Nine in ten European enterprises who use cloud computing report tangible benefits such as better processes and lower costs, according to Ovum. More than half of them plan to spend more on cloud services in 2015. But the majority are playing it safe, largely using cloud deployments for tactical outcomes, even though they agree that the cloud could help solve their toughest business challenges.
Businesses are cautious for three reasons. One is security. No longer is corporate data kept safely wrapped in a dedicated, closed network but stored and transmitted in a virtual environment, which blurs the border between public and private connectivity.
Compliance is another big issue, with data sovereignty a particular concern. European businesses worry about how to comply with current and future legislation, and the risks of operating where regulation is unclear. They fear that the burden of compliance could outweigh any benefits they might gain from pushing cloud service deeper into the organisation.
Private clouds currently predominate (unsurprisingly, this is where enterprises keep sensitive and high value corporate assets) but almost half of European enterprises plan to have a hybrid cloud environment within two years. With a hybrid cloud, a CIO bent on innovation can then encourage local IT creativity, safely inside a robust framework that imposes high security standards.
However, hybrid clouds are not to be undertaken lightly: complexity breeds risk. Hence the third reason for caution is a lack of skills, especially in mid-sized organisations. It takes a special set of consulting know how and practical experience to construct and operate a hybrid cloud environment. Most enterprises do not have these skills and experience and are understandably reluctant to embark on more strategic cloud adventures.
An independent, third party provider can act as ‘honest broker’, and help the CIO navigate through the private and public cloud options, work out the best hybrid configuration for each objective and then seamlessly stitch them all together.
Networked IT service providers must be front-runners for this role of trusted provider. Not only do they have the skills and knowledge to weigh up the technical and commercial merits of different cloud choices, but they also bridge the cultural divide between network and data centre.
Networked IT service providers are geared to delivering industrial-strength connectivity. Providers with vertical market sector expertise will already understand industry-specific KPIs, core applications and compliance requirements, making it easier and faster to get up and running.
In summary, enterprises want to do a lot more with cloud computing, but are held back by well-placed concerns over security, and a lack of specialist skills. Savvy CIOs will turn to their trusted network service providers, who will help put together a cloud formation fit for each purpose. With such an approach, enterprises can use the cloud with confidence for truly strategic outcomes.