Great Debate: Cloud Computing: SMB's only IT department?

Moderated by Josh Gingold | January 23, 2012 -- 07:00 GMT (23:00 PST)

Summary: Will the cloud eventually enable smaller companies to do away with their IT departments?

Christopher Dawson

Christopher Dawson

Yes

or

No

Heather Clancy

Heather Clancy

Best Argument: No

Closing Statements

Vital in this economy

Christopher Dawson

The cloud is the best thing to happen to small businesses since, well, since a long time ago.  Software as a Service allows businesses to scale quickly and pull back in truly flexible ways that are vital in a post-recession economy and  allow even the smallest of businesses to build international reach and access markets growing far faster than those in developed economies. Countless service providers have built their own businesses around managing cloud deployments, allowing many SMBs to set aside the hassle and expense of capital IT expenditures and management of on-premise technologies.

Although SMBs clearly need to be able to "talk tech", they don't need to do everything themselves anymore and certainly don't need to devote significant time or capital expense to technology issues. Rather, the cloud and related services allow businesses to focus on strategic maneuvers and the use of technology to advance their businesses. 

IT become more strategic

Heather Clancy

Small companies should absolutely replace certain on-premise applications and infrastructure with cloud-delivered services. But that doesn’t mean they can cede every nuance of IT strategy to someone outside the company.

The bigger your company, the bigger the chances it must manage a hybrid IT environment that includes some on-premise technologies and some cloud-delivered services. That will require IT experts who can keep these hybrid environments running smoothly. It doesn't matter whether you tap an outside expert or someone in-house, you'll still need to assign someone to manage this function.

That's because SMBs will need to someone to provide holistic view of their IT infrastructure – regardless of where it lives. They will need someone to make sure things are working together and to address situations when there isn’t a seamless experience or when things break outright.

Certainly SMBs will be freed from many burdens of IT management, if they choose a cloud approach. If anything, that will elevate IT management to an even more strategic role within the company.

We're not ready yet

Josh Gingold

 

Without a doubt, cloud-based services are indeed replacing many of the traditional on-premise services that require more hands-on IT administration.  In some cases, it certainly is possible (and maybe even  a good idea) to move an entire SMB to the cloud. But for the vast majority of us there are still too many concerns to actually make it feasible without some sort of in-house expertise if for no other reason than strategic, business, and technical decision making.

While there are certainly many benefits in terms of reducing costs, converting CapEx to OpEx, simplified backup and recovery, providing new services, etc., many important concerns remain regarding the ultimate command-and-control of business technology and information.

The Internet (a.k.a. the cloud) is not quite as ubiquitous as electricity or telephones just yet and until that's the case, it probably isn't prudent to think of cloud services the same way we think of utilities.  The business-critical nature of information management simply demands much more oversight and strategic thinking which in-turn requires more than a tactical understanding of the business.

In this case, as in so many others, there's a big difference between what we can do and what we should do.  In other words, as much as I want to agree with Chris's point of view, I don't think we're there just yet and I have to declare Heather the winner.  Obviously, most of this audience agrees.

Talkback

28 comments
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  • RE: Great Debate: Cloud Computing: SMB's only IT department?

    Custom development may be deployed to the cloud, but it will likely happenin house. Someone from the company is going to have to manage apps regardless of what is being outsourced.
    bmonsterman
    Reply Vote I'm for No
  • RE: Great Debate: Cloud Computing: SMB's only IT department?

    I think companies need to realize that IT is part of any business model, period. If you feel that you can get away with having an IT staff and save money by implementing a DIY, then I can only assume you want your business to fail.
    MilitaryGeek
    Reply Vote I'm for No
  • Privacy concerns

    You didn't mention security. I think there will always be privacy concerns and so any business worth its salt will at least need to retain some data on premises.
    vgrazi
    Reply Vote I'm for No
    • RE: Great Debate: Cloud Computing: SMB's only IT department?

      @vgrazi

      Sir,

      I became Active in the Air Force in 97 and Security was important then, so when I got out in 07, it seems that Security wasn't important 10 years later. So do still feel that SMBs are truly understanding the importance of Security?

      If the answer is yes, then there shouldn't be any debate at all about having an IT staff in any business, regardless on the size or complexity of the business. Any thoughts???
      MilitaryGeek
      Reply Vote I'm for No
      • RE: Great Debate: Cloud Computing: SMB's only IT department?

        @MilitaryGeek Really? The more difficult you make it for folks to do their job the more likely they will try to do the job on the sly. Security in this day and age is a misnomer - are you going to take away their phones, which they need so the can be available 24x7? And will that lone IT person give their id and password to someone to cover for them - or their SecureID? IT doesn't have the training or skills to understand the behavioral side of technology - which is both the biggest risk and biggest upside potential they face.
        devils_advocate
        Reply Vote I'm for Yes
  • RE: Great Debate: Cloud Computing: SMB's only IT department?

    We have IT consultants instead of a department, and no cloud. The question is meaningless for many companies.
    hayneiii@...
    Reply Vote I'm Undecided
  • RE: Great Debate: Cloud Computing: SMB's only IT department?

    As the CEO/CTO of an SMB, and working on a private cloud system, I am busier, not less busy. The cloud can provide many things, but the providers can't provide us the exact tools for our specific business. Someone needs to write/adapt those. The person in charge of that is me. To expect/allow the cloud provider to do it would be suicidal to this company.
    mheartwood
    Reply Vote I'm for No
  • RE: Great Debate: Cloud Computing: SMB's only IT department?

    Cloud Computing may solve the issues with software installation/updating. But i am the only IT person in the SMB i work for and they could not survive without an IT person here. Simple tasks such as attaching files to an email or ftp upload/downloading. Trying to open files over and over that have no file ext association. i know of very very few IT consultants that respond to there clients in a quick fashion. and if this is available i am certain that it will cost you much more than inhouse IT.
    MLHACK
    Reply Vote I'm for No
  • Vendor Oversight

    Not every SMB can get away with outsourcing without having to manage the vendor. A small community bank cannot get away with telling the FDIC we let the cloud provider do it all without someone in an IT role overseeing the operation.
    Middle_Age_Man
    Reply Vote I'm for No
  • RE: Great Debate: Cloud Computing: SMB's only IT department?

    I handle the IT at my firm. I would still need to handle inside IT, whether our programs and data were stored on our servers or in the cloud. Except for occasional fits and starts, most of my IT time is not directed toward database management or actual programming fixes.
    Warprints
    Reply Vote I'm for No