The cloud is all the rage. From Apple’s iCloud to Netflix to Dropbox to Google Apps, we are surrounded by cloud talk.
Business use is driving consumer use. Meanwhile, consumer use is creating a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) landscape, and companies are feeling the pressure to embrace the cloud. However, business executives are at best cloudy about the value of the cloud. This primarily stems from the fact that most business executives leave the technology decisions up to others within the organization.
Today, it is more important than ever that business executives understand the cloud, so here are some quick points on cloud capabilities to lift the fog and bring some light to what the cloud can do for just about any organization.
- Public/Private/Hybrid: Clouds are not one-size-fits-all. Many people believe cloud means a public type of website that can be accessed from anywhere. While this ubiquity is part of what makes the cloud such a great thing, there is not just one type of cloud. Public clouds leverage off-site apps and infrastructure, while private clouds maintain everything on site. Hybrids are becoming very popular because you can internally manage where it is required and deploy the rest off site.
- Security: Cloud security can be managed and maintained on many levels. A cloud can be secured with hardware (firewall) and there are cloud applications and software that can provide high levels of security. Just like on-premise solutions, if security is important it needs to be accounted for in the design phase. However, there is not a good reason that a cloud solution needs to be less secure.
- Features: While it is true that some cloud applications, especially free ones, may be limited in their features, this is not universally the case. For businesses, many CRM and ERP solutions run in the cloud have high levels of customization that can be applied to provide solutions for unique business scenarios. Due diligence will be the best indicator of what the application is capable of; nonetheless, it is safe to say that cloud and feature limitation are not universal.
- Updates: Is your company not in the business of managing software versions and available upgrades? Well, then the cloud may be perfect for you. Most cloud applications are managed and designed in a way in which you receive the updates as they become available in a very non-intrusive matter. Much of the time when you log into the application the updates are in place along with simple verbiage explaining the benefits of the update. With updates no longer being a business distraction, a company can focus on whatever it is they actually do rather than managing their IT.
- Scalability: Customers of all types that deploy technology seek expandability. With the proliferation of technology getting faster each day it is critical that our business applications can support that Cloud applications can be highly scalable, supporting rapid growth of an organization
- Integration: A lot of companies have a few, if not many, home grown applications that have come of age over time to address various special needs of an organization. Some of which may not be replaceable with a cloud application. Does that mean that using the cloud is not an option? Absolutely not. While it is possible that the application won’t integrate well, many cloud providers have open APIs that allow high levels of custom integration into third-party solutions. This is a great way to keep proprietary solutions in use while upgrading to a flexible cloud platform.
- Price: I have heard so many executives claim that the cloud is too expensive. I liken it to the person that “hates sushi” but has never actually tried it. It depends so much on what you are trying to deploy. While cost is always more than just cash (time always comes to mind), the assumption of price being a barrier to entry is a bad one that can be very limiting to an organization’s decision to best leverage technology options.