Why to NOT Move to the Cloud?
If you have well-defined project objectives and have built consensus with senior leadership related to these objectives, for many organizations a cloud solution may be the optimal way to deliver on your communications, collaboration and/or customer service goals.
In the first part of this “Why Cloud?” series, I outlined five benefits a cloud solution might deliver: cost savings, converting CapEx to OpEx, reducing complexity, allowing you to reassign or eliminate IT staff, providing an improved user experience.
Notwithstanding these potential benefits, it is important to understand actual and perceived obstacles some organizations encounter when they consider adopting a cloud-based solution.
- Security concerns – When you deploy an on-premises solution you control and oversee all the moving parts. This can make you feel secure and confident. Many times though this is a false sense of security. IT Admins certainly have access to all mail, chat, conversations and call records. And a disgruntled IT staff member knows who is important in your organization, so they can “dig in the right spot.” In contrast, a cloud solution requires you to put your faith in staff you do not know and people you do not directly control, except as part of your purchase agreement. That being said, almost all cloud providers have far more to lose through a security breach than does your own IT staff. As such, cloud provider security processes are often more stringently enforced and audited, to ensure they are being followed, on a regular basis. Except in very unique circumstances, a cloud solution is no less secure and very well may be more secure than an on-premises equivalent.
- Redundancy requirements – With both a cloud-based solution and a centralized on-premises solution, if you lose connection to the central data center (whether it is owned by you or the vendor) then you lose functionality. Both on-premises and cloud vendors mitigate these risks by having multiple data centers. However, if you have a single network connection to the data center you still have a single point of failure. In years gone by, with highly distributed voice systems a voice processing unit (a.k.a. PBX) was installed at each location, providing more granular distribution of processing assuming your PSTN carrier did not experience an outage; and even now the PSTN achieves the “gold standard” for availability so outages, based on local equipment failures, were localized and usually impacted only a small portion of an organization. Of course, highly distributed systems were a pain to maintain, often implemented inconsistent rules and were not cost effective.
- Data residency issues – When you deploy an application on your servers in your data center(s) you know where information is stored. With cloud solutions this becomes complicated. For smaller organizations based in a single country, it may be possible to choose a cloud solution that ensures all of your data and metadata remains in country. For larger, multi-national organizations, understanding where your data is stored can be both complex and important.
- Cost concerns – One of the key drivers for deploying on-premises unified communications solutions was cost savings from moving conferencing services away from hosting providers. In some cases, large organizations saved millions or tens of millions of dollars, virtually paying for the entire UC project. Now with many collaboration + UC solutions moving back to the cloud, organizations need to make sure that licensing and on-going costs (e.g. per minute conferencing costs) don’t come as a shock. Do the math!
- Functionality – Cloud solutions may offer features not available with on-premises solutions (e.g. AI services); however, cloud solutions may have different features or deliver similar features in a different way when compared to on-premises solutions. The objective is not to ensure a cloud solution has all the features of your current on-premises solution; but rather, to make sure the cloud solution has the features you plan to use in the future, which may be different than those you are using now. Transitioning platforms is a great time to re-evaluate and improve business processes.
- Impact to End Users – A cloud solution may offer new features, but these new features may come along with a new, and in some cases very different, user interface experience. Considering change management and how much change your end users are willing to accommodate is important in any transitional project. What projects have recently impacted end users? What other projects are planned over the next 12 months?
- General unease – Having your own servers in your own data centers makes it feel like you are in complete control; it is like driving a motorcycle as opposed to being a passenger, hanging on for dear life. For some IT professionals, ceding control of a key applications can be concerning, sometimes from a technical perspective, sometimes from a career perspective. Ironically some of the strongest advocates for UC, who overrode concerns from legacy PBX supporters, are now cast into a similar role when they decree that cloud solutions are unproven and less reliable. Is the concern valid or emotional?
Identifying and understanding concerns within your leadership and IT team is a critical step when evaluating solution options. For organizations that have mostly deployed on-premises solutions, there are real and perceived obstacles that should be surfaced and addressed.
In the third part of this series I will dive deeper into a specific example exploring the opportunities and concerns associated with moving from an on-premises deployment of Skype for Business to a cloud-based Microsoft Teams solution.
I spend my time helping organizations succeed when implementing communication and collaboration systems. Bringing together key stakeholders as part of a Vision session is a great way to better understand both the objectives and the obstacles that might be associated with your cloud project; and ultimately increases the chance that you will be successful. If you have questions about how to run an effective Vision session or specific cloud transition questions please tweet @kkieller or message me on LinkedIn.