Some of the reticence around using “the Cloud” seems to have come from the question of whether it can be trusted – particularly when it comes to managing corporate data. Cloud has its risks, just like any architecture or approach, which need to be weighed up against the risks of running things in-house.
I think there is a bigger question however, which goes beyond mere risk. Cloud computing came into existence as part of a natural progression in how we use technology resources. But this goes far wider than merely cloud. Two additional factors illustrate the broader landscape, namely how we are becoming more mobile, and how people are increasingly making their own technology decisions.
This is not the moment to delve into these parallel trends, respectively nicknamed mobility and consumerisation. The point is that they are inextricably linked, and internet-based technology service delivery – aka cloud computing – is another facet of the shape of things to come.
Why is this important? Put simply, if all these things are linked, so are the risks and trade-offs. Technology is becoming increasingly complex, in terms of both what it can do and the options it offers; meanwhile the expectations of users are increasing, both in terms of what they want from their kit, and how, where and when they can access technology-based services. IT service delivery is only going to get harder, and therefore inherently more risky.
Of course organisations have the option to run everything themselves. To ensure the governance of confidential data, or for specific high-performance processing tasks, or to make the best use of existing facilities – these are all valid reasons. When considering the trade-offs between in-house and cloud facilties, however, IT decision makers need to also take into account that they can only do so much. Technology is changing continuously, and few organisations have either the experience or the time to keep on top of it all. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day.
It’s not so much, then, that the cloud offers any direct advantage over in-house IT. Indeed, from a cost perspective the two models are pretty much on a par. However the time required to adopt a cloud service, perform due diligence and so on is lower than trying to run a similar platform in-house and keep it up to date. And as for risks, organisations need to trade off the risks inherent in any platform (cloud or in-house), with the risks that creep in when a platform or service can’t be run as well as it could be, simply because there are too many other things to do.
So, rather than focusing on the isolated question of whether the cloud can be trusted, we should be considering a more honest appraisal of how well our organisations can deliver a comprehensive IT service all by itself, now and in the increasingly complex future. And ultimately, more to the point, whether they want to do so.