Gartner describes Cloud (Computing) as “a style of computing in which scalable and elastic IT-enabled capabilities are delivered as a service using Internet technologies.” While the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), defines Cloud Computing as “a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”
In layman terms, Cloud (computing) is a way for people to use hardware, software, and data through the Internet.
Basically, what this means is that instead of using their own devices (e.g., computers, mobile devices, etc.), we use our own device to access a cloud provider’s services. Some examples of cloud computing services used by consumers include Gmail, Facebook, and Amazon, etc. For organizations, ‘going to the Cloud’ can mean different things depending upon the business models and the main objectives to be achieved.
Within an organization, the Information Technology (IT) is responsible for all technology-related hardware, software, data, services, and security across all departments (e.g., accounting, administration, business development, customer service, finance, human resources, management, manufacturing, marketing, operations, production, R&D, sales, etc.) This is a huge undertaking especially when we consider that different departments within an organization can have different needs and those needs change can change rapidly based on consumer behaviors, market conditions, regulatory requirements, and other changes. This implies that rapid changes require organizations to move fast and adapt. This is where the IT department can help or become an obstacle.
The IT department responds to changing organizational needs by gathering relevant requirements from other departments to develop IT systems. These IT systems can be custom-built or bought from technology vendors or a combination. The hosting, development, maintenance, and update of these IT systems typically become the responsibility of the IT department. The speed at which these IT systems are deployed and respond can have a direct effect on the organization. For example, an IT system that is only capable of handling 2000 simultaneous users will crash if 30,000 simultaneous users accessed it. What to do? This is one example among many where Cloud Computing shines.
Generally speaking, cloud services provided by cloud service providers can be stacked into Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). Additionally, Cloud can be private – where it is hosted on an organization’s data center, public – where it is hosted on a cloud vendor’s data center or hybrid.
To begin your Cloud journey, here are some questions to ask:
|Who is going to use Cloud services?||Who should be using Cloud services?|
|What organizational departments provide the Cloud requirements?||What organizational departments should provide the Cloud requirements?|
|Where is the biggest Return on Investment (ROI) when it comes to going to the Cloud?||Where should be the biggest Return on Investment (ROI) when it comes to going to the Cloud?|
|When are organizational weaknesses identified?||When should organizational weaknesses be identified?|
|Why is the Cloud for you?||Why should the Cloud be for you?|
If the organization is going to the Cloud to provide software (cloud) services to consumers then some of the things they have to figure out how to make them easy to use and always available. If the organization is going to the Cloud to improve IT operations then they have to identify efficiencies, be specific in terms of time and costs, figure out vendor lockdowns, and data hosting considerations. Sometimes organizations want to tackle both the internal improvements and consumer-focused services which can add more complexity to what going to the Cloud could mean for them. In certain respects, Cloud computing is about being efficient but it is more about being flexible enough to respond to changes quickly.
To be clear, going to the Cloud is not for every organization but if proper due diligence is done then it is beneficial for most organizations.