Oncore IT News - 30 May 2012

What should a Cloud partner’s DNA look like?

A key concept here has to be a clear definition of what your supplier or implementation partner in a Cloud move is actually committing to. If you are not convinced they can deliver a secure and reliable environment to support your businesses IT requirements in a simple, scalable and cost effective manner – then terminate the sales process. You’re just not going to get anything useful. Key, ‘must have’ things to look for are as follows: Proven technology from best of-breed vendors to deliver the highest levels of performance and availability: 24 x 7 access by you to the proposed new environment, from any location and many devices and platforms; 24 x 7 support to ensure help is available when you need it; A comprehensive, fault-tolerant network infrastructure.

‘Partner’ is something of an over-used term in the modern computing market. Yet the core of the idea is actually extremely important; the technology specialist, the supplier, acts in the client’s interests by providing resources and services that are tightly integrated with the latter’s needs, based on in-depth understanding of the specifics of the business and the context it operates in. But as the Cloud becomes the latest ‘Gold Rush,’ we see far too many contenders offering the opposite – inflexible “standard” solutions or programmes that fail to deliver to the expectation of the client. There’s a feeling that many conversations go along the line of ‘Of course Cloud is the answer, what was the question again?’

What, by contrast, would an appropriate Cloud supplier look like? We think a good Cloud partner approaches the client in a consultative manner, taking time to understand the objectives of the organisation and developing a solution that would employ the Cloud only if and where appropriate to their actual needs. The simple fact is that every business is unique and so are its IT requirements underpinning the core business activities. Any technology solution needs to offer a way to increase capacity or add capability without investing in new IT infrastructure, expensive training, or additional software costs. A good provider will therefore always favour client packages that are flexible, scalable and secure and tailored to the specific needs of the business. In the Cloud context, especially for financial services and professional operations, any such offering has to include, as was mentioned above, a high-availability infrastructure and network platform, delivering a reliable, fault tolerant IT service that can be accessed at any time, from any location. Other keywords our experience says customers should look for: security, performance, availability, integration and customization.

Take a recent (real-world) interaction with a City-based mid-range asset management company we worked with. Our company had initially won a relatively small server monitoring deal. Later, the organisation decided to revise its procurement strategy and sought to identify a single company as its outsourcing IT partner. We were delighted to be appointed such over a more “enterprise” (big name) Cloud Provider that was unable to provide the additional added value services the customer actually needed. Our ability to offer not only Cloud infrastructure but also heartland, bread-and-butter services such as online data backup, 24×7 network monitoring and support and complete disaster recovery was decisive. Furthermore, the client wanted detailed reporting and account management, all of which the convincing salesman from the competing company apparently sought in vain in his slick Cloud marketing literature.

The fact is – Cloud is only a useful idea if it denotes the kind of bespoke, practical computing services that you are already familiar with and dependent on delivered, by a company that knows what it is doing (= has technical competence), from a supplier that sees itself as your partner, happy to adapt its deliverable to what you need, not what is convenient for its current global marketing message – and which has no ‘religious’ commitment to ‘Cloud,’ but sees it as another tool in its toolbox and which is honest enough to curb your Cloud enthusiasm if it’s not what you need in a part of your business right now today. It’s only by going to market looking for a technology company that accepts the real promise of Cloud but which genuinely wants to measure you for a suit that fits, not sell one of its three off the peg seasonal outfits no matter your actual dimensions, that business and technology leaders can move forward with confidence into the changing world of IT in 2012 and beyond.

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