The time to consider these alternatives is over. Those who dont make the move in 2010, will not only be left behind, but will risk losing their jobs as well. All the arguments I made for considering SaaS and cloud computing in 2008 have only become stronger as we enter a new year. The economy is still in disarray with plenty of uncertainty about what the new normal will bring. Competitive pressures continue to intensify as barriers to entry in nearly every industry fall. Although gas prices have receded to more reasonable levels, concerns about our carbon footprint and the costs associated with powering corporate data centers are still high. And, the nature of the workplace has forever changed, moving beyond the four walls of a traditional office to the neighborhood Starbucks, spare bedroom or someplace further away.
Add to these ongoing trends a new generation of workers who have been reared on the Web, communicate via text and socialize via online communities. Even older workers are becoming more tech-savvy and interested in selecting their own mobile devices along with more intuitive and easy-to-use end-user application.
Apple iPhone has become a status symbol and Googles Android is building buzz. Everyone is using Facebook in their personal lives, which also spills over into their work lives or is it the other way around? So, whether you like it or not, corporate end-users as well as executives have become comfortable using the Web and new technologies to satisfy their day-to-day needs. And they are doing Google searches to answer their tech questions rather than call IT.
Was Nicholas Carr right, Does IT Really Matter?
A couple of years ago, cloud computing was considered a crazy idea by many IT professionals who could not conceive of moving parts of their data center operations or any of their business applications to the Web. Today, it is becoming the norm. Even Gartner proclaimed last October that cloud computing would be the top strategic technology in 2010.
Is it really such a big leap to leverage external, third-party resources to augment your in-house capabilities? IT organizations have been doing this for years, whether it is has been independent software developers or managed hosting companies. When you strip away all the hype, SaaS and cloud computing offer even greater benefits with less risks.
SaaS vendors often offer free trials which permit you to try them before you subscribe to their services. And, you can adopt SaaS apps in an incremental fashion to make sure you like the way they work before rolling them out to an entire organization.
Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) cloud computing vendors offer greater elasticity than traditional hosting services, which permits you to turn up processing or storage resources more quickly and shut them down equally as fast when you no longer need them. Perfect for test and development requirements, or spikes in business cycles.
Moving to the cloud means lower capital investments, less procurement delays and fewer under-utilized systems and software licenses.
Lingering Cloud Concerns
However, not everything about the todays SaaS and cloud alternatives is rosy. Salesforce.coms recent service outage reminded us that these online solutions are still susceptible to disruptions. But, what in-house data center or IT operation hasnt had its own system failure or application availability issues?
Security remains a legitimate concern whenever youre relying on the Web to perform a business function. However, most of todays major security breaches are caused by hackers penetrating corporate data centers or employees losing laptops, not cloud vendors being compromised.
Since the time I first suggested in this space that readers should consider SaaS and cloud computing, the vendors and solutions have only gotten better. The solutions have been tested by some of the largest corporations in the world and vendors business processes have become more mature to meet these challenges.
No one is suggesting that organizations will move their entire IT operation to the clouds. Instead, we will continue to live in a hybrid world composed of a mix of on-premise and on-demand resources which will continuously be adjusted to meet evolving operational requirements and take advantage of rapidly evolving cloud-based alternatives.
So, if youre still uncomfortable moving your apps, data or portion of your computing requirements to a cloud vendor you can still benefit from the growing success of this market trend. Examine and emulate how the leading cloud vendors are delivering their solutions and services in your own IT operations. Adopting their best practices of standardization, simplification, automation and agility will make your IT organization more effective. It will also ensure that it remains competitive with the performance levels being set by todays cloud computing leaders.
Kaplan is Managing Director of THINKstrategies (www.thinkstrategies.com), an independent consulting firm focused on the business implications of the on-demand services movement. He is also the founder of the SaaS Showplace (www.saas-showplace.com) and Managed Services Showplace (www.msp-showplace.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.