In 2015, the cloud is a bigger deal than ever before. From small and medium size businesses to large enterprises, organizations are looking to the cloud to boost productivity, reduce overhead, and scale IT services faster than ever before. A quick look at expert predictions and statistics speaks volumes about the increased level of interest in cloud computing in the coming years:
- Computerworld predicts IT decision maker spending on cloud technologies will increase 42 percent in 2015
- IDC predicts that the global cloud market will reach $118 billion in 2015, and the hybrid cloud market will grow by 50 percent this year
- According to Silicon Angle, more than 60 percent of businesses already use the cloud to perform IT-related operations
- According to IDC, 20 percent of IT budgets will be channeled towards cloud technologies by 2017, while 65 percent enterprises will commit to hybrid cloud technologies by 2016
- 70 percent of enterprises surveyed by Gartner say they are pursuing a hybrid cloud strategy by 2015
While the cloud may offer the benefit of simplifying your IT infrastructure, the process of planning and actually moving to the cloud is rarely a simple one. On top of that, the decisions around moving to the cloud are quite different for a CEO, compliance officer, CIO, IT pro, and everybody else involved at your organization. To explore this topic in depth, we sat down with four thought leaders from AvePoint to talk about planning considerations for the cloud and what that means for key stakeholders throughout your organization.
Meet our experts:
What does the cloud mean to you?
John Peluso (JP): When I think about the cloud from a CIO’s perspective, I think about how much responsibility I have versus how much responsibility I am giving to someone else. The stated benefit in the cloud that everybody knows is it can save you money. Whether that’s true or not, I think time will tell. But the reality is: I don’t have a huge outlay of cost to get a service. I don’t have to carry out a massive project to install software or architecture to get a service. In the cloud, I can start using a service quickly and then pay as I go.
Tianyi Jiang (TJ): What cloud means to me as a CEO is the ability to provide accessible and scalable productivity platforms for the business. Wherever we go as a business, we need to be able to demonstrate our services to our customers. So in the field, in the office, and across geographies, the technology platforms need to be accessible.
How are the customers you work with utilizing the cloud?
Dana Simberkoff (DS): In terms of customer environments, we typically talk about three different categories when we’re looking at the cloud: on premises, all in the cloud, and hybrid.
In on-premises environments, everything is located in your on-site infrastructure, which is managed by you in your IT environment. For an all-in-the-cloud environment, everything – all your data, software applications, and infrastructure – is completely outsourced, managed by a cloud vendor, and you’re not running anything internally.
The most commonly used scenario that has proven effective for many customers, though, is a hybrid environment where some of your data and software applications are hosted internally within your infrastructure and some are hosted by a cloud provider. That’s the most realistic scenario for most of our customers not only today, but for some time to come.
TJ: We’re really seeing a mixture of technology platforms used by our customers. As an example, let’s take a CRM system that is leveraged in the cloud because an organization’s sales teams are constantly travelling and in the field. They need to have accessible data repositories, and they need to have ways to input data very quickly through their mobile devices to get their jobs done when they’re outside of the office walls.
On the other hand, you may also have sensitive content or information about special projects still under wraps that the organization is not comfortable having stored in the cloud. A lot of our customers maintain this kind of information in local environments for security reasons. When it comes to legal entities, especially, many organizations are still are required to retain much of their content on premise.
With the explosion of data, and as you are moving content to the cloud, there becomes the issue of understanding your legacy data. You need to have a good system of classifying and tagging, so that as you begin adopting new IaaS platforms and putting data in the cloud, you know what’s OK to move and what you should be keeping on-premises. Additionally, classifying your data in this way can make archiving and cleansing your systems easier.
Shyam Oza (SO): The cloud isn’t just this one place with all of the same services. Once you’ve made the decision to move to the cloud, there are many different routes you can go depending on your organizational needs. Some organizations will deploy on public cloud environments and will use Software as a Service (SaaS) applications such as Microsoft Office 365 or from salesforce.com. Others might opt to host their data in a private cloud and work with a service provider such as Rackspace, Amazon Web Services, or HP to deploy their line of business applications on privately hosted platforms.
JP: We have customers of all types that are considering moving to the cloud. We have some customers in industries that you might think would be apprehensive that are actually eager to get certain parts of their infrastructure up in the cloud. In those cases, they are deciding to use a hybrid approach by maintaining some of their content and collaboration platforms on premises and moving other parts to the cloud. We also work with organizations that realize they don’t want the commitment of maintaining infrastructure on premise. In those cases, they are happy to give up responsibility for all of their architecture and application management to just focus on driving business value through the service itself. So, in those instances, the organizations are going all-in on the SaaS option.
What are some myths you frequently hear about the cloud?
JP: One myth I hear all the time is that if you move content and applications to the cloud, then you don’t have to worry about managing it at all. It’s true you don’t have to worry about maintaining is your infrastructure – or the “plumbing” as we often call it. However, you still have to worry about how your systems are being used. You have to make sure they are being used the way the company wants and that users are competent and understand how to use the systems that are put in place.
In some circumstances, moving to a hybrid cloud service can make things a little bit more complicated. Where should your users go to get what they need, especially if you’re keeping certain services on premises as well? We see customers facing this scenario all the time when it comes to SharePoint. If you have some aspects of your SharePoint deployment in Office 365 and others on your own data servers, where are the right places for specific sites to be created? What’s the mechanism for knowing where data should go? The cloud doesn’t necessarily take away all your responsibilities in terms of management and governance. In some cases, it can actually bring about more concerns that need to be addressed.
SO: When you move to the cloud, you’re basically offloading the responsibility of managing your infrastructure to a services provider. At a high level you might think that having IT is no longer necessary for the organization. However, a core component of IT’s role to be business has always been enabling the information worker, ensuring productivity, and providing the coolest devices that can really enhance work being done in the field.
The data center may no longer be something that’s managed by an on-site IT pro when you move to the cloud. Still, all of the responsibilities for making sure that the permissions for content are secure, access to content is available, training on the new technologies takes place, as well as other aspects like identity management remain vital to the organization – and someone from within the organization will still need to handle them. So while you can take the infrastructure out of it, that role will never leave the organization. You’re always going to need an internal, trusted consultant.
What are some cloud-related concerns you hear from customers?
DS: One of the concerns I believe is very common when it comes to the cloud – especially from the compliance perspective – is the concept of having to trust a third party without necessarily being able to verify that they are actually doing what they say while they’re storing your data. There is this sort of handshake between you and your cloud provider in the form of a contract that says that the provider is going to abide by the principles that they have laid out in terms of how data is being protected. I think there are a lot concerns – some valid, some not – about what that means.
JP: For some people, the decision to go with the cloud is a scary one. The way I see it, how you should leverage data services in the cloud really depends on what you’re looking for. Maybe you don’t want to run your servers at all, but still want to control everything that happens on those servers. In that case, you may just want your infrastructure in the cloud with someone to manage the application – so you will want to look to the SaaS model.
Ultimately, what you need to determine is how much control you want to give versus how much control you want to retain. If you give up control, you have less flexibility but also less work. If you want more control, you have more flexibility but also potentially more work and overhead to maintain your environment.
TJ: There are people who irrationally fear the cloud and there are also people who are too enthusiastic. On the conservative side, there are people who say, “If my data is in the cloud I have zero assurance and, therefore, I don’t want to go there.”
But the cloud technology can ultimately allow you to speed up the pace of your business by making systems more accessible and scalable. In order for your organization to be competitive and innovative, in the current world where information exchanges happen much faster than ever before, I feel as a CEO that you almost have to embrace cloud to increase the pace of innovation.
How can organizations determine what is best for them when it comes to the cloud?
SO: It’s really about deciding what type of cloud is right for your organization and what level of commitment you’re going to make the cloud, and that really varies depending on a number of factors. First, you have to size up your current technology investments and infrastructure. Are you already leveraging some cloud solutions? Are you using salesforce.com products? Are you using Office 365? What solutions do you have on premises today – Exchange, Lync, SharePoint? Once you understand that, you can choose which workloads you want to move to the cloud and which ones you want to keep on premises.
After you have that base level of understanding, then you look at some additional factors. The first one is value: If you don’t notice a significant cost savings by moving a workload to the cloud or you’re not getting a major upgrade and enjoying new features, then moving to that cloud service may not be the biggest priority. We see a lot of organizations go to Exchange Online first, because there are major cost savings available and the Exchange user experience is very simple. It doesn’t really cause a lot of disruption like you might see with migrating sensitive data or customizations of SharePoint. It really comes down to this: Where can you immediately see a benefit? What is that low hanging fruit that will allow you to show a win to your business? As an IT pro, people are wanting to see progress and success, so in order to motivate that next phase in your project, you want to be able to lay down that victory flag early and easily.
DS: Some of the things you have to think about is which data you are going to put in the cloud now, and how you will determine the type of data that goes there in the future. That really depends on the type of organization for which you work. If your company has a compliance team, they can help you evaluate and make choices about data and applications that you want to outsource to a third-party provider versus data and systems that you want to run internally. A company with a strong security and infrastructure team can manage firewall security and make sure that all of your data systems applications are secure on premise, but for some organizations it could potentially be safer to trust a large cloud provider that employs hundreds of thousands of people to look after their data centers.
JP: One thing we know, which Microsoft acknowledges as well, is that it’s very rarely going to be an all-or-nothing situation. Organizations are not going to be all in the cloud or all on premises for much longer into the future. We have to be comfortable with the concept of a hybrid architecture where you’re running some of your workloads in one place and some in another place, depending on specific business needs and the type of data stored.
What advice do you have for organizations looking to the cloud?
DS: My advice as a privacy professional is to consider your internal resources against what you may need to outsource. For instance, do you have a team of compliance, privacy, legal, and security professionals within your business who are able to work with your infrastructure team to make sure you are protecting data, your firewalls are secure, and you have appropriate network monitoring to ensure your on-premises systems are fully secure and data is being appropriately accessed? Or would you be better off outsourcing those concerns to a third-party cloud provider that can take on those responsibilities for you?
JP: From the CIO perspective, you have to think about the user experience. How will they utilize this distributed architecture that you are going to be setting up? That is key, and it has to be taken into consideration from the very beginning.
How can AvePoint help organizations looking to the cloud?
DS: One of the things you need to consider is what kind of data you have. AvePoint’s compliance solutions help you discover data and understand the information you have. Many call this dark data, but I also call it unfound gold. Using our technology, you can go through your data and realize its potential while making sure it is going to be appropriately used and accessed whether it lives on premises or in the cloud. Discovering that data and understanding what it is, where it is, who can access it, as well as appropriately tagging and classifying it will allow you to make decisions about what data should stay on premises and what should be moved to the cloud without concern.
TJ: AvePoint’s solutions help our customers by providing robust guidance and a roadmap from on-premises environments to cloud and hybrid scenarios. So, as you grow your business and the pace of information exchanges increase, AvePoint can help you connect different data repositories to ensure your information workers can collaborate effectively and with confidence.
More on the Cloud
Want to hear more from our team? Check out our Spotlight on the Cloud resource series to see this exclusive interview video and other materials on considerations that will help your organization make the right decisions when it comes to navigating the cloud.
Visit our website to learn how our solutions help you smoothly transition to the cloud while ensuring your data is effectively managed, well governed, secure, and compliant wherever it resides.
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