The Cloud is very much like the Weather: Everyone talks about it but no one seems to really understand it – least of all my clients who seem to all desperately want their businesses to be in it but are not sure why.
The Cloud – in its’ most basic definition – is nothing more than Server infrastructure not physically in your Office. (A “Server” in this context is usually defined as combination of specialized hardware, operating system, and/or possibly a specific software application.)
So the discussion becomes: “Why does everyone think they need to be there?” and “When might The Cloud make sense?”
Regardless of the Agenda of any technology meeting, the opening statement by the client is almost universally: “We need to move to The Cloud.”
Assuming I play along, I respond, “Great, exactly what would you like to move to The Cloud?” To which the usual response is, “I don’t know – All of our Servers and Applications; everything. If we are going to stay competitive, we need to be in The Cloud. Right?”
It is the part where the client moves from a declarative statement to a question that always makes me smile.
For humor, recall that the literal definition of a Cloud in the Weather sense is a visible body of very fine water droplets or a mass of dust or smoke suspended in the atmosphere. Does this really sound like where you want to place your very important data and information? The Cloud, both weather related and technology are challenging places to do business.
Let’s address the first question: Why does everyone think their business needs to be in “The Cloud?” Probably for the same reason that everyone felt they needed an Apple iPod, iPhone, or IPad when they were first introduced. That’s what all the “cool kids” were carrying. Seriously, even if you never actually opened it up or turned it on, how could you show up at a C-level meeting and not have an iPad sitting in front of you or not be carrying an iPhone? Not to take anything away from Apple but there are as many or more users of other MP3 music players, Android/Windows Smartphones, and non-Apple tablets like the Android Samsung Galaxy, Microsoft Slate, and Kindle combined.
Peer pressure and Fads notwithstanding, Function usually follows Form. If you needed a music player, the iPod was an excellent choice but then again so were hundreds of other brands of MP3 players. (MP3 is a popular format of music files for non-Apple devices.) If you were not the type to listen to music on the go, then there was really no reason to purchase an iPod or MP3 player.
Is there a valid reason to move your business technology to The Cloud other than, “Everyone’s doing it?” (Can you not just hear your parents saying, “…and if your friends were jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you follow them…”)
Actual need and use case should always drive the Technology decision process in the company.
Turning the question in to a more focused statement, “Certain people know they need to be in the Cloud as it is the only way they can do business efficiently.” Specific examples are Startup companies that don’t have the capital to invest heavily in “Big Iron” – (the colloquial name for Server computers). The Cloud enables them to immediately “spin up” whatever Server technologies they require, and scale up as their needs grow with only a marginal increase in operational cost.
Another typical example is seasonal retail. Given that stores selling physical goods may do more than 50% of their annual sales during the Holiday Season, does it make any sense to have that amount of excess Server capacity for a three month peak load in their Data Center? Before The Cloud, there was little choice. Now with Hybrid Cloud Tools, Retail can scale up to double or triple their Server capacity by extending in to the Cloud so that they can handle the increased volume of sales transactions extremely quickly for only a marginal increase in operational cost.
The short answer, in many cases to the statement, “We need to move to The Cloud” is really one of available Capital ($$$) and Scale. If you have a business that is in a startup or growth and expansion mode, or has seasonal surge capacity requirements, then yes, “We need to move to The Cloud.”
Note to Reader: The above is the quick determining factor for the “easy” use case for moving to The Cloud. Most every business can benefit by utilizing The Cloud in some capacity. This may include off-site backup, disaster recovery, mission critical operations, or a shift from capital to operational expenditures based on the strengths and weaknesses of the Balance Sheet and Income Statement.