Our firm is studying the feasibility to utilize Internet-based services to help manage our projects, finances, and business. The cloud, as this Internet-based virtual infrastructure is called, has been shown to be cost-effective and highly efficient in managing organizational needs offsite. Cloud services can be used and accessed anywhere in the world as long as there is an Internet connection.
Since we serve the federal government sector, reading about how they view the cloud is important. The FEDTECHmagazine.com Winter 2011 issue is devoted to a discussion around the cloud. The series of articles make clear that more and more federal agencies are using the cloud to save money and increase efficiencies. They note a January 2011 report that 64% of government IT managers believe that cloud computing will reduce expenses and improve telecommuting and mobility of workers. “It is about being more efficient and effective. It is also about controlling resources and being sure resources are being applied to the right tasks at the right time.”
The breadth of functions for cloud services continues to expand. Here is what I have found the cloud can provide: 1) email: the cloud optimizes email flow; 2) storage: the available ‘unlimited’ storage space eliminates concerns about file space on organizational servers; 3) document transfer: the ability to move large files eliminates bottle necks and delays in moving files. This optimizes access by users when working on large documents and files; 4) infrastructure: the use of virtual servers consolidates data; eliminates physical space for repurposing; offers option to cooperate with other organizations in use of server space; and 5) business tools: the cloud provides access to more tools, e.g., virtualized software applications available as needed.
There are clear benefits in moving to the cloud and they include 1) savings on server upgrades and software costs, 2)reduced downtime, 3) accommodation during traffic spikes, 4) energy saving, 5) enhanced telecommunications, 6) increased job satisfaction, and 7) enhanced employee recruitment and retention.
The challenges in moving to the cloud fit in three categories: Technology support; People issues; and Risks. Anytime there is change, there is fear among the employees, along with the feeling of a loss of power and control. There can also be resistance to the change. Cybersecurity and the loss of data is a concern that feeds into the fear of change. It is clear that each effort to move to the cloud must be accompanied with full disclosure and transparent communications to help offset expected concerns.
Finally, for all cloud users, the fundamental needs are that the system is 1) secure, 2) interoperable, and 3) reliable.
Technology is changing so quickly in so many levels that it becomes more a blur. It may be a little like the earth rotating around the sun at 67,000 miles per hour, yet we don’t really perceive it. Making technical changes is fraught with challenges, the least of which is not only to have a solid business case for it, but also the need to demonstrate a return on investment. Is it worth the effort? That's our question.
It has been said that cloud computing practices and infrastructure are disruptive to traditional hierarchical organizations, often changing them in unanticipated ways. As a small business, we are still deciding where we can use the cloud cost-effectively and most efficiently. You might say it's still 'cloudy' in our minds.
© Baldwin H. Tom CMC