cloud-whiteboardWhen I first heard about the Cloud it was 2001 while working at HP Consulting. I worked with the Innovation Group with HP and we had partnered with a US Telco to provide online application services (AKA Application Service Provider). The services to be provided were Email, Calendar, Web Sites and Data shares with options to add on more applications and services. Back in the day, this was undiscovered country, there were many technical and commercial issues but the project did go live after two years.

Fast forward to today and The Cloud is highly used term for outsourcing services in a turn-key manner. No longer do I have to worry about data centers, staffing, infrastructure and other capital costs and project that can take forever to implement. Specifically, we now have choices for deploying IT services whether they be on premise, cloud based or a hybrid. My perspective is one of someone that Managed large SharePoint environments and has consulted for several years and witnessed several trends come and go.

The benefits of the Cloud are Turnkey provisioning of services with minimal or no capital outlay from a technology perspective. The Data Center experiences minimal impacts with exception to greater network load depending on the Cloud option you chose. Some key points:

  • You pay an annuity fee based on a subscriber model which is a simple commercial model vs on premise when managing licensing, maintenance etc.
  • You no longer have to be concerned about upkeep with Service Packs and Cumulative updates which heavily burden IT departments.
  • Your offering can now easily be accessed by mobile employees, business partners and clients. You’re not herding cats trying to manage infrastructure, SQL and SharePoint teams and probably others depending on your organizations size and outsourcing.
  • Note I would argue that most of the IT departments time is taken up managing updates, QA testing for updates, firefighting infrastructure (plumbing) problems and not really providing much other Business and IT value.
  • Your organization can now focus on innovation and other highly visible aspects of the service that add business value.
  • Will probably be more stable than your on Premise offering because the vender is held to a Service level agreement by many organizations and they know how to manage and operate their product better.

The downside of The Cloud is that you are giving up control, it’s a balancing act when managing cost vs control vs features and transparency of service. Many of my experience managing SharePoint and the associated pains were due to lack of transparency (IT department politics) and stakeholder conflict and mistrust. Some key points:

  • Your security and record mgmt. teams might put up roadblocks due to risks associated with placing user information and data in the cloud (don’t confuse security in The Cloud with the security and privacy issues of placing data outside your organizations walls).
  • Just because you have outsourced doesn’t mean you won’t be dealing with operational tasks ensuring security and data compliance and managing provision lifecycle of site collections and sites.
  • Everything above the hosting stack (servers) is still yours to manage.
  • Who is going to migrate all the data? Who will make sure a information architecture is followed for usability/find-ability purposes? Make sure security is correct? What process tools will you use?
  • Many are leveraging SharePoint for composite applications, integrating EDRM tools and other, in The Cloud your limited here depending on the option you chose.

So how do I approach The Cloud to get started?

  • Work with stakeholders to document what the opportunity is, problems being addressed, opportunities to enable and outcomes to expect.
  • Work with stakeholders to document the expected service levels such as availability, provisioning timeframes, reporting needs etc.
  • Conduct a risk planning session with the stakeholders to surface risks from their point of view.
  • Document the risks associated with The Cloud form a business, operational and technology perspective.
  • Work with your security and compliance team to make sure The Cloud is feasible.
  • Should you decide to utilize The Cloud create a comprehensive plan for your cloud service looping in your stakeholders.
  • Create a solid control plan for aggressively managing data policy compliance, security compliance and provisioning lifecycle.

Needless to say there is much more work involved then mention about but these points will get you started and help you better understand the task at hand and if there are organizational impasses you will discover them quickly.

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