My son and I were watching TV and one of Microsoft’s “to the cloud” commercial came on.  The inquisitive teenager was wondering what the cloud was and how it related to Facebook. I explained to him what I believed the cloud was. It was close to what the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) specific definition is:

“Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”[1]

My teenage son’s response was “so, what’s the big deal?” (sigh – typical response).

His antipathy and lackadaisical response actually is close to what Enterprises may be thinking these days. Tuesday, I tweeted this article: Why Public clouds could win in the Enterprise. Paul Miller makes some very good points about cost and scale benefits, especially for the SME (small medium enterprise). It is true that Cloud computing and cloud services have benefits to the Enterprise:

  • Reduced Capital Expenses
  • Reduced Operating Expenses – although some offset by fees to provider
  • Combine Infrastructure, platform and software/applications into “as a service.”
  • Increase flexibility, access methods, and productivity
  • Stay current

However, any smart CIO or IT leader knows that any cloud service provider has to invest to make all of these things happen.  Their success and profitability is predicated on mass acceptance to lower allocated costs and increase cash flow.  To the Enterprise owner this reliance on volume by the service provider brings about some real concerns:

  • Security of the services; security of data
  • Maintaining privacy of business information AND customer/client information.
  • Control of the systems; access points; overall operation
  • Performance, performance, performance

The Enterprise owner has to come to the reality that a balance must be struck. The old CEO adage is in play – “I don’t want to have to pay for these things but I know I need them to be successful.”  What has to be decided is how to accomplish obtaining and using the needed knowledge that is very expensive to support by themselves. And achieving the goal while managing risks.  It is easy to see why teenage apathy might set in.

To prevent apathy on the decision process, it is important to assess where cloud computing and cloud services fit with the 5 questions that keep business owners awake at night:

  1. What is happening to my revenue?  Am I growing? Where is it coming from?
  2. What is happening to my customers?  How can I keep them loyal?
  3. Is my business model effective?  What can I do to make it better?
  4. Do I have my costs under control?
  5. Am I balancing the needs of all my stakeholders (i.e., shareholders, employees, customers and community)?

The italics emphasize those particular aspects where the cloud fits; where one should get their arms around; and where your cloud service provider should provide some comfort.

[1] “ – Computer Security Division – Computer Security Resource Center”.