Head in the Cloud: Why it’s time for businesses to come back down to earth

The global pandemic made organisations around the world more dependent on cloud computing than ever before

Amidst the widescale transition to hybrid working, cloud proved its worth, with the flexibility and scalability on offer acting as key drivers to its adoption. In fact, these were the top factors influencing IT leaders’ decisions to migrate to the cloud, as cited by 22% of organisations in a recent Snow Software survey. 

However, despite its mounting popularity, migrating to the cloud has its own set of unique challenges – many of which derive from common misunderstandings. This has resulted in a number of persistent myths and misconceptions about cloud, that continue to plague the reputation of this relatively new technology. 

Concerns around security, cost, and governance, for example, are frequently cited by business leaders when explaining their reluctance to adopt cloud. At the opposite end of the scale, too often, IT decision-makers get caught up in the promise of cloud, underestimating what’s actually involved in making the move. It’s true that cloud can certainly facilitate organisational success, but it’s also important to recognise that successful adoption of cloud technologies requires significant upfront effort changes to processes and practices.. 

Below are some of the most common myths about cloud computing, dispelled, to help you leverage the cloud for your organisation. 

Misconception #1 – Cloud transition is easy 

Cloud infrastructure was positioned as the ultimate solution to many IT management challenges. Although its promises – speed, agility, cost savings and security – can be realised, organisations often underestimate the full scope of what is needed to truly reap these benefits. According to Snow’s survey, more than two-thirds (68%) of IT leaders, whose organisations employ a hybrid strategy of both public and private clouds, are now experiencing an array of cloud and infrastructure management challenges, as the reality of these investments kicks in. 

The first misconception is that migrating to cloud involves little or no effort to guarantee success. Unfortunately, this is not quite the case. Many organisations have their ‘head in the cloud,’ pardon the pun, holding this novel form of computing up to be the holy grail of technology and the single solution to all their problems. It’s certainly been the answer to many prayers of the last two years, but it’s time now to come back down to earth.  

While you can certainly be more efficient in the cloud, there’s legwork to be done to get to this stage, starting with understanding your applications and business well, monitoring costs and deploying high levels of governance. It requires resource and upfront investment – in cash, experience, skills, employees and processes – to really leverage the true benefits and achieve ROI.  

Snow’s recent survey also highlighted the disparity between understanding and skill related to cloud, with 63% of C-level IT executives rating themselves experts on the different types of cloud, compared to just under one-third of IT directors (32%) and only 20% of IT managers. 

Misconception #2 – Cloud isn’t secure  

For obvious reasons, security and data breaches in the cloud get a lot of attention. One minor oversight in cloud deployment and its ongoing management can have disastrous consequences, as seen in the case of Capital One back in 2019 when hackers gained access to more than 100 million credit card applications. The mistake resulted in Capital One being fined $80 million.  

Amidst the rapid pace of cloud adoption, it’s not unusual to hear IT leaders express concerns that security may not be given adequate attention or that cloud infrastructure exposes them to unnecessary risk. In fact, for 24% of IT leaders, mitigating concerns around cybersecurity protections is at the top of the list of cloud management challenges they wish they could solve in the blink of an eye, and, when asked what their greatest infrastructure challenge is, a third of IT leaders (33%) cited mounting security threats. 

However, it’s important to note that, rather than any inherent security issues within the cloud itself, applications are where vulnerabilities are most likely to occur. The problem occurs where IT departments are not equipped with enough resource or the expertise to adapt their security approach at the pace needed to keep up with ever-evolving cybersecurity threats.  

At a software level, providers of cloud apply best practices when it comes to security, employing a range of technologies to ensure these are met. Still, it’s crucial that IT professionals set policies and configure applications correctly. 

Misconception #3 – Cloud is always cheaper 

When properly implemented, one of the main selling points of cloud is its affordability and the cost savings on offer via its pay as you go (PAYG), on-demand charge models. With that said, cloud can be a double-edged sword that many businesses fall foul to, the misconception being that cloud is always less expensive than on-premises deployments, since there is no data centre hardware investment or maintenance. 

It’s certainly possible to save money and be more efficient in the cloud compared to on-premises data centres, but it’s vital to ensure that you’re monitoring your usage. Often, organisations become the kid in the candy store; with so much technology on offer at the press of a button, it can be hard to stay regimented on what’s being added to your basket, and how much it costs.  

It’s as easy to overspend as it is to save money in the cloud. While it offers instant access to some of the largest, most expensive compute instances, if you forget and let those run, you’re headed towards a very large bill.  

This is particularly true where groups and departments within a business start to build their own infrastructure in the cloud without IT approval (often known as shadow IT). For this reason, installing appropriate guardrails, governance and overall technology intelligence over the resources being used needs to be a key stipulation of cloud adoption. 

Misconception #4 – One size fits all cloud solutions 

The final misconception comes around use cases and selecting the right mode of delivery for your organisation. Not all cloud solutions fit all companies, and whether it’s Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) or Software-as-aService (SaaS) will depend entirely on the business model.  

For example, an IaaS model is a natural place to land for a company that has its own on-premises data centre with IT staff who are trained and have experience in running and administering infrastructure. Essentially, the people and processes involved are the same – only, you’re accessing the cloud via the internet. 

For companies without the resource or experience, running an exchange server or another big back-office application, using a SaaS model is the best choice. However, the size of the company, its objectives, and the skillset available all need to be taken into account. 

If you’re trying to get out of managing infrastructure, look to a PaaS model, and if you’re a larger company, you may wish to use a combination of the three. However, to assess your present and, importantly, future requirements as a business, it’s best to seek expert guidance on which model will be the ideal fit for your organisation. 

While cloud has traditionally been positioned as a faster, more secure and ultimately more affordable alternative to on-premises infrastructure, IT leaders need to realise that cloud is not a one-size-fits-all solution but a single piece in the overall IT management puzzle. It’s not a freebie and you don’t get to flip the cloud switch and be instantly better off. Certainly, there are advantages to be had from day one – such as the ability to go global, deploying applications anywhere in the world – but if you really want to benefit from cloud, you must put the effort in. And this effort is underpinned by having the right visibility, transparency and reactive measures in place. Before you go rushing up into the cloud, you must first understand your business and your applications – only then will you start to see your investment really pay off. 


About the Author

Jesse Stockall is Chief Architect at Snow Software. Snow Software is changing the way organizations understand and manage their technology consumption. Our technology intelligence platform provides comprehensive visibility and contextual insight across software, SaaS, hardware and cloud. With Snow, IT leaders can effectively optimize resources, enhance performance and enable operational agility in a hybrid world.

Featured image: ©Shuo

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