Cloud computing, gap analysis, and limited time trials…

Cloud computing is not like on-premise computing therefore use the free trial already.

There is a really great thing about cloud computing. It’s in the cloud. However, when I talk to a number of organizations they still want to treat cloud-based services as if they operate just like an on-premise solution. However, a solution that is deployed on-premise has some major differences from a solution that lives in the cloud. Namely, a solution that is on-premise is all yours to muck with. Therefore, the things (customizations) that you do with an on-premise solution are not always transferable to a cloud-based solution.

Sadly this is where I tend to differ in opinion with someone that is looking towards the wonderful world of cloud computing to solve their on-premise woes. For you see, our clients will tend to ask for some form of gap analysis between everything they do on-premise and what the cloud offers. Easy enough, right? Well no. I’m not talking about a straight laced feature by feature gap analysis. Instead, most people are asking for us to analyze every single business process that they have in relation to a particular technology and then map it into a cloud based solution. In other words, instead of asking if BPOS supports IMAP, the question becomes I’m doing this one particular business process using IMAP in some unsupported fashion using some custom code. Can we migrate this to BPOS?

Well, to anyone that thinks the cloud is this really great sandbox with no walls and you can build the sandcastles as you see fit, please stop thinking this. Unless you are paying tons of money for some dedicated solution, you must play in the same sandbox with everyone else while also following the same set of rules. In other words, a cloud-based solution will never be a one-to-one match to everything that you are doing on-premise. Instead, a cloud-based solution tends to be a highly standardized solution that gives everyone the same set of features for a really great price.

Therefore, when you a looking a cloud-based solution you should assume that the solution will not provide an end-all to your IT woes. Rather, you should think of these solutions as a complement to your on-site operations that will solve a particular set of problems (cost, manageability, resource usage, etc.). With this in mind, that is why most cloud-based vendors provide some form of “free” trial. I know Microsoft does, Google does, Salesforce does, and so on. Using this trial, I highly recommend that you “try” things out. Play with the solution, figure out what it does and does not do, and start developing insight into what business processes map into it. Heck, given that these solutions live in the cloud, you can even play with them without impacting your production systems.

So, when faced with the decision to go cloud, I highly recommend that you develop an understanding for the cloud solution that peaks your interest. Use the trial and then figure out how the features provided with the solution will best fit into your environment. Going the other direction just seems like swimming upstream.

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