Seeing the Cloud on the Horizon is Easy

The “cloud” is one of those overnight sensations that took years in the making. Although it seems as though cloud computing sprung into being overnight, the fact is, cloud has been developing in its slow, deliberate way for years.

First, there were off-site storage providers that served as sort-of benevolent partners. “Can’t afford to store it? Let us handle it.” Like the self-storage garages that now dot the country’s highways and byways. Then the ASPs (application service providers) appeared on the scene. They were the rental equivalents of data centers with nice connections—your stuff was somewhere else, but you still paid the same for it. They held it for you, but you owned it.

Along comes the SaaS (software as a service) movement. That was the glimmering beginning of the cloud. The idea that software licenses could exist in the hands of an outside entity, and you could use it (or not use it) whenever you wanted and paid by the sip was a remarkable shift in corporate computing, and thought. Why do we need all this infrastructure and these support costs that come with it when we can let someone else handle the plumbing, and all we pay for is the water? SaaS made the cloud a viable option, and that’s where we are today.

The Data Locale is Imperative

The several vendors who donated thoughts to this White Paper can be said to follow common themes: they each agree that the cloud allows better efficiencies, faster ROI, lower cost of ownership and easier application development. I’m pretty sure they would also admit, privately, that the cloud represents a huge challenge for companies in terms of security concerns and overall governance. They address these challenges in various ways.

For example, Hyland Software (whom I’ve known for a long time) has embraced the cloud in a big way, but also has some caution signs in their article:

“Many organizations rightly see a significant benefit to be gained by moving to the cloud. So when selecting a cloud vendor, what are key things to consider in relation to data locale?

“Select a vendor with a global network of data centers. Solely having US-based servers is no longer a viable option in the global economy. Data centers in Europe and the Far East are an integral component for any vendor wishing to service global enterprises.

“Require 100% transparency regarding the location of data, processing and backups for all aspects of the cloud solution. Ideally an organization would like to ‘define’ where in the world their cloud resides. But having knowledge of where these live is the absolute minimum.

“Look for flexibility and local partnerships. No cloud vendor can hope to have data centers in all of the countries required by their customers. But they can be responsive and flexible when faced with a cloud blind spot and work with local hosting partners to deliver a solution that works for all.

“As enterprise consumers become more cloud-savvy, their requirements will naturally develop and grow more demanding. While the cloud may happily remain a mythical location ‘somewhere in the sky’ where consumers store photos of their loved ones, this is not the case for the enterprise needing to demonstrate effective governance of its information.”

Fast-Acting Environment

KANA, a strong contender in the customer experience end of things, thinks that the cloud allows companies to scoot back and forth more easily between applications than they could with hard-wired, on-premise solutions. But there’s a delay between adoption and deployment. As they put it:

“Existing contracts often lock organizations into stale technology solutions, thus proving to be a barrier to adopting newer platforms, not necessarily just cloud. Investments in existing technologies need to be protected, and any adoption of cloud platforms more often than not requires some form of integration and considerable thought given to security. This introduces an element of latency in adopting newer technologies, including cloud-based platforms, thus affecting their ability to derive benefits.

“Organizations at the end of the lifecycle of existing solutions have a strong preference to adopt cloud platforms. A growing number of small businesses, especially in the online retail sector, now find it easier to adopt cloud-based platforms with a rich feature set due to lower cost of ownership and the flexibility to scale up during peak periods.

“The adoption rate will definitely rise ?overall, but organizations with a greater ability to overcome barriers to adoption will lead ?the way.”

Embrace the New

It’s hard to be TOO prepared to embrace the cloud as your computing platform, but RSD has it pretty much right on:

“Every organization has information stored across a multitude of systems, computers, shared drives, repositories, and now much of that information is moving to the cloud. This is going to require a new approach and new technologies in order to address the challenges arising from the growing volume and format of information being generated within the traditional IT infrastructure as well as within cloud-based storage systems and repositories.

“Managing cloud-based content may be new to an organization and as a result there might be uncertainty over the risks involved and the various approaches to mitigate them. Sometimes the content is already in the cloud and was originally created by a cloud-based collaboration system, social media application, a cloud-based ECM system, or simply stored there by an end user. In other cases, use of the cloud means that an organization’s content has left the confines of the internal corporate network and has been relocated to the cloud. Most of the cloud repositories currently lack information governance and record management capabilities. This means that an appropriate architecture and supporting processes have to be put in place to ensure that content is properly governed and managed.”

There are clearly a number of issues yet to be addressed. But these companies are at the edge of a new concept. I encourage you to take a look at the following pages and decide for yourselves whether the cloud is on your horizon.

KMWorld Covers
for qualified subscribers
Subscribe Now Current Issue Past Issues