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Exploring cloud computing solutions for the midmarket

A comprehensive cloud strategy can help a midmarket company achieve huge payouts. Check out our cloud computing solutions primer and tips for avoiding cloud pitfalls.

The smart CIO has his finger on the pulse of cloud computing solutions, but whether you think cloud is merely a marketing term to identify the virtualization trend that's been prevalent in the last decade or a savvy new way of approaching IT, you have several options when it comes to customizing your own cloud strategy.

Public cloud computing solutions are a known quantity: With extra security vetting and pure unadulterated computing power, you can access turbo-charged, major-league technology on a Tee Ball budget and allow your professionals to concentrate on bringing value back to the organization instead of chasing security patches and leapfrogging over broken server racks. Private clouds are a blend of the agility and scaling of the public cloud, with one important advantage over public offerings: control. When dealing with ultra-sensitive industries like financial services and health care or industries dealing with information that could risk national security, like defense contractors, CIOs are uncomfortable with turning their data palace over to a third-party hosting provider.

This guide is part of SearchCIO-Midmarket.com's Midmarket CIO Briefings series, which is designed to give IT leaders strategic guidance and advice that addresses the management and decision-making aspects of timely topics. For a complete list of topics covered to date, visit the Midmarket CIO Briefings section.


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  Building an effective cloud computing strategy  Table of Contents

Despite the fact that the term cloud computing solutions has been floating around the blogosphere for years, there's still a lot of confusion about what it really is. Some midmarket companies wrote off the cloud paradigm as "something giant companies do," but in reality, cloud services are just a simple way to outsource your IT needs to a third party on a pay-as-you-use model, similar to what you're already doing with Web hosting, telephony or even the electricity that keeps the lights turned on in cubicles. Cloud computing removes huge up-front capital expenses to low operating costs, which is a big win for midsized companies.

The biggest thing to consider in developing your cloud strategy is which of your company's strengths are a predictive measure of future success. The processes that you don't absolutely require for the survival of your business are great candidates for dipping a toe into cloud computing solutions: necessary business functions, certainly, but if your access to them were hindered, you would still be able to function. After you decide that, you have a choice in deployment models, deciding to go with private clouds or public cloud models based on how much infrastructure you want to own and manage and how much of your data you want in the hands of others. You should also consider security and compliance before making your final decision.

Get more tips in "Cloud computing basics: Planning and understanding a cloud strategy." Also:

  • Cloud collaboration tools cut costs at the U.S. Golf Association
    Cloud collaboration tools were the start of the USGA's cloud migration strategy -- bringing cost savings, business continuity and customizable customer relationship management (CRM) to the association.
  • Food for thought: Cloud computing technology minimizes human touch
    Even as President Barack Obama looks to the IT industry for lessons on innovation, cloud computing technology threatens the livelihood of many.
  • Desperate CIO finds IT project portfolio management tools in the cloud
    Cloud-based IT project and portfolio management tools offer relatively quick and risk-free visibility into IT projects and priorities. But don't expect miracles, cautions one CIO.
  • Laying the groundwork for cloud computing services adoption in 6 steps
    Follow the example set by one pharmaceutical company and adopt your own cloud computing solution with six straightforward steps.


  Are public cloud computing solutions
  a good fit for your IT shop?
 Table of Contents

Midmarket CIOs are part of the public cloud action; 70% to 85% of CIOs are planning to move their primary applications to public cloud options in the next year. Some cite agility as a primary reason for this decision, as they can perform major transformations in short order, taking advantage of services like Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud and Google Inc.'s email to enable them to act quickly and take no prisoners. "I was skeptical of cloud services a year ago. But we can switch server configurations on Amazon in 15 minutes. Office moves used to be a real hassle. Now, all our offices run on the Internet. We put a connection in the new space, tell the people to take their phones and routers, and give us a call when they move into the new space," said Larry Bolick, CIO of Aquent LLC, a Boston-based marketing and design staffing firm.

The biggest reason for the migration to the public cloud might just be a sign of economic hope: Midmarket companies are growing fast, and by utilizing public clouds, they don't have to make a big capital leap with hardware upgrades. In fact, businesses growing at a rate of 10% or more per year are twice as likely to move software and infrastructure to the cloud, said Tim Furey, chairman of MarketBridge, a provider of technology-enabled solutions for sales and marketing to Fortune 1,000 and emerging growth companies. Whether businesses are growing after moving to the public cloud or because they moved, the fact remains: Public clouds are a good place to dip a toe or really optimize your infrastructure with the potential for maximum adaptability.

Learn more in "Midmarket use of public cloud computing is fueled by company growth." Also:

  • Picking an outsourcing service provider? Avoid these four mistakes
    If 2011 is like 2010, choosing the right outsourcing service provider and getting the deal off to the right start will be critical for CIOs. Here are four mistakes to avoid.
  • IT infrastructure outsourcing, multisourcing boosted by ITIL
    IT infrastructure outsourcing and multisourcing benefit when the enterprise and the vendor have a strong IT Infrastructure Library framework. Learn how to align IT outsourcing and ITIL.


  Why private clouds get a bad reputation  Table of Contents

While there is still much consternation about private versus public clouds, many companies are starting to think of their own data centers as "private clouds." While this is technically true, there are certain key points that define a true private cloud from your run-of-the-mill data center. The key lies in virtualization and tiered services, turning the IT department into a profit center for the rest of the organization. The true private cloud environment has an ability to quickly provision new services as the business needs, in a time frame that is measured in days rather than fiscal quarters. A true private cloud also has the ability to grow in a granular and measured manner, without having to acquire unnecessary resources for special circumstances and affecting the bottom line. A real private cloud also is centrally managed and watched at both the workload and aggregate levels. The key is in flexibility.

One midmarket company has implemented a private cloud-like solution to fantastic results. Scott Lowe provides a detailed case study from Westminster College, where the IT department has become a service provider to the rest of the organization. He details its three keys for success in its virtual infrastructure, optimizing operability while decreasing risk.

Read Westminster College's success story with the private cloud paradigm in "Musings on the phenomena of private clouds." Also:

  •  Private clouds can maximize your IT services
    Private clouds offer the maximum in flexible IT services, with prices tailored to the midmarket IT shop. We have five very good reasons why you should consider a private cloud.
  •  Myths about private clouds may shortchange your organization.
    Are misperceptions preventing you from taking advantage of private clouds? Jonathan Hassell gets to the bottom of some common confusion about the private cloud trend.


  Exploring the risks of moving to a cloud  Table of Contents

Not only are there risks to consider with cloud computing at a broad above-the-table level that is fully sanctioned by your IT structure, but there are also risks to mitigate that are outside of your control. Consider this scenario: you've gone through due diligence and decided that a certain cloud strategy is right for your company, then you find out that a few rogue employees have been buying their own cloud service to get around your internal governance process for months. It seems unlikely, but more and more, IT directors are finding out about teams and projects implemented using simple collaborative tools like Google Docs to store highly confidential information or using Amazon.com Inc. services to run as sandboxes for projects that seemed harmless on paper. With a proper risk management strategy tailored specifically to cloud computing, you can keep your data secure and manage user expectations.

Read the sordid tale of cloud out of control in "IPads, BlackBerrys and cloud computing raise IT governance questions." Also:

  • In WikiLeaks' wake, midmarket reassesses public cloud computing risks
    Public cloud computing risks are back in the spotlight following the Amazon.com-WikiLeaks debacle. Midmarket firms will be the ones to drive changes in transparency, experts say.
  • Pros and cons of disaster recovery in the cloud
    For some, disaster recovery in the cloud is a windfall; others think it could make things worse.
  • Cloud computing services helped Westmont College rise from the ashes
    Westmont College turned to cloud computing services to help recover from a fire that destroyed 20 buildings. The services integrate CRM data with the school's back-end ERP system.


  More cloud computing resources  Table of Contents
  • Cloud computing tips
    In this video interview, James Staten, a principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc., provides quick "getting started" information on taking advantage of cloud computing options.
  •  Presidio CTO on virtual data center strategy dos and don'ts
    Dave Hart, chief technology officer of $1 billion IT infrastructure service provider Presidio Networked Solutions Inc., discusses virtual data center conundrums and how midmarket CIOs can get around them.
  • Tapping the cloud as a software testing service
    Software testing services in the cloud mean faster time to market and cost savings for application development, but watch out for these limitations.

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