I was at a cloud conference recently, learning about the different ways in which people are starting to use cloud services. To be clear, I know that the cloud is nothing new, but it does have the potential to change the way we make decisions about infrastructure, and it absolutely will change the way we invest in IT if we choose to use cloud services.
I had the chance to talk with three companies that were using the cloud. One was a startup that had foregone all investment in IT infrastructure. They had laptops for employees and one local server to keep copies of development code, but the rest of their "IT stuff" was in the cloud. As a new company, with no existing hardware, this makes sense. Their ability to offload all the sysadmin work meant that their developers didn't have to worry about IT services; they just wrote code.
The second company was a small company, one with some servers, but a growing company. They decided to move their email and document management to the cloud (in Office 365) rather than invest in bigger servers to handle the load. They maintained a local Sharepoint server, a development server, SQL databases, etc., but their decision to use cloud services was based on the desire to limit their future investment in computer hardware, and potentially additional staff.
The last company surprised me. They were an established, medium sized company, and they used a few services in the cloud, like Salesforce, but they also moved some of their customer applications to the cloud. Why? They had a fairly unpredictable spike in traffic multiple times a month. They could have invested in hardware to handle the spikes, but they would have had that hardware idle quite often. Instead they maintain a small set of cloud server, growing them inside of a few hours when spikes occur, and trimming them down quickly when they are no longer needed.
The cloud isn't for every application. However there are probably more applications than you might expect that fit it well. As with any hyped technology, it pays to learn about the pros, cons, and potential resource costs to incorporate it and then making a case with your management for or against it's inclusion in your IT tool belt.
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