coffee-cupYou may have seen the viral meme “There is no cloud, it’s just someone else’s computer” posted on social media or forwarded in an email (or even on a mug).  It’s only funny because it is true—but that’s kind of the whole point.  It is someone else’s computer.  But it isn’t really the computer that is important—it’s the software system that is running on the computer, the infrastructure that powers and scales the computer and what is regularly done to keep the computer safe and operating at its best.  After all, in the cloud model if the computer isn’t serving your needs, you aren’t paying for it (and the service provider isn’t making any money).

Cloud service providers are in business to make money.  Like any other business, they face stiff competition that constantly threatens to relegate them to the fates of Geocities and MySpace.  In order to continue to exist, they must meet higher standards for reliability, performance, scalability and support than most internal business systems.  Additionally, they have to constantly adapt and improve their offering in order to remain relevant and outpace market threats.  Since it is so easy for users to initiate (and terminate) use of a cloud solution, continuous customer service and satisfaction are critical to success.

So what do I mean by “cloud service?”  Well, that’s the beautiful part.  It means whatever you need it to mean.  If you need a server (or 300 servers), there are plenty of cloud providers that can get you that in a matter of minutes.  If you need corporate email and unified communications services, several cloud service providers are standing by.  Even if you need a specialized business application (e.g. Workforce Management, Timekeeping, Accounting, Customer Relationship Management) you will have multiple cloud service options to consider.

The bottom line is that there are so many options and so much overlap from one service offering to another that you really need to have an informed and well-developed cloud strategy to ensure that the right services have been selected and spun up for your business, configured to best leverage your networking, systems management, security and support mechanisms, and thoughtfully integrated so that data can flow effectively throughout your various business processes.  You also need to have a cloud roadmap that tells you how your organization will “get there from here.”  Finally, you need to understand the costs involved.

The consumption-based pricing schemes offered by most cloud service providers can be intimidating.  It can be very difficult to understand what the total upfront and recurring costs will be both during the journey to the cloud and in the eventual day-to-day operations.  This unknown tends to cause many organizations to default to a more traditional capital-cost planning model with clearly defined hardware, software and services costs.

The good news is that cloud service providers are responding to this issue—dramatically simplifying and improving the pricing of their offerings.  In many cases, they offer free periods to help you stabilize and baseline your usage patterns to most effectively manage costs.

The other good news is that you don’t have to figure all of this out on your own.  Catapult Systems’ cloud strategy offerings have helped many of our customers identify their business technology needs, evaluate options, understand constraints, assess readiness, determine the potential upfront and ongoing costs, and make informed decisions about their cloud strategy.

For various reasons most of our customers end up selecting a hybrid, slow-transition approach to cloud adoption.  This tends to be perceived as an opportunity to manage risk and decrease the rate at which organizations must adapt to change.  This approach introduces a number of challenges and raises issues such as network connectivity and performance, single-sign on and/or domain federation, systems management complexity, and overall security policy—not to mention broadly impacting organizational IT governance.

As you embark or continue on your journey to the cloud, partner with us and we will bring our experience and applied methodologies to help you predictably execute on your strategy.

To learn more about Catapult’s targeted cloud strategy and offerings, click here.