9 Key Concerns That Block Cloud Sales4:00 PM EST Wed. May. 01, 2013
With growth accelerating toward a projected public cloud market size of $210 billion by 2016, the model nonetheless faces its share of pushback from prospects who voice concerns about whether the cloud is genuinely good for their businesses. CRN takes a quick look through some of the key issues voiced by solution providers.
One of the most evident concerns surrounding cloud security is about whether data and sensitive company resources are ultimately safe. Channel partners suggest that there are two opposing answers to this question, and both of them are correct. On one hand, cloud providers invest a lot of resources in making sure their infrastructure is secure. And that level of security is often stronger than the level of security that many customers could establish on their own -- especially as you scale downward into SMB. "Cloud providers offer a generalized level of security, based on due care," said John Pironti, president of IP Architects, Rowley, a Mass.-based solution provider. "Customers with a more stringent security need can often opt-in to additional premium services such as crypto key management, intrusion detection services, applications firewalling, advanced logging and reporting." On the other hand, they also say that hackers recognize the cloud as a huge challenge; a challenge that they can sometimes overcome.
Cloud computing initially emerged as primarily a cost containment strategy. But experience taught the industry that although cloud could often lead to reduced expenses, this was not universally the case. While the cloud can be an effective cost reduction tool, as well as a good means of moving costs from CAPEX to OPEX, colocation, managed services, and sometimes even on-premise solutions can be more economical based on scale, the duration of need for the service, and other factors. "Customers don't always realize that higher levels of service will cost more," said Russ Young, executive vice president of LTech, a Bridgewater, N.J. solution provider. "I can give you five-nines of reliability in the cloud, but it will cost more." Since customers are well-accustomed to sales pitches that promise rapid payback, they sometimes approach them with skepticism.
As is the case with almost any service provider, maximum uptime is definitively linked to customer satisfaction. But networks that are running rarely make the news. Networks that stop working do make headlines. In situations involving mission-critical infrastructure or services, customers are very concerned about everything running smoothly because failure to do so can cause the organization to shut its doors more quickly than most people realize. Although partners often argue that cloud-based infrastructure is no less reliable than customer premise equipment, concerns about downtime sometimes make customers leery to adopt the cloud. Many times bandwidth can be the source of the issue, according to Jeremy Pryzgode, CEO of Stratalux, Los Angeles. "Avoid firing up servers and leaving them on indefinitely," he said. "You have to shut them down when you don't need them, and add capacity when you do."
Since the cloud is all about the use of shared infrastructure, it might not be surprising that some customers might be worried that the overall sharing might also extend to things they would prefer to keep private. Cloud providers, as well as the cloud resellers and channel partners with whom they work, can go to great lengths to reassure them, but some customers will continue to worry about privacy. Many channel partners say that this particular objection is less prevalent now that the cloud has gained stronger market acceptance, but it nonetheless still exists.
It's easy to see data going into the cloud, but it's a lot harder to see data coming out of the cloud -- at least not on any permanent basis. So some customers express concern that once they put data in the cloud, they are pretty much locked in to their current provider, or else run the risk of leaving data behind when they leave. Furthermore, porting the data to another cloud provider, and dealing with the resulting integration issues, can discourage customer churn. And that reluctance to churn can sometimes result in the client's decision to keep data in-house instead.
Cloud adoption is rarely something that happens on an "all-in" basis. More typically, companies begin using the cloud for specified purposes, and often add additional applications to the cloud as time goes on. The net result is usually a hybrid between services that are delivered to the cloud and functionality that is delivered through customer equipment on premise. This means that someone -- usually a channel partner -- needs to integrate the various systems together in order to meet the overall business need. "When you do the integration, you need to look at the overall mission of the business," said Rajakumar Sampathkumar, engagement manager for CSS Corp., San Jose. "And building in automation can often streamline processes in the future."
Meeting the requirements of HIPAA, PCI, and a host of other compliance standards ranks among the top priorities of specific verticals, regardless of whether the company is using the cloud or customer premises equipment. Outsourcing control of technology infrastructure frequently makes decision-makers within these companies concerned about meeting the requirements and delivering the data necessary to pass any audits that may be required of them. Although the technology is beginning to evolve in a way that supports regulatory compliance, it continues to make some customers reluctant to adopt the cloud.
Data stored in the cloud can essentially land in data centers residing in any location at any time. Local laws and regulations often prohibit such data from crossing national boundaries, which is intended to enhance security but also adds a great deal of complexity to cloud computing. Partners say these types of challenges often result in a no-go decision with respect to cloud adoption.
One of the great things about the cloud is the vast assortment of services that the cloud can enable. But this apparent benefit can also pose a disadvantage. In most cases, customers can choose from a number of services that accomplish the same objectives. But if the customers are not specifically knowledgeable about the application at hand, they more frequently turned towards the least expensive option, or they fail to make a decision at all. In situations where they go for the cheapest option, they usually get what they pay for, frequently leading to customer satisfaction issues. Some customers choose to remain with customer premise equipment in order to avoid the issue altogether.