The Cloud, The Cloud, The Cloud – I hate “The Cloud”

English: Cloud Computing ImageWell, I don’t really “hate” the cloud, but I do find myself frustrated from time-to-time when I hear technology acronyms and buzzwords blatantly thrown around without a full understand of their meaning, context , or even the usage of the platforms to which they relate.

The latest in buzzwords thrown around for the last few years has been “the cloud”. “We need to move to the cloud.” “The cloud is where business prospers.” “We need the cloud at our company to be successful.” “IT is costing us too much money, we need to switch to the cloud.” Oh how I loathe to hear these famous catch phrases. Well, I am sorry to burst your wonderful buzzword bubble, but…. the cloud has always existed. You’ve only just heard of it because the guerrilla marketing folks needed something new to grab people’s attention, tricking unsuspecting managers into thinking that paying monthly fees for the same services they already utilized, was actually… well.. good for business. Well that isn’t always the case.

The cloud is nothing new, the cloud is nothing more than servers, and software, and people used to help businesses manage information, excel, and become more competitive. Putting your business “in the cloud” is not a game-changer for your business. It won’t be cheaper for large businesses, it will not be faster, and it is not going to be any more flexible or scalable than “keeping-it-in-house”. These systems are  managed globally by people, who in most cases are half-way across the world, with little to no knowledge or care about your business. They simply read from a script. Yes, that’s right, they are reading from a script. More than likely they have little in-depth knowledge of Information Technology.

Cloud computing comes to NERSCThese marketing guys are great. My brother tells me so many humorous stories of how these marketers ( He is one of them by the way) can take something cheap and worthless, put it in a pretty wrapper, throw some new buzzwords at it, and poof – the new hottest new buzz-toy on the market. The problem with putting things in the cloud is that it doesn’t provide you with anything better than what you have in the resources you already have and employ on a daily basis.

Here’s what the cloud really means – The cloud really means Outsourcing, Recurring Monthly Fees, Extra Charges (because that is not part of your contract). It also includes unhappy internal customers, increased service level times, lack of business awareness, decreased sense of urgency, job losses, contract rate hikes, technology updates, and on and on ad nausea. Many businesses are returning to an in-house model, because of these very reasons. It just doesn’t make things better for large businesses.

Small businesses have a better shot of getting ahead through outsourcing or being “cloud-based“. These businesses are the ones that benefit from the “group buying power” that is one of the base principles of “the cloud”. Outsourcing your infrastructure and development in a large environment is as Mike Gross says, “tricky at best, and a morale killer in the least – it makes strategic changes costly and time-consuming, and the fees are rarely ever a recoverable ROI.” The ROI is not really existent in large businesses, period. Initially it might look that way, but in the end, it really isn’t. Your Return On Investment comes from strategic plays that your information technology departments make to streamline the infrastructure and development of your systems.

Businesses should begin partnering with their IT departments again. After all, they are there in your best interests. Sometimes it is difficult to discuss plans with these concrete thinkers, but I implore you to set down with a group of them, and discuss your goals. Including them in your plan WILL result in a much better, cleaner, and cost-effective solution. I guarantee it. I’ve done it! I’ve succeeded in this realm to the extent that I was asked to never leave the company. I’ve had businesses buyout the companies I’ve worked for, only to implement the infrastructures that I have put into place. Discovery, collaboration, and planning were the tools I employed to get the job done in all of those successful instances.

If you really want a good ROI, you need to employ people who are vested in your business success. You will find that many local “IT guys” are vested, if you will only include them in the mix. Quit looking at your IT group as a cost center, quit throwing around buzz words because you think it makes your business cutting edge. Start listening, collaborating, and planning – these are the keys to success, not buzzwords that are nothing more than snake-oil.  Team beats individual any day of the week. Any Wood Badge member can tell you that.

Lastly, thanks go out to a fellow information technology colleague Mike Gross for his input on this subject.

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