Cloudy outlook

Should modern business embrace the Cloud?

It’s not often that IT people get to discuss a subject that the rest of us are prepared to entertain. IT remains a Dark Art, peopled by the bright and the uncommunicative. At worst they display a form of autism, typified by the use of acronymic language. At best they are that slightly weird bloke at the end of the meeting table, who occasionally throws in a reason why a sensible business improvement cannot be executed.Cloud-Computing

Fifteen years ago they had our attention by suggesting a Doomsday scenario that their antecedents had failed to predict. Through our reliance on binary coding, they warned that we faced the imminent possibility that every computerised machine, environment or process would fail at one second past midnight on 31 December 1999.

For three years before that, they and their kin found themselves to be suddenly very important. Their parish extended to encompass people in organisations (or consultants) who had lost their relevance. These insignificants (in the Army we used to call them PONTI’s – People of No Tactical Importance) suddenly became Millenium Preparedness Experts. They were taken out, dusted down and given clipboards and committees with the mandate to ensure that their organisations were compliant. The problem was, no one knew what compliance meant. Not up until the final second, when it became clear that it had meant nothing.

For three years the IT community trod the corridors of power imbued with a sacerdotal significance. Then ‘the next day’ dawned and we did not wake to a world of aircraft wrecks, crazed checkouts and seized lifts. Nothing had changed. In North Korea, the geeks would have been formed up and marched out in front of the anti-aircraft guns.

So it’s no surprise really that serious business has not embraced Cloud data storage unreservedly. Globally the biggest reservations are about privacy and security. In human terms, that means that we don’t quite trust it.

Personally I think it would be quite fun (in response to a CFO’s request for the last 10 years’ audited accounts) to run into her office and shout ‘They’re in the Cloud!’ But not all business people share my irreverent sense of humour.

As far as I can tell, the Cloud uses storage capacity in the global IT-sphere to store large amounts of data cheaply or free. As with any claim made to me by any marketer, I have asked myself the question ‘so what?’

I like to get to the benefit as soon as possible, particularly in matters of numeracy or technology. And the benefit seems to be that fact that most of us won’t have to buy as much computer hardware as we used to. To an SMW, a home-based business or a freelancer that is a significant boon. And I suspect it will be to bigger enterprises too.

Imagine  – a whole line in Depreciation will cease to feature in company accounts. Having to buy a server will become irrelevant. And just as well too. In my long experience servers never have enough capacity, fail at just the wrong moment and at some stage force you to buy a server room. That is a secret, air-conditioned chamber with a password entry control wherein the IT community eats chips, browses porn and trolls innocent people on social media. Good riddance I say!

I’m not about to enter the debate about whether banks or Defence Departments should use the Cloud, because many of them already do. KPMG’s latest Cloud Survey classifies banks, security agencies, and Governments as Cloud Focussed (as opposed to Cloud Explorers or Cloud Beginners). It reveals that the top 3 ways these organisations are using the Cloud is for Driving Cost Efficiencies (49%), Better Enabling Mobile Workforces (42%) and Improving Alignment With Customers And Partners (37%). All rather broad headings but … you get the direction.

Here are some other areas of activity that are already benefitting from the Cloud.

  • Retail, especially at peak sales times where customer and transaction data bulges.
  • Entertainment, where streaming is becoming the preferred way for people to enjoy audio, audio visual and gaming content.
  • True enterprise, where clever people are seeing opportunities for high data businesses like Uber, Square, Chipotle, and Amazon.
  • App creators and retailers.
  • Start-ups and small businesses with tight infrastructure budgets.

Obviously I realise that we need to be prudent. A million personal medical files require more careful curation that the monthly accounts of The Brand Inside. But here and now in Africa, we have no business being Luddites. It’s time to get on board and make the most of the Cloud.


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