Confused about “the cloud”? You’re not alone. Still, believe it or not, we may be nearing that point where we’re finished defining it and are moving into some clearly understood efforts and approaches. Perhaps IT managers can finally stop going to every workshop or conference on “virtual teams” or “whatever-as-a-Service” (the first was probably SaaS, Software as a Service).
We’ll call that the good news. And the bad? The cloud computing options are seemingly limitless. That a list of just the “top firms” in cloud computing runs to 100 is a sign of just how big this latest top-down paradigm shift might be. For now, though, the whole thing still seems big and a bit unwieldy – and hard to explain in the desktop computing vocabulary most people have learned via basic home and office use.
The real problem with “the cloud”
There is a dizzying array of activities surrounding “the cloud,” but that’s not really the problem – having choices is a good thing. But it gets complicated when you have to decide on vendors, choose commercial vs. open-source solutions, ensure the “portability” of applications among various clouds and so on. For individuals and firms exclusively using the Mac Pro or other Macs, Apple has a top-down solution in iCloud. But for PC users and mixed environments (like most companies), it can be messy.
Running a business has never been more complicated than it is now. Everyone is talking about “cloud projects” but your IT manager (or outsourced service) spends 70-80% of the time (and budget) just keeping things running. Now, if you’re a small post-production firm handling your own IT you may be comfortable with high-tech gear like a Xserve RAID rental but confused by all these cloud offerings. And it’s expensive to acquire the right skills whether you promote internally, retrain, cross-train, get a consultant or hire a full-time expert.
Public or private?
For larger firms a Private Cloud may be worth a look, so study the best practices of current Public Cloud operators like Netflix to see what you can implement. And it’s not just about what happens in the office. If you outfit your conference team with iPad rentals you’ll want access to your cloud for PDF brochures and other data. Universal access is one of the main reasons to have a cloud.
From chaos and confusion comes opportunity, as long as you’re open to change, new ideas and an incremental (read “cautious”) approach. We’re experiencing an historic change in computing and communications that will affect businesses on many levels. How inventors, vendors, businesses and individuals handle the challenges will chart the course of IT for the next decade or two. It should be interesting!