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Six misconceptions about cloud apps

Cloud apps are free, will put you out of work, and other misconceptions

By , Network World
May 25, 2010 12:03 AM ET

Network World - Cloud computing is all the rage in the IT industry these days, but there's still plenty of confusion about how cloud applications work and what kind of long-term impact they will have on business technology.

Google Apps vs. Microsoft Office

In this article we'll take a look at six common misconceptions IT pros and users have about cloud apps, related to performance, security, management, cost and the long-term effect on IT staffing.

1. Cloud computing will put IT pros out of a job

It's true that shifting internal IT functions to cloud applications lessens the need for a business to have a huge IT staff. Some organizations have moved to cloud services such as Google Apps because they no longer had the staff to handle an internal e-mail and collaboration system. This cause-and-effect may be switched in other cases, with layoffs occurring because of a move to outsourcing.

But the long-term risk to IT employees may not be as terrible as it might first appear, analysts say. For a business that uses many cloud apps, internal IT staff is still needed to manage and integrate the services. Some IT managers may start to see themselves more as vendor managers.

"There's no question it could reduce the demand for traditional IT skills," says analyst Jeff Kaplan, managing director of Thinkstrategies. "But that doesn't mean there can't be a whole new generation of requirements around vendor management, to properly evaluate, select, monitor, manage and contract with these cloud computing companies."

These "traditional" IT pros might find their roles shifting to business unit support, making sure every employee has the right cloud tools to do his or her job. Another obvious point is that, over time, as technology resources shift from customers to vendors, the vendors will have a greater need for IT pros, creating more jobs on the vendor side.

If you're an IT administrator managing servers, applications and other in-house systems today, a shift to cloud computing could force you to learn new skills or eventually find a job elsewhere. But smart tech people already know their industry undergoes constant change, and should be ready to adapt.

2. The cloud is free (or at least incredibly inexpensive)

The Google Apps business version is $50 per user per year. Microsoft's online services start at $120 per year, and both Google and Microsoft offer free versions to home users.

That sounds inexpensive, because it is, but users and analysts are quick to point out that licensing is not the only cost of using a cloud service.

"One of the biggest preconceived notions you have is that it's free. It's out there, it's not a big deal, just sign up and everything's great," says Scott Weidig, who is a technology coordinator at Schaumberg High School in Illinois and uses a variety of cloud apps for business and personal use, including Zoho and Google Apps.

Some customers report having to upgrade Internet bandwidth to take advantage of cloud services (more on that later in this article).

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