Earlier this week, I had the honor of taking on my ZDNet commentator Chris Dawson in one of our site's ongoing "Great Debate" discussions. The question we were pondering: Is it possible for small and midsize businesses to completely ditch their internal IT organization if they move all of their technology infrastructure and applications into the cloud?
I got to argue the nay-sayer side, even though in my heart, I feel passionately that the cloud will revolutionize how SMBs handle their technology strategies. Apparently, a majority of those of you who took time to vote on our arguments side with me on this one. (Thank you!)
It isn't that I don't believe in the cloud's ability to transform how businesses of all sizes access computing capacity. Rather, it is because I believe moving into the cloud will require SMBs to think even more strategically about the technology services they are buying. That will require them to manage the decisions carefully.
Here are three big reasons why:
- Your organization will need to manage its data even more carefully than in the past. That is because your team will need to understand which information is really relevant, which files and content require special security, and so on. You will also need to ask questions about the back-up and data recovery capabilities of the cloud service your organization is considering. Are you comfortable that your data will be adequately protected? How quickly will you gain access if the service goes down? You need someone to manage the service level agreements.
- Your organization will need a holistic view. On paper, it seems pretty cool to let your human resources department find and adopt the cloud-delivered software application that works best for the team. Ditto, the manufacturing organization. Or the marketing guys. But if you allow your entire company to start purchasing software in this way, your view of how all those applications work together will be pretty fragmented. I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't let the people who must use the applications select them, but someone who is acquainted with the bigger picture needs to understand if the terms of service are appropriate for your company. And they must consider how any given service will behave when integrated with others across the entire business.
- Unless your organization is a startup, it will probably support a hybrid mixture of on-premise and cloud-served technologies. This issue is somewhat related to what I'm talking in point No. 2. It comes down to whether you want things to work together or not. But if you don't have someone to manage how an cloud-served email service, as an example, works with internal access requirements, you'll be facing a potential security issue.
All of these issues point to the need for a small business to invest in some sort of IT management strategy -- whether or not that person happens to be on the company's payroll or whether he or she is an outside IT services expert who can make informed, thoughtful decisions on your company's behalf.
The cloud will absolutely help small and midsize businesses sidestep some of the capital investments that might have had to consider in the past. But if anything, it will force IT professionals to think even more strategically about which applications or services are being adopted, and why. And it will take ongoing management of these services to keep cloud-sourced environments running smoothly.