Cloud computing has moved beyond first-mover advantage for midsize and enterprise companies and is quickly becoming a standard conversation with customers, according to Tim O'Brien, senior director of platform strategy at Microsoft. Anybody standing still will quickly be left behind, he said.
"I couldn't remember a single customer conversation in the last year where this topic was not at or near the top of the agenda," O'Brien told an audience of CIOs at Everything Channel's Midsize Enterprise Summit West conference in San Antonio on Tuesday.
Still, the list of concerns regarding cloud-based solutions is long, including security, availability, performance, interoperability, integration and limits to the ability to customize, according to O'Brien. But in truth, cloud-based solutions can offer even greater protection for some threats, he said.
"Security in the cloud comes up with every customer I talk to. The underlying presumption is that security in the IT data center today is at least good enough if not best in class. But what about employees walking out the door with documents on a thumb drive? Or people e-mailing attachments to their Gmail account so they can work at home. These are bad behaviors that breach security and it makes the argument that cloud solves the problem of people doing what they're doing now because they don't have access to corporate documents [in the cloud.]"
Also, compiling a list of benefits to cloud-based solutions can easily match the list of concerns, O'Brien said. He cited the ability to pay for what you use, easy deployment, standard payments, standard systems, lower IT staffing costs and getting the latest functionality as reasons why businesses should deploy cloud-based solutions.
"It's the tension between these two [concerns and benefits] that puts the business at a crossroads of what to do. The obvious question is what do you do next," O'Brien said.
One answer is to partition the portfolio of applications used by a business today to move some applications initially to the cloud where benefits can be more quickly realized.
A Microsoft study found that about 30 percent of midsize companies and 38 percent of large enterprises now use cloud-based solutions for Web conferencing, while 19 percent and 30 percent, respectively, get CRM solutions delivered via the cloud, said O'Brien.
Other applications and their percentage of cloud-based deployments by midmarket companies include: e-mail (16 percent), collaboration (14 percent), content management (13 percent), intranet/portal (11 percent), remote access (11 percent), business continuity (11 percent), business intelligence (11 percent) and supply chain management (10 percent).
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