Cloud computing can help businesses achieve ‘opex nirvana’ – that is, allow them to invest their capital in what they do, rather than what they need. However, all the associated economies of scale are incidental unless the business is able to effectively integrate and manage data across its cloud and on-premise estates.

Unfortunately, cloud computing is not a quick win, fast track solution to a faster, better, cheaper infrastructure and businesses aren’t able to skip crucial IT investment stages and leapfrog straight from outdated systems to a fully functioning cloud model.

One of the key reasons for this is the need for effective management of data, or more specifically, the buzzword of the moment that IT departments and businesses alike are grappling with – ‘big data’. A few years ago, we were looking at data capture and storage.

With the exponential increase in the amount of data available now (and the speed at which it is available) the conversation has turned to how to intelligently store and make sense of this information, ensuring that data is harnessed and turned into a valuable business asset. It is this business case of ‘turning information into an asset’ that is steadily attracting more and more people to the cloud.

The point of cloud computing isn’t simply to have ‘more stuff’ – new communications and technology frameworks – but to give a business freedom of movement and greater choice when it comes to how to provision IT services and applications. If data is to be truly valuable as an asset, a holistic view of all the information across the business is essential.

This holistic approach often begins to fragment when there is a breakdown in communications between the business and IT – many organisations start to look at software-as-a-service solutions unilaterally, that is, on a requirement basis in different areas of the business, which are not necessarily known about by the central IT team.

Start ups aside, there are very few organisations which are not constrained by legacy systems of some sort, a consideration which can often be pushed to one side when individual areas of the business are looking for an upgrade to their own infrastructure. This siloed approach then causes problems for data integration – data without context rapidly loses its meaning, and therefore its value.

As businesses strive to harness data for competitive advantage, it is important that they don’t get too hung up on the delivery method. Cloud has exploded onto the radar of many businesses, though as they analyse and assess their requirements, it is a case of deciding which of their data integration functions they wish to move to the cloud – for many, the natural solution will be a hybrid solution of on-premise and managed service solutions.