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Cloud computing is all about choosing the right partner


By Paul Cook, Head of Sales & Marketing, Oncore IT

Why are we all talking about ‘Clouds’ these days? Apparently, when the Internet started to take off, technologists found the easiest shorthand for the complexity of that ‘network of networks’ was literally to draw a fuzzy Cloud shape that was meant to mean ‘all the bits in the middle’.Paul

How times have changed. In its predictions for the top ten trends CIOs need to plan for in 2012, leading IT market analysts Gartner  term the concept ‘a disruptive force [which] has the potential for broad long-term impact in most industries’. Fellow research firm IDC estimated that spending on public IT Cloud services, just one aspect of the phenomenon, will expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27.6%, from $21.5 billion in 2010 to reach no less than $72.9 billion in 2015 .

Clearly, the market is buzzing with interest but many decision makers face real confusion working out their best way forward vis-à-vis Cloud given grandiose supplier claims about reducing CAPEX, streamlining OPEX and so on.

The fact is – Cloud is nothing radically ‘new’ and is fundamentally about using Internet-based technologies to reduce in-house ICT management. But in practice this can range from familiar managed service or hosting solutions all the way to full outsourcing.

So, how do you choose the right partner given you are handing over your IT to a third party to manage systems critical to the functioning of your business? In other words, what should you look for in a Cloud pitch to really ensure IT – and ultimately commercial – success?

A key concept here has to be a clear definition of what your implementation partner in a Cloud move is actually committing to. If you are not convinced they can deliver a secure and reliable environment to support your businesses IT requirements, latest technology from best-of-breed vendors to ensure high performance and availability, 24 x 7 access to the proposed new environment from anywhere using various devices, 24 x 7 support to ensure help is available when you need it, a comprehensive, robust network infrastructure, all delivered in a simple, scalable and cost-effective manner – then terminate the sales process. You’re just not going to get anything useful.

‘Partner’ is something of an over-used term in the computing market. Yet the core of the idea is actually extremely important; the technology supplier acts in the client’s interests by providing resources and services that are tightly integrated with the latter’s needs, based on in-depth understanding of the specifics of its business. But as the Cloud becomes the latest ‘Gold Rush,’ too many contenders offer the opposite – inflexible “standard” solutions that fail to deliver to client expectations. There’s a feeling that many conversations go along the line of ‘Of course Cloud is the answer, what was the question again?’

What, by contrast, would an appropriate Cloud supplier look like? The answer is one that approaches the client in a consultative manner, taking time to understand the objectives of the organisation and developing a solution which would employ the Cloud only if and where appropriate to their actual needs.

The simple fact is that every business is unique and its IT must underpin its core business activities. Any technology solution needs to offer a way to increase capacity or add capability without wholesale new IT infrastructure, expensive training, or lots of additional costs.

In the Cloud context, especially for financial services and professional organisations, any such offering has to include an infrastructure and a network platform which offers fault-tolerant IT services accessible at any time from any location. Other things customers should look for: security, integration and customisation.

The ability to offer not only Cloud infrastructure but also bread-and-butter services such as online data backup, 24×7 network monitoring and support and complete disaster recovery is also important, along with detailed reporting, account management and guaranteed SLAs.

Take a real customer example.  International wholesale money broker, RP Martin, selected our firm for a cost effective and resilient public Cloud-backup and archival solution to ensure regulatory compliance, reduce infrastructure expenditure and minimise the day-to-day IT management overhead. We were chosen given the resilient service offered from our London data centre which is replicated to a mirror facility on mainland Europe.  The clincher was our ability to work with RP Martin to design a bespoke solution which utilises both ‘live’ online backup and archival solutions based on best-of-breed Asigra software, along with a Backup Lifecycle Management approach to tier the offsite data storage given its age and therefore importance and value to the business.  The result? RP Martin is saving £22,500 or just over 27% on their annual backup storage bill.

The fact is – Cloud is only a useful idea if it denotes the kind of bespoke, practical computing services that you are already familiar with, delivered by a supplier with technical competence and one that sees itself as your partner, happy to adapt to your needs, and who has no ‘religious’ commitment to ‘Cloud,’ but sees it as another tool in its toolbox and is honest enough to curb your Cloud enthusiasm if it’s not what you need in your business right now today.

It’s only by going to market looking for a technology company that accepts the real promise of Cloud but which genuinely wants to measure you for a suit that fits, not sell one of its off the peg outfits no matter your actual dimensions, that business and technology leaders can move forward with confidence with the Cloud in the changing world of IT today and beyond.

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