Is the Cloud a load of hot air?

WHEN ONE OF MY CLIENTS first asked my thoughts on the cloud I was slightly concerned that I had somehow missed out on the dawn of a new technological era. I did my research and quickly realised that I was not alone. Even Larry Ellison CEO of Oracle in 2008 said: “Maybe I’m an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about”.

Digging deeper I realised that this was nothing revolutionary but a wrapper, or the rebranding, for internet hosted services or applications. In fact by using iTunes or Dropbox I had already unknowingly taken my first steps into the cloud.

I have since spent many meetings with business owners discussing the pros and cons of SMEs moving from a product based IT provision to an internet based service platform.

All bar none have the same concerns over security, availability and performance.

Following the move, applications would all be web-based and therefore heavily reliant on connection and browser speeds.

Some have had bad experiences of this in the past with significant downtime and incredibly slow connections. However, the number one concern remains security of data, as information could be stored anywhere in the world.

In the current economic environment chief technology officers continue to face an uphill struggle. Any investment in non-revenue generating expenditure has to clearly prove where it will add value. Some of the benefits are clear; reduced expenditure on upgrades, the cost of maintaining infrastructure and in all likelihood the reduction of in house IT support.

In addition SMEs are able to put in place the infrastructure normally only available to larger organisations and start-ups can get their applications up and running much quicker.

From a cost perspective companies will only be billed for the services that they use. Until now, the kneejerk response for many IT contractors to any major technological issues was to ‘buy a new server’. By moving to the cloud this regular server recycling may become a distant memory.

In many cases it is clear that cloud computing will be the right move as the benefits outweigh the costs. For those still worried about data security the cost of leaving a laptop in a bar may now be hardware only.

Bobby Lane is a partner at Shelley Stock Hutter

Lane will be taking part in a panel at Softworld on 18-19 October, on Making the switch to the cloud: Why, when and how?. This session will examine the hype around the cloud, as well as the options available to finance and HR professionals

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