Overcoming institutional fears of cloud computing

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In my previous post, I addressed some of the inherent fears that some organizations have regarding cloud computing. Today, I’d like to take a look at why these institutions, and the people who lead them, might fear the cloud. I propose that it comes down to four basic concerns:

Fear of the Unknown: What is cloud computing?  Is it just a place to store music files? If you asked a room full of ten IT specialists, you’d get ten different answers. Further, if you searched the web, you’d find answers, but many of them would be wrong. Cloud is a concept that is quickly evolving, and behind this concept are hardened data centers that follow best practices for security and regulatory compliance. Both shared and dedicated machines are available to be provisioned at a moment’s notice. You can decide where your data resides, how it is protected and how it is accessed. Like electric power, the cloud provides access to compute power on demand. Unlike electric power, the source can be specified down to the exact physical machine dedicated to running your workloads.

(Related: Three reasons why you should embrace the cloud)

Fear of losing control: People think that using the cloud means losing control of their applications and data. Who is responsible if something goes wrong? Banks can get robbed, but laws, policies and practices have evolved to make the banks a safe choice for storing money. This is the same with the cloud. Today, you can choose the center that will host your data. You can keep your data within national boundaries. You can encrypt your data in transit and at rest. You can monitor your servers on your computer or mobile device. You can be sure that regulatory and security best practices are being followed. Working with a partner like IBM, that has just invested $1.2B dollars to build 15 more state of the art data centers, bringing the worldwide total to 40, gives you as much or more control and security than building a data center on your own.

Fear of being violated: Who can view my data if it is stored on the cloud? Recent revelations about NSA data collection have elevated this concern. Much of this discussion, however, was centered on phone and email metadata, not file or database contents. Also, a side effect of this episode was that cloud hosting providers increased efforts to ensure data security. After all, cloud computing is a growth area and poor security is bad for business. Just like no vault, either in your home or in a bank, is 100 percent safe, no server is either, whether in your data center or in the cloud. That being said, there is a good argument that the safest option is a server hosted by a trusted provider in a hardened data center. The safest option can be found in the cloud.

Fear of becoming obsolete: Horses yielded to cars, typewriters to word processors and slide rules to calculators. None of these changes happened overnight and all the older technologies maintained a niche, however diminished. Cloud technology is a paradigm shift that is absorbing many workloads that used to be run in a traditional data center. Needless to say, this is unsettling to many people who must now update their skills or risk becoming obsolete. No longer can IT departments tell the business that their demands are too complex or too expensive—the cloud has changed the rules.

Do you store money under a mattress or in a bank? Do you store diamonds at home or in a safe deposit box? Do you store data in your data center or in the cloud? IT executives today are faced with exploding data volumes, rapidly changing technologies, lack of skills, duplicate systems due to acquisitions and the need to deliver more value to their business at lower cost. While fears of cloud computing are understandable, they will dissipate as the technology matures. The pace of technological change is accelerating, so this will happen very quickly. Those that don’t adjust to this changing reality will be left behind.

Are you ready to adopt cloud technology? Let me know what your fears are, and how you plan to cope with them.

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