Understanding “The Cloud” can be confusing if not overwhelming at times on how to go or get to something that can be so vague. When leveraging the benefits of the cloud, there are opportunities to outsource functions, risks, and costs that are not your core-competencies.
High Level Cloud Models
While there are some deviations, there are 3 basic models that we should first explain: Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Here are some brief definitions:
- SaaS applications are delivered over the web and already designed/built for the end-user.
- PaaS is the set of tools and services designed to allows coding and deploying those semi-custom applications quick and efficient.
- IaaS is the hardware and software that powers it all – servers, storage, networks, operating systems – to allow complete custom solutions without the fuss of a data-center and related infrastructure.
For SaaS, an easy concept to grasp as it is a hosted email marketing provider like MailChimp or Constant Contact. They provide companies have a web-enabled application to allow you to do marketing out of the box through their websites. For PaaS, Customer Relationship Management software (Salesforce, Hubspot, InfusionSoft, Zuho, and Salsa) fall into this category as these platforms allow you to write code within their product to allow unlimited customization to their core offering. Amazon’s Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google’s Cloud Platform falls into the IaaS category. This is basically your data-center in the cloud where your IT shop or IT provider can do just about anything without the hassle of building out company/department/agency/organization data-center and all those related costs.
Key Cloud Enabled Functions
According to the study Cloud Computing Comes of Age published by the Harvard Business Review, the top 5 functions for cloud uses are:
- Sales force Automation
- Travel / Expense Management
The study also suggests the next 5 functions to be moving to the cloud are:
- Billing / Invoicing
- Financial Accounting
- Supply Chain
These business functions outlined above are only the beginning. There are so many cloud capabilities today that help company reduce costs, change risk models, and mitigate technical limitations and/or frustrations.
Basic Cloud Architectures
There are 3 main high-level cloud architectures today: Private, Public, and Hybrid. Here is how each can be defined.
Private Cloud also known as an internal or enterprise cloud that resides on company’s own data center where all of the data is protected behind a firewall. This can be a great option for companies who already have expensive data centers that leverage their current infrastructure.
Public Cloud is where all the data center management and maintenance is handled by the 3rd party cloud provider. This strategy has the lowest infrastructure costs (capital investment and ongoing) of all the options. The risk is your data is shared with a third party.
Hybrid Cloud is a combination of both private and public architectures. An example of this would be transaction data is stored in the private cloud, where the data warehouse and reporting is in then public cloud. This strategy helps mitigate the costs of long term storage of data.
How to get there?
A common philosophy within organizations is creating strategic objectives is by using the S.M.A.R.T. principle. The S.M.A.R.T. objects follow:
- Strategic – The idea is to identify those targets that are strategic in nature, align with business goals and what needs to be done.
- Measurable – For each target, there needs to be a measurable outcome to determine if the objectives have been met in the implementation phase.
- Achievable – Is the objective realistic? Are there any show stoppers that hinder the implementation? Make sure you have the time and resources to also make it achievable.
- Realistic – We need to ensure that the goal is realistic and relevant. That way it is aligned to the overall business / department objectives with all constraints considered.
- Time-bound – It should be possible to define a timeline for achieving each target. That way you manage the scope and have a gate to ensure that the object is still SMART.
If these seem overwhelming and you don’t know where to start, we can help. It does not matter if you in early stages of trying to address a business problem, reduce costs, or in the middle of an implementation that is not working out where fresh perspectives might be valuable to you. We can help.