There are some trends which are artificially created. I cannot believe, for example, that next year’s fashion trends for Spring have already been decided. But according to my wife’s glossiest magazine they are all set in stone. 

Information Technology (IT) can sometimes be as fickle as a fashion magazine. Trends come and go and often for no good reason. But IT usually gets it right in the end doesn’t it? So that old late-lamented trend for Shared Services is back with a bang this Autumn – but this time it’s called the Cloud and it’s here to stay.

I say that because I’ve been advising a growing number of companies in the last few months that have started to talk to each other about IT and made some rather unpleasant discoveries.

One major company I deal with has a number of subsidiaries which all operate as a virtual group and their directors started to investigate how they could share services and hopefully save money. As they examined their present IT setups; four separate and autonomous IT departments, they discovered that these departments were routinely buying between 50% to 100% more IT kit than they needed.

Why? Because some junior employees felt that the systems might go down so they needed this redundancy.

I don’t need to point out to you, in these straightened financial times when we are all, “…in it together…” that this profligacy astounded the directors who have been diligently pruning away the fat for years.

They have been reading up on Cloud computing to save money while their subordinates were happily still living in the 1970s where servers were as reliable as 1970’s Skodas and they were ordering 100% more than they needed in case they malfunctioned.

But that has changed – today’s servers have only a 1% chance of going down. They have no moving parts – no fans and no old-fashioned hard discs to go wrong. They are power efficient and don’t get red hot. They don’t have to be Molly-Coddled any more and the only people who are yet to realise it are those paying the bills.

Even in this new world of virtualisation IT departments ordering hardware regularly over-order to the tune of millions of pounds because they don’t want to be in the firing line if the systems go down.

I have seen SME systems which could drive nuclear power stations ten times over – while the Chief Executive Officer signs the spending cheques and makes cuts elsewhere ‘safe’ in the knowledge that his IT will not malfunction. Redundancy is a good thing but this has now got to monstrous proportions. The same thing happens to an even worse extent in the public sector.

This miss-match between the understanding of some IT departments and the understanding of the board is becoming one of the key drivers of Cloud Computing. The board is no longer accepting that the IT department cannot be touched when sacrifices have to be made.

I am starting to see a trend whereby boards are not going to allow a situation to continue where their hardware sits humming at 10% capacity (a situation which is not unusual) because the most pessimistic person in IT wants a 90% margin for error! The Board is becoming aware that it can buy little bits of the Cloud when it wants to and cut down when it needs to.

The efficient, conscientious and confident IT staff will breathe a sigh of relief that a proper serviced environment is becoming clearer – the Cloud; these IT staff will not only keep their jobs but will be hailed as the introducers of welcomed change and progress.

The virtual group of companies I mentioned before are now looking to the Cloud. With the right Service Level Agreements and the choice of a truly competent and reliable Cloud supplier they can now scale up or down as much or as little as they want to. As a group they have the scale to construct a good deal from their Cloud supplier.

They don’t even need PCs with expensive hardware and software to keep – the cost of the PC is being cut out of the balance sheet. Security and reliability are worries but they are not worries which will concern any organisation with the correct security policies – the biggest IT security threats are typically the ‘insider threats’ which is greatly reduced with Cloud services.

The new trend for this Autumn, as CEOs, CTOs and Finance Officer return to their desks from their summer holidays, will be Cloud computing. It’s this year’s new model and it will be in fashion from now on.