employees. Dropbox, OneDrive, and Google, oh my! The increased use of cloud platforms has also meant an increase in security concerns. Insecure APIs, external attacks, and compliance risks are all at the forefront of concerns contemplated by cybersecurity professionals. But it is also true that we would have these same concerns if our servers all resided in an onsite locked room. The advantage to hackers is that data is now centralized and therefore creates a rather irresistible target. So perhaps security concerns are a wash. We will have the same concerns no matter where our data resides. The thought that when servers are onsite, we can maintain greater control is true. It also means that we have the fiscal and legal responsibility to ensure the security of that data. To some, it is less stressful to contract that responsibility to a service provider dedicated to overseeing security. Overall, service providers are quite disciplined when it comes to applying security patches and updates. Which is something that is known to not always be true for localized IT departments.
Reason No. 2: Unique requirements
Companies are seldom willing to give up those requirements that make them unique. To move to a hosted application in the cloud means conforming to the configuration limitations imposed by the vendor. Service providers need to do this. If they were to offer customization to every customer, their offering would be much too expensive to be attractive to the average corporate consumer. In addition, it would become impossible for them to maintain upgrades. Only those organizations that are willing to let go of nonstandardized business processes can benefit from migrating applications. Of importance is the knowledge that repeatable and standardized processes are much less expensive to operate and maintain. While it is true that onsite applications can also be developed by disciplined and mature organizations to follow documented and standardized processes, it is also expensive for organizations to build workarounds on the fly. And these workarounds, far too often, turn into the regular process.
Reason No. 3: Access to data
An often-heard argument against cloud service providers is the limited access to data. And it is true that organizations with high turnover may find themselves at a disadvantage when choosing to move to a new service provider. In an effort to keep our data secure, cloud service providers will ask their customers to identify by name those who will require different levels of access to data. It is administratively heavy to change these contact names for obvious reasons, and we do want it to be a difficult procedure with many checks and balances. Unfortunately, this can be construed as not having access to data that is rightfully owned by the customer. On the other side of this equation, it is important to ensure that during the procurement process, it is clear that the data is owned by the customer and we have access to it as required. This includes the ability to download all required data should we choose to change our service provider.
Yet another data consideration is what vendors feel entitled to do with the data entered and stored by organizations. While legal compliance, in theory, represents the rights of customers, it is important to understand that we need to have a legal interpretation of the contract we are signing. This is yet another risk that smaller organizations encounter. It is an expense that can become unmanageable with less respectable vendors.
Reason No. 4: Connectivity
Can your server connection handle moving the kind of data that your organization requires? Connectivity is one of the more controversial topics of cloud services. It is also one that is often not discovered until after go-live, which can be the cause of a very poor user experience. When selecting a cloud service provider, there are a few requirements that can help to alleviate this issue. First of all, select a service provider that has multiple datacenters. Latency can be caused by distance, and it is a good idea to know that you will have the option to move to a datacenter in a different location if this turns out to be a persistent issue. Another issue may have nothing to do with cloud anything. Ensure that the bandwidth of your Internet service provider is understood and that it meets the suggested requirements of the cloud service provider. And then, of course, there is the bandwidth of your internal network. This needs to be tested before cutover.
Reason No. 5: Implementation projects
Enterprise technology projects are expensive and time-consuming. They also require the engagement of many operational team resources and stakeholders. There are times in every organization’s life when it is wise not to take on another large project. Timing is everything. If adequate resourcing and timing are not allocated, a poorly planned configuration can cause a headache that could stick around for a very long while.
But really, it’s all about trust…
The ability to host applications in the cloud, usually via a vendor that provides the application as a service, has been a savior in current times. The ability to access applications from any location, not to mention removing the need for a server room fully staffed with expensive technology resources, has been an advantage under our current work-from-home regime. The concept is solid, and the positive results have been proven. However, there are legit reasons that enterprise organizations may hold off migration projects. Overall, there does seem to be a direct correlation with trust. Trust of vendor partners and cloud service providers. Trust that our Internet service providers can handle the constant flow of data packets we will need to send, and even trust that our stakeholders have built and can maintain standardized and repeatable processes. While technology continues to offer new solutions to compensate for the constant challenges thrown at the business world, it seems that the issues that keep a CIO awake at night have not changed much over the years.
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