The hype and excitement around cloud computing continues to rise in leaps and bounds across the world with attention coming from all quarters. The move though hasn’t been fast enough and there still exists a lot of skeptism within some market sectors on whether cloud is a preferred route for accessing IT systems. In Africa, the thinking has mostly been around moving only non-core systems to the cloud vis a vis the core systems. It therefore follows that it’s not uncommon to find multiple companies in East Africa running email, CRM and even stripped down HR systems off the cloud. In Europe and America, the move to the cloud is at a more advanced level with various institutions running core systems from the cloud. In a recent event where I presented on the pros and cons of the cloud, there was little buying from the “C” suite with key queries being raised around security and vulnerability issues around cloud environments. Infact one CEO lamented that whatever goes to the cloud never comes back and he was better off his company running in-house based systems. One CIO complained of how cloud based systems undergo overnight updates and patching without due regard of informing the users. A sentiment I fetched from CFOs and Chief People Officers was one of cloud environments being insecure with high probability of data thefts and breaches.
Irrespective of the concerns and doubts, Cloud Computing is here to stay and usage will only increase. An analysis of the benefits garnered via this technology far outweighs the pinpointed pitfalls. When you consider that all social media platforms, from facebook to twitter run on the cloud, then you appreciate the power behind this technology phenomenon. The benefits to be garnered are numerous and just to list a few: Disaster Recovery – cloud systems have far more advanced disaster recovery systems compared to in-house systems. Bandwidth scalability – Cloud computing is the ideal solution for organizations struggling with fluctuating bandwidth demands. Cloud computing enables a scaling downwards and upwards of bandwidth requirements hence bringing the much needed agility around bandwidth management. IT Expenditure – a major headache that’s addressed via this technology is a smarter way to manage IT expenditures; whereas the incumbent, traditional systems are often purchased via CAPEX cash outlay financing models, with cloud, you get an opportunity to pay as you go meaning lack of a need to capitalize the expense.
To avoid disappointments with cloud computing initiatives, it’s imperative for organizations to first layout the ground work and get the basics right. The first step is to develop a Cloud Computing strategy that amongst other things articulates the proposed approach, risks, resources, integration, security and connectivity. It’s equally important for an organization to appreciate the different levels of cloud computing and tailor make the levels with the organizational needs. The three most popular cloud levels include: Software as a Service(SaaS) – gives access to computer systems in the cloud, IT Infrastructure as a Service(IaaS) – gives access to IT Infrastructure in the cloud e.g storage space, servers and Platform as a Service(PaaS) – grants a cloud platform for which you can build own systems, mostly around software development. Besides having an elaborate cloud strategy, an organization considering Cloud needs to think about the in-house technology elements that are critical to the success of Cloud. Top on the list is the need to invest in a robust Unified Threat Management system(UTM) that helps address security aspects pre and post cloud systems access. Integration remains a major pain point amongst most organizations running mission critical systems in the cloud. It’s an added plus to plan in advance how integration will be handled between systems running on the cloud and in-premise systems. Lastly it’s an absolute must for an organization to have a Data Management Policy that addresses matters around Data with clear rules of engagement, especially for Master Data being accessed from the cloud