Promise of Clouds in the Enterprise
I was browsing the children’s section of a local bookstore recently (yes, brick and mortar bookstores do still exist!) and noticed how many of the covers featured clouds. Why clouds? I’m not entirely sure, but I suspect it’s meant to convey a certain amount of lightheartedness, of childlike delight in the natural world. All those nice, puffy clouds should make you feel happy and carefree. Unlike adults, children don’t have the responsibilities of earning a living, making work decisions, or advancing their career. They can spend their time gazing at clouds, untroubled by the practical realities they’ll face as they grow up. They have the time (and probably the inclination) to have their heads in the clouds.
Having your head in the clouds used to be a pejorative statement when directed at adults. Not that long ago, it connoted a disconnect from reality. If you had your head in the clouds, you were a dreamer, living in a fantasy world, and not paying attention to what was going on around you. This was not a positive assessment. It was meant as criticism, an expression of disapproval. You didn’t just stop to smell the roses, you never stopped smelling the roses long enough to do anything useful.
How times change. Having your head in the cloud, at least from a technology perspective, is now equivalent to having your feet on the ground. Putting data in the cloud is no fantasy, no daydream; instead it’s a business reality. The promise that the cloud gives enterprises is about productivity and performance. It offers a rosy future for enhanced data management and information access.
As cloud computing becomes accepted within enterprises, expectations are high. Obviously, cost savings and an excellent user experience are paramount. According to Robert Cruz, senior director of information governance for Actiance, a major reason to move from “old school” archiving is the simple fact that communication channels have changed markedly. It’s no longer just email. Today we have social media, instant messaging, unified communications, and enterprise social networks. All these various forms of communications need to be archived and the cloud is the best way to do so.
Let’s think about how to achieve your goals in regards to a cloud platform. First of all, that “having your head in the clouds” meme hasn’t entirely gone away. You need your feet on the ground to adequately plan your next steps. Implementing, maintaining, and updating a cloud strategy doesn’t just happen by itself. It needs management and oversight. What problem are you trying to solve? What content are you moving to the cloud and in what formats? How will you handle initial deployment of content to the cloud? What do you need to consider not only when you’re getting started but also when you’re ready for some next steps in the process?
Emily Schneider, content marketing manager, Signavio, has some welcome advice, revolving around Software as a Service (SaaS). She describes SaaS as “a software licensing and delivery model” that provides an alternative to on-premises installations at a specific, physical location. The advantage of the cloud as opposed to on-premises is the change in focus from infrastructure and application delivery to business priorities. Focusing on what’s important to the enterprise, from a business perspective, is bound to increase productivity, something “feet on the ground” people appreciate.
Importance of Scalability
When evaluating the benefits and features of cloud platforms, both Cruz and Schneider came up with three elements of importance. They agree that scalability is top of the list. Cruz cites the ever-increasing amount of data being created by enterprise users in the form of emails, instant messages, chats, blogs, wiki pages, and posts to social media. It can be overwhelming—and a far cry from the days when communication was limited to email or, even longer ago, people talked on landlines where the conversation wasn’t captured at all.
Schneider sees the advantages of the cloud both for increasing and decreasing content. SaaS simplifies business life by letting you add capacity to your subscription instead of buying more servers or reconfiguring system architecture. But suppose you want to limit access to those expected to be active users—Schneider’s example is the sales team—then you can unsubscribe and downsize the license agreement.
In these days of instant communication and the expectation that search will produce results in nanoseconds, speed is another key feature of cloud deployment, explains Cruz. The incremental increase in archived information too often leads to a slowdown in search, which is unacceptable in today’s business environment. Search performance, in terms of both speed and accuracy of results, is crucial to user acceptance of a cloud archive.
Third on Cruz’s list of features is context aware results, the ability to recognize thematic relationships regardless of the format of the communications. It should be able to knit together relevant information spread across emails, chats, blogs, and discussion boards.
Schneider’s remaining two features are efficiency and cost. Since everyone is familiar with web browsers, accessing data in the cloud has a very low learning curve. That makes for an efficient experience. Cost aligns with efficiency. With a SaaS application, the enterprise offloads the costs of setting up and maintaining necessary servers and architecture. Particularly with a pay as you go plan, the cloud offers considerable cost efficiency.
Whether you have your head in the clouds or your feet on the ground—or if you’ve managed to achieve both—the promise of cloud deployment in the enterprise is a potent one. These white papers will help you meet expectations and plan for your cloud applications.
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