CIOs who embrace cloud computing will be able to focus less of their time on the utility aspect of IT and more of their time on adding business value to their organization.
By Larry Bonfante
When cloud computing first became the rage, a lot of IT executives who were dismissive of it as the latest fad and went back to business as usual. Now that cloud computing has made significant inroads in the marketplace, many CIOs are feeling threatened by it. They are acting defensive, using legitimate issues like security, compliance and outages as counterarguments as to why companies shouldn’t migrate services to the cloud.
While these are legitimate concerns, the progressive CIO will look as these issues as we do any other reasonable risk in a service delivery model—not as an excuse to avoid using the service, but as a variable that needs to be addressed by proactive contingency planning and thoughtful architectural design.
For the people who use security as the excuse to not leverage the cloud, I have a few reactions. First of all, I can certainly see some types of organizations—the FBI and FDA come readily to mind—where a healthy level of skepticism is in order. However, for many companies, especially mid-sized ones, we are deluding ourselves if we believe that we can handle security any better than, say, Amazon.com, Google or Microsoft can. For many companies their IT security practice might be led and staffed by a single professional (or, in the case of many small and medium businesses, it’s just part of the responsibilities that one person handles). Do you think your one person is actually more effective at security than a large cloud vendor?
Another frequently cited obstacle is compliance. I understand how issues like PCI, Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPPA can potentially throw a monkey wrench in one's best-laid plans. However, more and more cloud providers are coming to market with solutions that help address compliance-related issues. Also, you can still migrate many of your back-end internal client-facing applications that don’t touch consumers to a cloud environment.
The last issue I most-often hear about: cloud outages. Indeed, a couple of years ago when Amazon.com had its major outage on the U.S. East Coast it impacted our clients for about a day. We developed a contingency plan to replicate critical system data on-site so that our clients could return to work while the problem was resolved. And, let’s be honest, it’s not like we never had outages in the internal data centers or the hosted environments that we have used in the past!
The bottom line is that like every other service that’s ever been available in the marketplace, cloud computing is not a panacea and a cure for all ills. But with an appropriate level of planning and architectural effort it can be a valuable tool for any CIO, allowing us to focus less of our time on the utility aspect of IT and more of our time on adding value to the company. My suggestion is that CIOs stop fighting progress and figure out how to thoughtfully embrace innovations like cloud computing.
About the Author
Larry Bonfante is a practicing CIO and founder of CIO Bench Coach, LLC, an executive coaching practice for IT executives. He is also author of Lessons in IT Transformation, published by John Wiley & Sons. He can be reached at Larry@CIOBenchCoach.com.
To read his previous CIO Insight article, "Why CIO Tenures Aren't Longer," click here.