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When Not to Go Cloud

The spread of the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications, their connection with all types of computing devices from personal computers to mobile phones and their ability to save data directly to the cloud created a notion that it is a solution to every computing problem.

For the majority of the cases, especially from an end-user’s perspective, this notion holds true. From a corporate perspective, the notion can easily turn into an excitement, especially due to the flexibility, low maintenance and immediate scalability reasons. Sometimes the vendors and the companies fall victim to this excitement and think that every second late to not going cloud is lost opportunities.

There is time and place for everything, including the cloud. Here is my take on when not to go cloud.

When buying is less expensive

Every buy or. hire decision involves some mathematics. Cloud is no exception. Take a piece of paper and compare the financials of going cloud vs capital investment in a time window (from both accounting and technical perspectives this would be around five years). If buying (or better, implementation) is cheaper than going cloud, in other words, if financially it makes more sense, than it is better to rethink.

It is important to think about the intangible benefits and costs associated with the buy or hire comparison. What I recommend my clients is: first hold a meeting with the IT and the finance department to make the cost/benefit analysis. Then, ask all departments to get involved in the analysis. Every department will have a different view on the situation – sales may be in favor of going SaaS because of their mobile staff and R&D may be against because their files will be saved outside the company. Finally, discuss the decision in a board meeting to evaluate it from a strategic perspective.

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I will give you the same recommendation. Evaluate the cloud beginning from the financial perspective up to the strategic perspective.

When the cloud simply doesn’t work

One of the top selling points of SaaS is the reduction of IT complexity. In the majority of my clients I have seen that this holds true in very high percentages, some even 100%. But in some cases, the cloud simply introduces more complexity to the current infrastructure and sometimes it simply doesn’t work.

I have seen my clients pushing things to the limit to go to the cloud. Sometimes even my attempts to tell them going 100% cloud will hurt their business becomes futile. The vendors create such illusions that when their clients put everything to the cloud, they have nothing to worry about their IT operations. Of course the vendors think about selling their overly complex, proprietary and overpriced systems, but on the other hand there are the systems which are not designed to work under cloud conditions. And people fall to vendors’ trap. There are some specific applications that is not designed to run in a multi-user environment, like a Remote Desktop infrastructure. Some applications cannot be virtualized using App-V or XenApp. Some applications simply cannot go cloud. And if this application is a mission-critical application, or if it is a core business application, then moving to the cloud may make you worse off.

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When you are the tester

Having an R&D department in your company is one thing, making your company a test environment for a vendor is another thing. Of course your R&D team will look for and receive the new software, play with it or maybe go for a pilot implementation. This is how things work. But if a vendor is trying to make your company a test environment, then going cloud is possibly not a good option.

In the cloud market there are the small companies, who have offerings from the bottom to the top and there are the enterprise companies who implement known products. Both introduce their own pros and cons: small companies offer tailor-made solutions, enterprise companies offer tried and tested solutions. From the risk perspective, small companies may be financially more risky and enterprise companies change their offerings with little or no notice. In some scenarios, the latter may be even more riskier than a technically stable startup.

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Think about the cloud vendor and the possible risk mitigation strategies. If you think that the cloud vendor have a tendency to use your company as a test environment or is famous for changing its offerings, going with this vendor or even going cloud may not be the best option.

Don’t believe in a cloud vendor who says cloud is the solution to each and every IT question like you wouldn’t believe an electrician who only carries a test-light screwdriver. Be aware of the cloud vendor who try to map your every question to his offering. Sometimes it may not be the right time to go cloud, sometimes it may not be the right condition, and sometimes it may not be the right vendor.

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