Does the cloud fit the corporation?
When reviewing their IT portfolios to find good cloud candidates, IT managers need to consider how well the function or service would fit into the greater corporate environment if it was outsourced.
For example, if a company is in a heavily regulated industry, it should choose a cloud service provider that adheres to the same regulations it does. The cloud provider should be able to prove its compliance and detail how audits will be conducted so customers don't put themselves at risk of unknowingly violating the law by, say, shipping HIPAA-protected data to a service provider that isn't in compliance with HIPAA's data privacy rules, says Greene of The Scooter Store, which partners with health insurance companies and is therefore subject to HIPAA regulations.
"What does your particular industry require as far as locking down and securing information? You need to pick a vendor that matches that, as well as your own company policies," says Greene. "Otherwise you can get yourself in a jam quickly."
When examining cloud options, businesses also need to consider what their tolerance is for latency, and determine how one slow application could affect the entire environment.
Beyond just setting a minimum acceptable response time for cloud-based applications, companies should test applications in the cloud and get a feel for what typical usage will be like, so users will know what will be considered "normal" once an application is moved to the cloud, says The Corporate Executive Board's Tonsetic.
"What really affects the customer experience is the level of variation in what [performance] they're experiencing," he says. "It's like commuting; my commute may not be fun, but it's consistent."
Cloud computing: Worth doing right
Embarking on a cloud computing project may take extensive research and preparation, but the payoff can be significant when everything is done correctly. In order to realize the promised reductions in cost, complexity and time to launch, companies need to make sure they pick the right projects to send to the cloud.
Have your say
"From a business point of view," says Tonsetic, "it's important to understand cloud computing's capabilities and match those to opportunities, then evaluate different technologies and vendors."
Garretson is a freelance writer in the Washington, D.C., area. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.