The fundamental promise of cloud is transformational: shifting from ad hoc, capital-intensive IT delivery methods to agile, pay-per-use service utilities, delivered over a network.

Many businesses are already benefiting from reduced capital expenditure by maximising asset usage, resulting in a significant ROI. Expenditure can be further reduced by moving the control of some IT elements over to a third party cloud service provider.

While many businesses could benefit from cloud computing, there are some key traits within organisations that make them suitable for the cloud. These can include: businesses with a heavy investment in R&D; those that have rapidly expanding or contracting capacity requirements with a need for scalability; organisations needing to reduce capital expenses, reduce over-provisioning; and generate accurate demand-forecasting.

This is not an exhaustive list, but rather a guideline to determining whether a business will easily transition from the more traditional ‘just-in-case’, to the cloud-based ‘just-enough’ provisioning model.

If the business has characteristics that make it suitable for the cloud computing model, the next step is to meticulously assess the existing IT infrastructure to see whether it meets current and projected demands. If the infrastructure cannot fulfil its intended role, a comprehensive analysis must be completed to ensure a particular cloud service is right solution for that infrastructure. This can be a labour-intensive analysis, but will help avoid long-term execution costs.

It’s important not to jump in feet first without researching all the options. As with all new IT implementations, a compelling business case that’s been thoroughly analysed will generate buy-in from the board and can then be successfully communicated as a business-wide scheme.

To do this, the cloud and all its forms should be evaluated extensively in the context of immediate issues and future challenges as well as opportunities to guarantee reduced expenditure. It’s important to weigh up the pros and cons of implementing a private cloud versus a hosted model, and which will result in the biggest cost reduction.

A variety of options 

New IT concepts often generate new terminology and cloud is no different. The varied degrees of control and privacy are characterised as internal, external and hybrid. An internal cloud is generally only accessible by the organisation (it is private), managed and owned locally. Some may be service specific, for example all the financial department services could be housed in an internal cloud.

Conversely, external clouds are situated and managed remotely by either the in-house (but off-site) team or a third party. External clouds can be public, where a shared cloud has multiple tenants, all relying on the same hardware. There are also external private clouds which are more expensive, but ensure all hardware is assigned to a single customer. These are typically more secure and preferred by customers with rigorous regulation, performance and scalability requirements.

CIOs don’t necessarily need to select external vs. internal or public vs. private exclusively. There are hybrid (or federated) clouds where IT functions are able to transfer between internal IT services and external private or public clouds. These hybrid solutions assist smooth shifts in business processes, such as the implementation of new applications and disaster recovery.

A trusted supplier

Some aspects of the cloud require more detailed scrutiny than other existing infrastructure solutions. Cloud is a new concept so business-as-usual policies and processes associated with traditional IT initiatives need to be modified to accommodate it.

Also, with public and other external cloud services, the reigns of control are in part handed over to another party, making it critical to fully understand the implications. Are you confident you understand where exactly your data is stored and how accessible it is?

If any third party is involved in a business’s transition into the cloud, it’s important the IT department continues to monitor to ensure the infrastructure functions deliver the appropriate levels of security, performance and availability. Due diligence must be performed on any considered supplier to ensure they are suitable.

Reliability of potential cloud partners should be thoroughly investigated to assess if they will meet, or exceed, the existing standards. For example, depending on existing security standards, some businesses will experience more robust security protection from a hosted model, while others will feel security offered is below par compared to their own stringent benchmark.

Consumption-based, pay-as-you-go cloud-based models could be the best alternative for CIOs looking to streamline processes and improve ROI. There are many options available but it’s prudent to assess what is already there to pick the right solution for business efficiency and that due diligence is performed around any chosen cloud service partner.