Get your head out of the clouds!

Get your head out the clouds and pay attention! That’s a refrain I heard hundreds of times in grade school. Now in the age of cloud computing it’s taken an entirely different meaning. The terms cloud, cloud computing and SaaS have become somewhat interchangeably: The simple definition is software, IT infrastructure, data storage and backup delivered as a service over the internet. The advantages to a business as defined by cloud service providers:
• Ability to add best in class software functionality
• Lowers your internal IT cost
• Quicker deployment
• Better data security and backup
• A predictable total cost of ownership model
I’ve had limited experience with the cloud services but there’s no question it’s a valid business model. The two evaluations I’ve done for clients have raised a few questions. The first one is that the model that is being deployed by many of Vars and Isvs who have limited experience. They adopted this model because in the long run it provides a more profitable and sustainable revenue model for them. You need to ask a lot of questions about the where the application software and your data are being stored. What is the class of the data center, the security, redundancy and fault tolerance? Are you being hosted in a multi-tenancy environment? Have they ever been hacked? You need to know the location of the data center to be sure you not going under any foreign jurisdiction or laws. From a cost perspective the reasons for the cloud and SaaS are completing but not without question. With the SaaS model you will be paying for the software for a long as you use it. There is a point on the cost curve where you will continue to pay for the software beyond the cost of the software had you purchased it. I realize there are other cost factors that go into the “total cost of ownership” equation but you do need to look at this over a least a five year period to make an informed decision.
In the final analysis the security of your data should be your number one concern. Steve Wozniak’ comments on the cloud created much web chatter both pro and con and should be considered before you make the leap.
Wozniak stated, “I really worry about everything going to the cloud,” he said. “I think it’s going to be horrendous. I think there are going to be a lot of horrible problems in the next five years,” adding “I want to feel that I own things,” Wozniak said. “A lot of people feel, ‘Oh, everything is really on my computer,’ but I say the more we transfer everything onto the web, onto the cloud, the less we’re going to have control over it.”
We all are using more web and cloud based services than we think and in fact 30% of companies in the U.S. are using some SaaS services. I believe if you do your homework when selecting a Cloud service provider they will get a more cost effective solution for your IT needs and with more security. They can leverage the “economy of scale” to provide more IT horsepower and data security than you can afford on your own.