I am not a sceptic when it comes to the Cloud. But then nor am I willing to rush up and embrace it full frontal with open arms.

Over the last two weeks the industry has been talking about Cloud service provider 2e2 going into administration resulting in the sad loss of 600 or so jobs.  Today Computer Weekly reported that 2e2 customers were being held to ransom to the tune of £1m.

You can hopefully start to appreciate my wariness about Cloud and why in our technology predictions for 2013 piece at the start of the year we suggested the bubble may this year burst.

Smoke and Mirrors…

The problems began with the marketing department trying to tell you Cloud is something that it is not, implying that Cloud is something shiny and new and more than the metaphor it really is.  Quickly you can become overwhelmed with buzz words and lost between the smoke and mirrors.

I have lost count the number of times I have heard people talk about the Cloud as the replacement for local technology infrastructure.  A killer of IT departments and the end of the world for IT management practices like Bespoke Computing Ltd.

Another misconception is that Cloud will save you money, that it is cheaper than implementing traditional technology.

A presentation from the IASME Consortium suggested most businesses look at the cloud as a way to save money.  In truth people are blinded by the lower monthly costs and do not take into consideration the total cost of ownership of a Cloud solution versus its CapEx equivalent.

Come back to the 2e2 situation where small businesses are being asked to stump up £4,000 so their data centre can be maintained for 16 weeks to provide a managed wind-down, albeit a drop in the ocean for the nightmare that lies ahead for the bigger customers of 2e2 such as a few NHS trusts.

You would hope the passing of 2e2 is a one-off but the problem of changing supplier is not, last summer the Cloud disaster recovery vendor Doyenz closed down its UK operation with no explanation and gave customers less than a month to retrieve their data.

And it is not necessarily a vendor/provider related issue; late last year we spoke to a business where the relationship with their provider had broken down and they weren’t talking, but unfortunately they could not afford the investment to make the switch.

Frequently we are witnessing businesses that are investing in the Cloud with little regard or understanding of the bigger picture or ramifications of their actions.  This ultimately leads to bad decisions that will cost them more in the longer run.

Another fallacy is that Cloud is more reliable than its on-premise equivalent, if only.  It only takes a few seconds to find media reports of outages with Microsoft Office 365, Amazon Web Services, Google et al.

If you have signed your business up to a cloud based service, did you take the time to understand what guarantees are being made in terms of reliability?  More importantly when something breaks are you clear about the timescales for when normal service will be resumed?

Reliability is crucial for any business and not just with its technology.  Time represents money in both lost productivity and lost opportunity; unpredictable downtime is an expense that no business wants to incur.

Then there is the issue about the security of your Cloud and asking an IT professional whether your data is safe in the cloud could be compared to asking them whether they prefer a PC or an Apple Mac.

The public perception of cloud security is very worrying and the published results of a survey led by Claranet suggest 54 per cent of respondents believe cloud is as secure or more secure than on-premise technology.

Contrast this with a survey commissioned by CipherCloud last year which reported 40% of IT decision makers are totally unaware of the Information Commissioner’s Office guidance on data security and Cloud computing. What?!

There have already been significant security breaches online.  Two examples from very recently include a quarter of a million Twitter users having passwords and email stolen, and a four month long assault on The New York Times by Chinese military hackers.

Despite such happenings the attitude towards security, especially with smaller organisations, is still very relaxed.  Worryingly smaller businesses are being targeted by hackers as they are seen as a route to larger businesses and bigger targets in what are becoming called “supply chain attacks”.

Before I fell off my dinosaur I was told the most effective security is the most restrictive.  In practice you must consider too secure versus being able to work effectively, but the point is that your technology is as secure as you choose to make it.

Taking your business to the Cloud is not all about doom and gloom.  Within our own client base there have been some great success stories where technology has been transformational, and over time we shall share these as case studies on our website.

The kid waiting to grow up…

If there is one thing for sure, neither technology nor the Cloud is going anywhere.  And as it evolves there will be fewer businesses able to function without interacting with the Internet in some way or another.

And whether you are looking to communicate better, deliver your services over a wider geographical area or something else – how your organisation adopts the Internet depends on the nature of your business and the commercial objectives you are trying to achieve.

The success to delivering technology strategy is to understand its value in the grand scheme but how do you do this?  Thor Madsen of Gartner says that there is no business value in IT and of itself, but only its impact and contribution to an overall larger goal.

Experience tells us to aim for and achieve tangible business outcomes such as efficiency, innovation and transparency.  The best results are achieved by business leaders that have ambitions and know where they are going with their businesses.

We also find that your typical business leader is not overly interested in the inner workings of how technology is working to service their business.  They trust our professional judgement to know that the technology is working well and can wash its face with the rest of the business.

What are your experiences of Cloud in your business – are you holding back or jumping on it? Leave a comment.