DWP Insights: Cloud Integration

Let’s first define what we mean by the cloud. In simple terms, the cloud can be considered the internet and a cloud service is any service on the internet – whether it’s software, a platform or infrastructure.

What if I told you that you’re already integrated?

To some extent, it’s likely that you’re already integrated with the cloud today; what with your Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud and OneDrive subscriptions; all changing the way in which you store and think about information. Then there’s e-mail – most consumers just don’t go it alone with buying web space, a domain name and an e-mail service anymore, rather instead, they’ll create an account with Gmail, Outlook.com or Yahoo Mail. These are all cloud services.

Soon we’ll all have magnetic screens mounted on our refrigerators which will play music, retrieve photos and recipes as well as build shopping lists and send them to your mobile devices as you near a supermarket; and without any significant on-device storage, it’ll rely heavily on cloud services.

Alright, you get the idea… But there’s an important consequence to this; an ever increasing expectation of the workforce is that the technology and services provided by their IT department should at least match the quality and responsiveness that is expected of such cloud services.

Employees are already using Cloud services

Start-ups today have a vast array of easy-to-use, commodity cloud services at their fingertips; they are no longer held back by the cost of technology and upfront investments. Due to this, the large majority of them set up their entire IT estate somewhere in the cloud, and why not? With little-to-no legacy IT, they’re able to make a fresh start and are cloud integrated from day 1. Probably the most compelling benefit of this approach is low cost, always-on productivity, wherever you are.

For more established organisations, the shift can seem a little more daunting, if at all possible. But there’s nothing to say that you must push all of your IT to the cloud (and nor should you). So why should you leverage the cloud and how?

The why is reasonably simple – Employees just want to do their jobs and IT is perceived to be unresponsive. Despite the risks associated with using non-standard tools, employees continue to use consumer-level tools that they know and are comfortable with – in many cases, on their own devices. There’s nothing sinister or rebellious in this, it’s simply a bunch of people, working together and trying to be as efficient as possible – that is after all what you encourage them to do, right?

The result is a Bring Your Own Cloud (BYOC) scenario, also referred to as Shadow IT. 

The how is perhaps a little more tricky – One option would be to set a policy to outlaw cloud service usage, but that would be incredibly difficult to enforce, especially with employees increasingly using their own devices for work tasks.

Instead of a restrictive policy, banishing the use of cloud services – because let’s face it, it would not be 100% effective – it’s time to sit together with the relevant stakeholders and build an approach that empowers employees and protects your corporate assets.

Don’t be nervous, clouds don’t bite

Much like the Start-Ups, many established businesses are also sold on the cost savings and efficiencies of the cloud, but face significant challenges in getting there; whether for organisational or political reasons. In fact, quite possibly the biggest barrier to cloud is data privacy; and to that I often say “Sure, it’s well understood that you have some data that you’d rather keep under lock and key, but that’s not to stop you from pushing other, non-sensitive workloads to a cost effective and more efficient cloud model”.

In fact, thinking about your business processes in terms of workloads often helps to determine what may be candidates for cloud services. For instance, a common requirement among many of the organisations I speak with is External Collaboration and It’s quite often the case that IT aren’t geared up to authenticate external identities, just as security and compliance aren’t always so willing to take on the risks of opening up corporate networks.

Since External Collaboration typically doesn’t involve highly confidential data, it would be very easy to argue the case for such a service on an integrated Cloud platform. Points of integration may include Search; the ability to search Cloud data stores from on premises systems (or vice versa) and Workflow; a business process may begin on-premises and populate a cloud system for partner interaction.

Be prepared

Whatever your policy and approach to cloud services, you can bank on one thing: they’re going to be around for quite some time, and employees – with or without approval or policy – will continue to use them for work tasks.

Instead of spending time fighting the trend and putting policies in place to prevent usage, you’ll see many more benefits by embracing the shift, not only providing a model under which it’s acceptable for employees to use cloud services, but also finding ways to integrate them with your existing systems.

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Jason Dunbar

Jason Dunbar

Jason is a Microsoft evangelist with many years experience as a SharePoint Architect.
Jason Dunbar
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DWP Insights: Cloud Integration
DWP Insights: Cloud Integration
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Atos Consulting CH
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