1) What is the starting point?
The cloud is available is several different forms. Any good CIO should be able to review these different forms and assess them against the firm’s existing IT provisions to decide where the starting point should be, and with what services.
Most cloud services can be listed under one of three categories: Software as a Service (Saas), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). For an organization where cloud services are being used for the first time, it is recommended that CIOs starts with the most basic form of cloud services, SaaS, since this provides the lowest level of risk, but also represents a good opportunity to start understanding the benefits of cloud. Examples of SaaS services would be Office 365 from Microsoft, or Dropbox for Business; both services can be integrated into your existing infrastructure with little work, and operate in ways that your colleagues will be use to, so there will be little need for retraining.
If your deployment of SaaS services has proven to be successful, then you should investigate potential PaaS and IaaS solutions for your company. As these services are more complex in their nature and carry higher risk because of the potential use cases, it is always a good idea to try potential candidates out in a test environment. A test environment will let you test out every aspect of multiple applications so that you can narrow them down to the most suitable.
2) What are the benefits?
A number of benefits can be derived from a shift to cloud hosting. The main benefit, and the one that is most likely to appeal to managers, is the cost savings that you can be realised. Maintaining a completely physical IT infrastructure and relying on legacy licensing models have proven to be a costly burdens and ones that don’t represent good value for money. By migrating your IT systems to the cloud server, you will be reducing the overall amount of physical hardware that you rely on and with less hardware and data centre spacing being required, your monthly hosting bills will be greatly reduced. It has even been suggested that the cloud can delivery bottom line savings of up to 25%.
Scalability and agility are other benefits that the cloud can deliver. Cloud environments are developed around powerful clusters that are able to deliver additional resources on demand, so if your website experiences an unexpected surge in traffic, or you are looking to add new, more powerful features, then you can call on the cloud to provide you with the extra capacity necessary. Whilst the cloud can scale up to cope with extra demand, it can also scale down afterwards so that you are only ever billed for your actual usage. Such scalability and agility is only demonstrated in virtual environments, with physical servers downtime is often required in order for additional components to be provisioned so that you can increase capacity.
3) Why should we invest?
Quite simply put, the cloud will support the objectives of your organisation not just now, but well into the future.
Mobility; better CRM; consolidation and optimisation; reduced costs; stronger security: these are strategic IT objectives for most organisations, but these are also roles that What makes a cloud environment reliable?. Never before has one platform been able to tick off so many objectives in one foul swoop. It is for this reason that any Board of Directors that has the interests of their shareholders at heart will implement cloud solutions without question.
4) What will the impact be on your role?
Implementing the cloud in your organisation will serve to make the business more competitive through cost reductions and the option to provision additional IT infrastructure components in a matter of minutes. As you’re the CIO, the one implementing the cloud, the person who is driving change for the better, you could see your position within the organisation rise as other directors in the business recognise the huge and positive impact that your role and decisions have on the organisation.
Technology is changing fast these days and gone are the times when you’ll be wanting to sign long contracts just so you can secure the best price. With cloud providers it is more effective to sign short-term contracts, generally of three years or less, since this allows you to remain flexible and will allow you to exploit the latest technologies as they come along. Working with multiple providers is now common practice too, as many CIOs recognise that no provider is able to offer a solution that provides all the features that they are after. Instead, different departments are likely to choose services on their own accord where more specific toolsets are required, although this will also be alongside any company-wide systems deployed.
Reputation and security are also key considerations for choosing a cloud provider. Many CIOs will be entrusting private information and data that has always been hosted in-house to third-party companies and for once, they will no longer be in control. On the other hand, cloud providers look to use the latest security techniques to protect their client; more often than not the cloud can provide more protection than an in-house environment, with this benefit outweighing the disadvantage of outsourcing control.