The cloud: Three questions all businesses should ask

  • The cloud is the foundation for a re-imagined business
  • But many vendors make vague but similar claims and promises

The cloud: Three questions all businesses should askTODAY, it’s no longer a question of if but when most companies will adopt cloud technologies. At a time when everything has gone mobile, when social computing is redefining how people communicate, and when data stores are exploding and leading to new insights, the cloud platform is the key enabler.
Organisations are using cloud to support collaboration through social to speed innovation. They are looking to the cloud as they build and deliver apps to reach new customers in new ways. They are relying on the cloud as they store, manage, and analyse huge volumes of data to identify opportunities to target customers in more effective ways or optimise their operations.
The cloud is a once-in-a-generation technology advancement, and organisations are using the power of cloud to re-imagine their businesses – whether by accelerating innovation, enabling new business scenarios, speeding time to market, or driving cost savings.
According to IDC, there are a rapidly expanding range of cloud services readily available for enterprises – from those that replace basic infrastructure through to advanced mobile apps.
With cloud solutions, you can put tools and data in the hands of your leaders to uncover insights for competitive advantage.
You can enable your employees to collaborate and work on the go, so inspiration can come from anywhere. You can make social an intrinsic part of the business, so you can be more fully connected and engaged internally and reach customers in new ways externally.
And with a hybrid public and private cloud platform, you can optimise your IT and deliver flexible, responsive services to your business users.
There are lots of devices, even more data and big expectations on IT to make their infrastructure adapt to all of these changes without losing any productivity or security.
Not surprisingly, many IT vendors are claiming to solve some or all of these problems with cloud-based solutions. And while having more options certainly gives customers more power, it also makes the decision process more confusing – especially when so many vendors are making vague but similar claims and promises.
In such a world, vendors owe it to their customers to clarify why their solution is different from those offered by others. There are three questions that all businesses should ask when evaluating a cloud offering:

1) Is the solution enterprise-grade? In other words, can you trust your business critical applications and information to it?
2) Is it designed for a hybrid world, or is it built with a ‘one-size fits all’ philosophy?
3) Will your people have to sacrifice productivity when using the solution?

1) Enterprise-grade

The cloud: Three questions all businesses should ask

Trust is a big concern for businesses using cloud services. Will your data and services be available when you need them? Will your confidential information be kept private?
Look for cloud solutions that offer the highest levels of security, privacy and reliability, particularly if you work with sensitive information or deliver critical services to customers.
As you re-imagine your business by tapping into the opportunities enabled by mobile, social, and big data, you will almost by default look to the cloud: it’s the thread that ties these trends together.
When you adopt the cloud, you shouldn’t have to make compromises or lower your expectations with solutions that don’t connect or take advantage of your existing investments. ‘Cloud’ isn’t just one thing: It can be public, private, or hybrid.
With a flexible cloud platform that gives you all of these options and lets you take advantage of the cloud at your pace, you can reap the benefits without worry.
2) A hybrid world
The move to the cloud will not happen overnight. It will be gradual, and for some time, IT will have to manage both on-premise and off-premise assets.
For some, this hybrid world will be a temporary status, and for others, it’s how they imagine their final state. According to IDC, 80% of the world’s 2,000 largest companies will have more than 50% of their IT onsite by 2020, and 74% of enterprises expect their cloud service provider to move cloud offerings back on-premise if needed.
In other words, the cloud roadmap for every customer will be different.
3) A people-focused approach
As important as enterprise-ready solutions and hybrid capabilities are, the two don’t mean much if a cloud solution is difficult to use or hinders productivity.
We can all agree that it’s an exciting time to be working with innovative technologies, but the agile nature of today’s business environment and the magnitude of frequent changes in technology can complicate the process of choosing what’s right for your business.
With countless vendors jumping in to the fray, the noise level is extremely high. In a situation like this, how does one determine the best way to take advantage of cloud and data centre advancements?
Should you move everything to a cloud provider’s data centre? Should you try to optimise your own data centre? How do you make sure you don’t get stuck with an inflexible strategy that doesn’t meet the needs of your business tomorrow?

The cloud: Three questions all businesses should ask

There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ cloud roadmap for every company. While a startup may see tremendous value in setting up all its infrastructure in a cloud provider’s data centre, a pharmaceutical company may still choose to continue investing in its own data centres due to regulatory requirements.
To complicate matters, the business environment that a company operates in is constantly changing, which means that these roadmaps will need to be adjusted frequently.
For example, a change in regulations or a malicious attack could force a company to move all its workloads into its own data centres. Or a sudden explosion in data may make cloud storage seem a lot more attractive.
In such an environment, companies want to partner with a vendor that can provide them solutions that are flexible enough to meet the needs of their business today, and adaptable enough to adjust to the needs of tomorrow.
The point here is not to defend an exclusively on-premise or exclusively public cloud as the best choice for customers, because doing so implies that your cloud vendor knows your businesses and your needs better than you do, which is just not true.
It’s also why you should have choices, and then decide the path that meets your needs best.
Felix Foong is Lead of the Cloud & Enterprise Business Group at Microsoft Malaysia.
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