Saturday, February 20, 2010

Should IT Fear the Cloud or Embrace It?

Cloud computing’s arrival on the scene certainly can’t be ignored, especially given the boost it has received from the recent economic climate. The cloud has a compelling business story that appeals to business owners and a compelling technology story that appears to developers. But then we have IT, charged with enabling the business with technology while simultaneously protecting and managing the use of that technology. How should IT feel about the cloud?

There are more than a few reasons why an IT department’s initial reaction to cloud computing could be less than enthusiastic. First off, it’s something new and therefore to be viewed with suspicion. Taking programs and data off-site and having less direct control over them also raises a red flag. And then there’s the self-service aspect of cloud computing, where any department or individual in the company can do what they want without going through channels. Security becomes a huge concern: might someone put sensitive data in the cloud on their own and not secure it properly? Last but not least, if your business takes cloud computing seriously might that not lead to a reduction in IT staffing?

While all of these are valid concerns, they are addressable. More importantly, they miss the key point about cloud computing, which is that it’s coming upon all of us whether or not everyone likes it. We’re already hearing stories where some individual in a company became a hero by taking matters into their own hands through cloud computing and a credit card and saved the day. This isn’t the first time new technology has caused control and security concerns in the enterprise: when wireless PDAs starting showing up within the business walls, many IT departments were nervous about the potential security concern they represented and weren’t sure how to deal with them at first. Similarly, self-service computing in the cloud is now a reality that anyone in your organization might be tempted to take advantage of. You can embrace cloud computing or you can fight it, but you certainly cannot afford to ignore it.

The right thing for IT departments and CIOs to do about cloud computing is to lead the way in their company’s use of it, a far better alternative to letting it happen all around them, uncontrolled and uncoordinated. IT should be championing the business benefits of cloud computing to executive management, putting company-wide policies in place about when and where cloud computing is appropriate, and coordinating its use across the company. It’s in this IT-supportive context that cloud computing can best deliver its benefits without risking unintended consequences.

Cloud computing brings with it the democratization of IT, where common tasks such as installing software, configuring a server, or deploying applications become routine and easy enough that anybody can do it. Smart IT departments will not see this as a threat to their jobs, but rather an opportunity to operate at a higher level. Freed from many mundane tasks, IT personnel can take things up a notch and focus on the strategic use of technology in their organization, which is in fact their mission.

1 comment:

wearecloud said...

thanks for the informative post. With the points you made about people's fear of cloud computing I thought you might be interested in the opinion of Rick Porting, a SAP consultant, and his views on some of reasons why people are scared of the cloud, and the facts that they overlook.