Bob Welton| Guardian
It is clear that a growing number of chief information officers (CIOs) are turning to the cloud to help gain a competitive edge and reduce costs. A recent study by KPMG reveals that the use of cloud is genuinely dominating boardroom planning for 2013, with 42% of UK organisations revealing that at least one fifth of their total IT spend in the next 12 months will focus on cloud services.
However, while the business benefits of moving to the cloud may be clear, deciding when and how to implement a cloud strategy still remains a complex challenge for some.
Giving the green light to cloud
Deciding whether the time is right to move to the cloud raises a whole series of unique concerns and questions that are born from the business’s strategy. For firms of any size, security, scalability and control are fundamental when choosing a cloud solution. Smaller companies want to know how the cloud will give them a competitive edge, and what it will mean for their future growth. Larger firms, on the other hand, will be more concerned with how the cloud can support and improve what their business is already doing. They will also want to know the extent to which the cloud can interface with existing information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure and the scale of change this move will result in. Reassurance on these issues will determine how quickly companies adopt cloud computing as the model for their ICT.
Driving cloud on a global scale
Medium and large enterprises are more likely to have well-developed inhouse ICT resources, but that doesn’t mean the cloud can remain as a separate function to their core business strategy. Numerous businesses that have matured in Europe or North America are unlocking the potential in the cloud and harnessing growth opportunities in emerging markets, using e-commerce as a key enabling technology. There is a significant take-up across the retail and fashion sectors where brands are using the cloud to access new wealth in Asia, Pacific and Australian countries.
Fashion houses across Asia are also expanding into the European and American markets supported by the extensive cloud infrastructure and global network footprint they have access to. The idea of the cloud implies ubiquity and ease of access globally, but it is local data centres and local network points of presence, coupled with local knowledge, that make it a reality.
Expanding into these markets requires robust on-the-ground capabilities, in-depth market knowledge and the ability to “virtually” cut and paste head office systems and processes into new regional branches with minimal set-up time. Identifying suppliers that can truly deliver a global footprint requires careful consideration and research. Companies looking to place business-critical applications in to the cloud should look for, as a minimum, a data centre infrastructure with presence in their key markets, joined together by a global network from a single provider. Understanding who owns the network is vital to large enterprises. This goes beyond knowing who to call when things go wrong. This knowledge can help CIOs make informed planning decisions based on the service provider’s investment priorities.
Giving way to the cloud for growth
The emergence of the cloud has forced ICT organisations to revisit one of the fundamental questions of business technology: is it about reducing costs, or driving growth, or both? The new, model businesses which have placed the cloud at the heart of their strategy have been able to concentrate their internal ICT resources on innovation and development, rather than keeping the lights on with their existing infrastructure. Consequently they have become far more innovative, and faster to unlock new revenu- generating opportunities.
Instagram is a great example of this new breed of business: it depends 100% on the cloud to deliver its service, but the delivery depends on its service providers. This means it can focus on delivering what its customers want. Just five years ago, such a business model would have been impossible. The practical challenges of providing the solution would have got in the way of the original business idea.
Don’t turn back at the junction
There’s no simple answer to the question of when you should move to the cloud, but businesses need to consider it now or risk getting left behind. Selecting the right cloud provider means choosing what suits your business. By making the right choices from the start, the sky is the limit for what the cloud can deliver.