Keeping IT simple not an option as complexity emerges from the cloud
Keeping IT simple is a luxury most growing businesses cannot afford. Today, every business needs to communicate and keep track of finances on computers. Many also design, order, build or manufacture, track or test some aspect of their products or services on computers. We not only need to store our information, we also need to manage interactions between different locations and tools.
Right now, we are seeing a fast uptake of new technologies that set businesses apart. In Australia, there are businesses growing in many sectors and it is the companies shaking off the turmoil of the past couple of years that are leading the way in technology decisions. More and more, I am seeing businesses choose cloud-based technology for aspects of their operations, and more applications are now coming to market in a “connect me” model rather than an “install me” solution.
We have been talking about cloud solutions for two years now, but it is really only in the last few months that we’ve seen real take-up of these technologies in businesses other than the early adopters. Even Microsoft has announced the early release of its Office Online solution this week – Office 365 – along with the release of hosted Exchange Server 2010 to replace the 2007 offering now available.
In any business, IT must be about productivity, efficiency and communication – with a strong focus on cost. We are starting to see cloud-based solutions that are cost-competitive with installed software, and the pace of change is faster than I have seen in our industry before.
People are talking about cloud solutions as a “disruptive technology”, meaning that it will change the way an entire industry works. I actually believe it will change the way all industries work. This means that there are lots of opportunities for new solutions. It also means lots of jobs are about to vanish. I, for one, would not like to work in the tape backup industry this year. As backup moves to online solutions, or vanishes altogether, tapes will become almost obsolete.
With so much happening, it is time for all businesses to assess their IT strategy and ensure they are discovering the new tools, and the benefits, that are becoming available to solve their problems. Doing IT just like you did last year is probably not going to cut it for much longer.
Of course, we need to think about who is providing the hosted technologies we select, and be sure they’re not about to go out of business and take our data with them. We also need to ensure that data remains our property and that we can take it somewhere else if we want to (or at least be able to reduce the cost to a hosting fee, and have read-only access to what is there).
We also need to be certain that the solutions we choose are secure. While that sounds obvious, how does a non-IT business test security? That is a difficult question to answer, so branding, reputation and scale all play a part in building consumer faith.
So, is there a bright side to all this chaos?
I think there is. Once we’ve all adopted cloud-based solutions for our applications, we’ll have lower ongoing IT costs, reduced management needs and better data protection than we have today. We just need to get through the turmoil of the next few years and see who emerges as the global dominator (or dominators) of this space.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think it will get simpler – in fact, quite the opposite. We’ll have more devices connecting to more systems, and integrating more information from more places. Our networks will be more complex, our choices will become broader and the skills we need will become more specialised. Finding good people to manage this change in your business is going to be a massive challenge, as old IT skills become outdated faster than ever before.
Perhaps the best business to be in right now is IT training, as we need somebody to train the new wave of IT professionals who will all be perpetual students (my team included). Sorry, but I don’t see an end to this any time soon…
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David Markus is the founder of Combo - the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.