Cloud computing Part 2: Don't be blinded by the hype

Hype is a marketer's dream and IT's nightmare. While it helps the former generate excitement, it often obscures reality for the latter. Cloud computing is the latest case in point. The hype would have you believe the cloud is the entire answer when in reality it is just part of the solution.

Cloud computing has a lot to offer, especially to small and midsize businesses (SMB), but you need to get beyond the hype to see the big picture.

FAQ: Cloud computing, demystified"What shape is your cloud? Part 1") we explained the cloud, identified specific opportunities for making use of the cloud and discussed benefits of moving to a cloud computing environment. That was the hard part. The next step is to identify signs and inflection points that signal you're ready to make the move. The most appropriate place to start is pinpointing areas within your company that are ready for a change or upgrade.

In our first column (see

Let's use storage as an example. Perhaps your storage platform is nearing the end of life, your data center power and cooling costs are escalating or you're outgrowing your storage capacity and facing physical space constraints. Any of these can be reason enough to move some storage to the cloud. The thought of moving all of it may be daunting, but the cloud allows for informed selection. Migrating less critical items to the cloud can help reduce internal requirements and avoid expensive growth of your on-site storage resources.

The customizability of the cloud allows organizations to adapt solutions according to specific needs. If you are enticed by the flexibility of cloud computing but worry about security breaches and data loss, you can invest in a private cloud. Alternatively, you can use a hybrid of public and private facilities and relegate less sensitive information to the public portion. Conversely, if you aren't worried about public clouds, there are countless options available and you can make the move for select applications.

Hype around cloud computing continues to grow so your best option is to seek the advice of a vendor-neutral provider that  can suggest a custom solution incorporating best-fit elements to address your needs.

Keep in mind that cloud services are available for a range of business services. For example, a disaster recovery (DR) may be a great candidate to move to the cloud. By nature a DR plan calls for access to infrastructure not utilized on normal business days, which can lead to expensive investments in hardware and software going unused. When DR resides in the cloud, organizations only need to purchase what is absolutely essential and migrate essential DR items to the cloud on an as-needed basis without the in-house management costs normally associated with a new purchase.

Additionally, vendors with cloud experience can help organizations plan DR environments that employ only the necessary applications and consult on which of those will function on a cloud platform. An experienced planner can cut through the tall grass to identify what applications organizations need to keep running, rather than getting caught up in what they want to keep running when the time comes to implement the DR plan. The end result may be a mixture of dedicated equipment, shared and virtualized infrastructure, and cloud computing services. Many times a hybrid system is the most effective.

If the economy has taken a toll and you have had to reduce staff, cloud options can provide relief. If your customers rely on 24/7 service but you lack the manpower to ensure there are no outages, you can get service-level agreements from cloud operators that guarantee availability and consistency for the network. These guarantees can help SMBs achieve the levels of support large enterprises offer but without the additional payroll.

Cloud services might also be worth a look if your current infrastructure is on its last legs. Cloud computing may present a more cost-efficient option rather than building anew from scratch. Even data center power and cooling issues can present an opportunity to look at cloud services.While cloud computing may not be the only answer, once you get beyond the hype it is clear that the rich cloud options that are emerging might help you address pressing business issues. Smart use of private and/or public clouds can free up IT time for high-value activities and innovation.

Learn more about this topic

What shape is your cloud? Part 1

Future bright for cloud computing

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