Cloud Services: Expectations vs. Reality
Streamlining operations, increasing efficiencies and boosting profitability. These are just three of the many benefits advocates of the cloud use to explain the increasing tendency of the modern business to transition their IT infrastructure into this virtual space.
At first glance, particularly given the seemingly endless list of advantages, it may seem like a silver bullet solution — but the cloud can only enable transformative outcomes for organisations willing to undertake careful groundwork and planning, and accept expert advice.
For the uninitiated, cloud computing can best be described as a virtualised hosting platform. It’s a place where your information and critical applications can be stored, while remaining easily accessible whenever required for your business operations.
For our handy beginner’s guide to the cloud, click here.
Regardless of the industry you’re in, it is now more common than ever for organisations to be utilising the cloud in some capacity.
To illustrate the point, a 2018 IDG Survey found a massive nine out of ten organisations had already migrated at least some of their computing infrastructure or applications to the cloud, or were planning to do so at some stage during the following year.
At InfoTech we have witnessed nothing to suggest this shift has done anything other than gather pace since that survey was published.
Does The Cloud Actually Deliver All The Benefits We’re Told About?
We have watched with keen interest as cloud services have been stealthily adopted by businesses with high expectations of scalable, agile and affordable IT solutions. But the stairway to cloud heaven is not always a simple, straightforward path.
A global survey conducted this year canvassing 200 senior IT executives suggested only 35 per cent felt their cloud service was helping them to achieve all of their expected outcomes. The remaining respondents said they felt they still had work to do to fully realise their anticipated cloud-driven benefits.
This is not to suggest the advantages of cloud computing have been overstated. In fact, almost all companies surveyed reported achieving at least some of their expected cloud-supported successes.
Far from being a damning indictment on the capabilities of the cloud itself, this research shows an effective transition to the cloud requires a considered strategy, informed by expert direction to avoid disappointment and maximise rewards.
As with most new technologies, there is a learning curve involved with cloud adoption. And because every business is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, or foolproof roadmap to success. Each company must instead work to find its own distinct pathway. This requires a deep understanding of the current cloud environment, and a tailored solution that works to meet specific organisational objectives and technological needs.
Does The Cloud Actually Save You Money?
Out with the old, in with the new! Replacing your old infrastructure with something as shiny and new as the cloud leads lots of companies to assume they’ll see immediate cost savings.
While the cloud has the ability to free companies of the need to invest in expensive physical equipment and continue to maintain it, the transition from physical network to cloud is neither instant nor free.
As with any investment, an upfront outlay of funds is required. The businesses building the most effective cloud-based solutions (at least based on their own desired outcomes) tend to be the ones that consider the total cost of establishment, and weigh this up against the anticipated financial gains.
It’s All In The Planning
Equally, unless IT is core business or your company has a highly competent in-house IT function, organisations can’t expect to successfully navigate this journey alone. They need to partner with experts equipped with knowledge and insights that will allow for the proper examination of all factors, including the organisation’s current technology ecosystem, future needs, and considerations around data sovereignty, security and compliance.
Carefully laid groundwork and smart decision-making is needed to create a solid foundation for maximising the many benefits of the cloud, today and into the future. Pay-per-use systems are one option that can help to limit establishment costs, while allowing for the much talked about cloud-enabled scalability and easy ramping up of services to support future growth. T
his ability for gradual scaling up will also negate the unnecessary costs associated with a hasty, unplanned transition.
The Barriers To Adoption
For the 200 global executives who participated in the aforementioned survey, the greatest barriers to fully embracing the cloud and maximising its benefits were found to be concerns around security and compliance (65 per cent) and organisational complexity (55 per cent).
These issues are often reflected in early choices made by businesses around what their network should look like, whether that be physical, cloud-based, or some sort of hybrid solution.
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Security in particular is a valid concern, especially off the back of 2020 during which more companies than ever before were forced to allow remote workers access to critical business data via the cloud, which carries an inherent added level of risk.
Encouragingly, the same executives who flagged worries around security as an obstacle to cloud adoption recognised that tapping into the expertise of managed service providers was a viable means of overcoming this and other barriers.
In fact, 87 per cent specified they would be open to utilising these services as a means of ensuring they get the most out of their cloud service, and avoid the potential pitfalls.
An expert in the cloud will have the ability to anticipate compliance hurdles and ensure all necessary security measures are in place, protecting you from potentially debilitating cyber security breeches.
They will also help businesses avoid other common oversights like ‘vendor lock-in’.
This occurs when the partnership agreement of a cloud service provider prevents users from migrating their own existing infrastructure. It can create incompatibility and significant friction within an organisation’s technology ecosystem.
This stands at odds with the seamless, integrated experience businesses expect when migrating elements of their infrastructure to the cloud.
Reaping The Benefits Of The Cloud
Reaping the performance benefits of the cloud can take patience. The transition to the cloud is a journey best taken one step at a time. Existing applications may need a retool to maintain their performance levels once hosted in a cloud environment and, due to the time, effort and investment involved, it may be preferable to focus on converting one element at a time.
Of course, where the transition is gradual, the often hotly anticipated positive impact of the cloud on performance and success will be gradual as well. The key is striking a balance that will best serve your business and your people.
Engaging Your Employees
Speaking of your people, systemic changes of this magnitude, although increasingly necessary, can be daunting for employees. Businesses should therefore expect to manage some level of organisational anxiety as a result, if expectations of cloud-related successes are to be met.
Clear, confident communication is essential for supporting them to become comfortable and competent when working with the new system. An experienced cloud expert can identify where training or staff changes may be required, to enable a smooth transition.
Want to know more about how the cloud can best serve your business, and yield the positive outcomes you are looking for? Call InfoTech today to start the discussion.