Though my personal technology needs aren’t much more than a PC that fires up reliably and a solid internet connection, my role as an executive search professional requires me to have a solid understanding of technology, and what it takes to run a large corporate IT function. I talk to dozens of technology professionals each week, from software executives to CIOs, and about six months ago I noticed the term cloud entering everyone’s vocabulary. I’ll admit, the first time someone told me their next career move would be “to the cloud space,” I scratched my head in confusion as I envisioned them launching off in a shuttle to the moon. Now I seem to discuss the cloud at least once a day. With Apple’s recent debut of its cloud based iTunes Match, which allows users to have instant access to their entire music library from all of their Apple devices, everyone seems to be talking about the cloud. Still in the dark? The following is what I’ve learned from some of the executives who are on cloud nine:
Old technology, innovative usage: Anytime your data is hosted by a third party, you are essentially using a cloud. Facebook is a great example of a cloud, since they offer third party storage for profile information and photos. Blogspot, Word Press and Photobucket are other examples of cloud technology that the general public utilizes every day. The new concept behind cloud computing that’s causing all the fuss is the idea that large organizations can utilize clouds to address their enterprise wide technology needs.
More bang for the buck: Cloud computing is shifting the CIO/CFO conversation. A recent KPMG study revealed that a whopping 73% of CFOs identified IT as the greatest risk to finance meeting its objectives. Cloud computing will allow the CIO to bring the true operational costs of a pay as you use system to the table, instead of trying to gain buy in on capital expenditures such as infrastructure and software that may or may not end up being worth the high price tag in the end.
Or is it…?: Software companies are addressing the popular debate about whether a shift towards cloud technology is really less expensive, or if it just a different way of facilitating IT. HP, for one, has introduced their IT Financial Management software. It automates the reporting of IT financial data to make IT spending transparent, with the goal (if I can infer from the product website ) of being an accurate comparison of current IT expenditures vs. a shift to the cloud.
HR’s best friend: Moving HR to the cloud eliminates the need for time intensive, disruptive global software rollouts and upgrades. It also allows for much more robust and interactive HRIS systems, without the cost typically associated with implementing such a system today. HR software via cloud can be rolled out very quickly and can be upgraded continuously as new features become available. In essence, it will allow HR to stop focusing on technology and project management, and keep their eyes on HR process and strategy.
Let’s talk security: One of the hottest debates surrounding cloud computing is that of security, and you’ll often hear the terms “public” and “private” clouds. Private clouds aren’t really clouds in the true sense, as they are internally built and managed by an organization. A public cloud is managed by a third party vendor, which some argue could put the confidential internal information of large corporations or government entities at risk. Proponents of cloud technology counter that argument vehemently by reminding us that people hired to manage cloud systems are highly qualified and educated top notch IT professionals. They say that security is a risk regardless of where your information is hosted and, in this case, the cloud poses no greater risk than if one of your employees were to walk out the front door with a loaded flash drive in their pocket.
Cloud computing creates jobs: Certainly, the role of the IT professional is expected to change tremendously as cloud technology becomes mainstream. Companies will no longer need to employ large IT departments to oversee their infrastructure as service providers take over that responsibility. Still, migration to cloud computing is expected to produce more than 2.4 million jobs in Europe and the Middle East alone over the next four years. Software giant EMC has even rolled out a Cloud Architect certification recently, with several other industry leaders following suit.
Just as our children will never operate a rotary phone or turn a dial to change the TV channel, I imagine the IT server room down the hall from your office will become a distant memory as companies move their IT operations to the cloud. Whether you embrace it, fear it, or have yet to form an opinion, cloud computing has already come up over the horizon, and has a bright future ahead of it.