IT Decision Maker

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Clearing the Cloud Part 1: Embrace or Die

I think it's a good time for IT Decision Makers to face some stark realities. This "cloud" thing is creeping up on us, and many analysts claim that 2012 will be the year that cloud computing and cloud services really take off. That means, like it or not, you're going to be dealing with something "in the cloud," if you're not already. What's that mean?

Within a couple of years, every single business with more than a couple of employees will, in some fashion, be using "the cloud." Whatever "the cloud" means. Smaller businesses will likely be using cloud-based e-mail services like Gmail or Office 365; many are already beginning to do so. Some businesses will get their cloud-based services -- like e-mail and collaboration -- from a Managed Service Provider (MSP), whose datacenter can now officially be called a "cloud." Even massive enterprises with huge infrastructure investments will, in some way or another, be using something from "the cloud," even if that's nothing more than the cloud-based Web site analytics called "Google Analytics."

I'm seeing an awful lot of IT professionals beginning to live in Cloud Denial. They've spent years honing their skills as Exchange admins, SharePoint admins, SQL Server admins and so forth, and they're full of reasons why this "cloud thing" shouldn't be used in their environments. In some cases, they're correct: For some businesses, certain functions should be in-sourced and not out-sourced. That reason, however, should never revolve around an IT person who fears their job will go away. The decision to in-source or out-source a given service or function should be a 100 percent business-related decision, based upon costs, benefit, control, security, and more.

I recently got an e-mail from a fellow who had recently lost his job as an Exchange administrator. His company had been using Exchange Server 2003 (!!!), and when faced with the costs of upgrading to 2010 -- new servers, new software, new training, new architecture and more -- decided it was easier and more financially efficient to outsource its 5,000 mailboxes to someone else. It still had a degree of administration, such as mailbox adds/changes/deletes, that need to be done, and so it retained the portion of the Exchange admin staff that was needed to perform those tasks. My correspondent, however, had been in denial about the coming of the cloud, and didn't have up-to-date skills (or an interest in obtaining them, from what I could read). So he was let go.

It's unfortunately, but it's going to happen. There may be a zillion legitimate reasons why your company can't outsource some particular function to the cloud, and you should be prepared to make that argument in business terminology. You should absolutely help your company do the right thing. However, you should also be prepared for the "right thing" to include outsourcing, and make sure you're positioned to still have a job if that happens. Frankly, I think it's only practical to also assume that your organization might outsource something even if it's the wrong decision. Companies do make bad decisions, after all, often when looking only at short-term goals. That being the case, make sure you're well-positioned to be retained even if your company does make a bad decision about outsourcing. Don't just fight the tide – be prepared to swim with it.

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Posted by Don Jones on 02/06/2012 at 1:14 PM


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