The cloud is coming whether you like it or not.
Forget about running away or hiding your head in the sand. It’s out there. It’s happening right now. Oh you don’t think so? Think again.
I guarantee if you asked your IT executives how much your employees use cloud applications, chances are they would say 1 percent or maybe 10 percent, but not much more. The Powers that Be don’t understand just how widespread the use of cloud apps actually is.
If you go down in the trenches and ask IT staffers how many are using the cloud and you are likely to get a much higher percentage answering in the affirmative. How many are using a free Box.net or Dropbox account to share files with one another or their home PCs? How many programmers are sandboxing a project on Amazon S3? How about sales and marketing? Are they using Salesforce.com? Mail? How many are using Gmail?
And don’t get me started on mobile devices. You do realize how powerful these apps are becoming, don’t you? Think about how much pure computing and data sharing is possible on a smart phone these days. It’s a lot. You can access content inside the firewall with some mobile content management apps running on your iPhone or Blackberry or Android. It’s all out there and it’s really, really easy.
It’s really time to get real about this because if it’s easier to use than your in-house apps, and these applications probably are, your employees are using them, trust me on this one. You can pretend otherwise, but why bother? What’s done is done. The question becomes what do you do about it?
You can argue until the cows home about the fact that it’s unreliable. You can point to recent Facebook and FourSquare outages. You can point to the big GMail outage earlier this year. It doesn’t matter. Your employees can point to the last time your Exchange server went down for 4 hours. They get that software is fallible no matter where it lives. Do you?
Once you get past the denial stage, it’s time to take action. Once you understand the nature of the problem, you can begin to understand that you have to get a grip on the data moving outside of your control, or you can begin to face the fact that a lot of data is going to be out of your control moving forward.
Sure, you can try to lock the house down and lots of companies will try, but with smart phones and USB drives and general data portability, it’s shoveling you know what against the tide.
You need to get a grip on what you can control and that means understanding the services that are available, which ones your users prefer and forging agreements with service providers. Further, it means understanding who owns your data, who controls it in the event of legal action and what happens if someone goes around you to the vendor with a legal or regulatory request.
Finally, it means understanding that where cloud services are concerned, your role as IT administrator changes from the nuts and bolts of running the whole shebang to administering and overseeing the relationship with the service provider.
It’s up to you though, you can pretend it’s not happening and let it happen around you anyway, or you can control what you can control and understand the changing role of IT in a cloud services world. Your choice.