This post was originally published on North Bridge Venture Partners’ website.
As cloud adoption continues to accelerate across just about every industry, organizations have more opportunities than ever to revisit their current infrastructure and business solutions to ensure they’re getting the most out of their investments. According to the fourth annual Future of Cloud Computing Survey conducted by North Bridge in partnership with Gigaom Research, 60-85% of IT teams anticipate moving at least some of their processing to the cloud within the next 12-24 months. The biggest drivers for these moves include increased agility, reducing overall costs, and improving scalability. Despite these advantages, some organizations remain reluctant to move to the cloud due to concerns that they could lose capabilities that exist with their in-house solutions.
As reported by the Future of Cloud Computing survey, the most common inhibitors to cloud adoption include questions about reliability, interoperability, and the possibility of getting “locked in” to a given cloud solution. While some cloud-based offerings warrant this level of concern, many providers have spent thousands of hours architecting their solutions specifically to address these concerns. By doing their homework and employing the same industry best practices as they would with their own in-house solutions, most organizations are able to leverage cloud offerings to actually improve the reliability of their applications while maintaining the same freedom and interoperability they have with their current solutions.
Given the potential loss of business and brand damage that can accompany a website outage, it’s not surprising that reliability is one of the top priorities for almost every organization when adopting any new software (cloud-based or not) for their online applications. Because of this, the majority of cloud providers have built their offerings with high availability as a primary focus. By leveraging distributed worldwide networks, many of these solutions are able to provide better global reliability at a greater scale than most organizations could create on their own.
Additionally, these vendors often hire the best experts available in terms of network architecture, security, and application performance, because the success of their entire company depends on the availability of their platforms and services. Reputable cloud providers also build redundancy into every layer of their infrastructure and applications, ensuring no single point of failure exists that could compromise the availability of their offerings.
For most organizations, reliability of their services isn’t enough to ensure their business needs are met. Often, these services need to communicate with other systems, which may reside either in the cloud or in-house. Fortunately, the vast majority of today’s cloud services offer full web-based APIs to enable these solutions to interact with the existing systems in any way necessary to meet the organization’s needs. Organizations looking to move to the cloud should ensure these integration capabilities exist for any solutions they consider purchasing.
Freedom of Choice
As organizations evolve, it’s not uncommon for them to outgrow their existing systems or for their needs to change in ways that make different solutions more attractive. When this occurs, many teams discover that it’s very difficult to replace or upgrade their in-house systems, which have often been heavily customized or integrated with their overall ecosystem of software and services. In the best-case scenarios, these systems can take months, or even years, to replace. Oftentimes, rather than replacing these systems, the IT team ends up customizing the system even further in an attempt to force it to perform some function that it wasn’t originally intended to perform. The end result can be a highly complex and inefficient solution that limits the organization for years to come.
By adopting cloud-based solutions, many organizations have discovered how easy it can be to swap out services when they are no longer needed. The fact that these solutions are web based means that most integrations have been performed using a level of abstraction that could be easily ported to new systems if they ever need to change providers. In many cases, the cloud providers also make it possible to download any data that’s been created in their system, making it easier to transition important information into new systems.
It should be noted, however, that not all cloud-based services provide the same level of freedom. In some cases, vendors provide tightly bundled services that essentially limit their customers to an “all or none” approach for their services. In these cases, it’s often difficult or impossible to swap out a portion of the services without leaving the vendor’s platform altogether. Organizations should be very careful when considering products or services that “lock them in” to using all of their functionality before they can use any of it.
Lastly, organizations should take full advantage of “try before you buy” opportunities when they’re offered for a service they’re interested in. This additional benefit of cloud solutions allows users to test real world use cases using the services they’re considering without needing to spend hours installing and configuring the trial solution on their own systems. This trial period can be critical to ensuring the customer doesn’t purchase a solution that fails to meet their needs. If they determine a solution isn’t a great fit during the trial period, they can easily walk away and try out other offerings.
While some organizations will likely never move all of their systems to the cloud, there are many benefits that cloud-based solutions offer for those services that don’t need to remain in-house. For these services, the move to the cloud may not simply be a more cost-effective solution, but can often improve their reliability and capabilities as well.