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I hear this question a lot. Business owners have heard all the hype about "moving to the cloud" and how it will cut their IT costs to 10%, run 10 times faster, yadda yadda yadda, yet often meet resistance when discussing it with their IT staff. There are a number of reasons why this happens and it's not always what you think.

Let's get the obvious one out of the way first. Your staff may believe that moving to the cloud will put them out of a job. This fear comes from not understanding exactly what the cloud is. Of course they are not alone in their lack of understanding, as misconceptions, myths, and outright un-truths (often referred to as Advertising) about cloud technologies run rampant in this industry. The simple truth is that cloud technology isn't putting many on-staff IT personnel out of work. The reasons start to become obvious once we start to break down what the cloud is and what it isn't.

Current cloud usage overwhelmingly falls into two major categories; Cloud Storage and SAS (Software As a Service.) Yes, we do have various hybrid solutions and IAS (Infrastructure As a Service) but they play a small percentage of current overall cloud use. But, for the sake of argument, let's take your IT staff's worst fear and you move all your business software to the cloud. (It's not likely given current pricing models, but we are playing Devil's advocate here) Your local office still needs to have computers to connect to the cloud in the first place, they need printers, networks, DHCP severs, Domain Controllers and Active directory. You are also still going to need a firewall, anti virus systems and patch management. You have simply eliminated a local server or two and some software. Unless you are running very outdated servers and equipment, maintaining those usually take up a small percent of an IT department's time anyway. So in reality your IT staff remains relatively unaffected, you have just outsourced some equipment and software. So, like most fears and nightmares, knowledge is the best tool to dispel them. Once you turn the light on and open the closet door, the monster vanishes.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is misconceptions held by business owners and managers. Often their concept of the cloud is based on advertising tidbits and sound bites gleaned from news programs. They believe that moving to the cloud will eliminate their local IT budget and replace it with a uber-efficient cloud model that costs a fraction of local expenditures as well as being far more reliable, secure, and operate at light speed. Besides, who wants to be left behind as the whole world is migrating to this wonderful new business environment. In this scenario, your IT staff may be trying to manage your expectations and keep you from making costly mistakes. Yes, there are many instances where moving to the cloud can quadruple your IT budget and give you far less performance, require additional staff, and lower your own customer's satisfaction rates. Again, knowledge is the best tool and your IT staff may be simply doing their job by getting you to take a good, hard look at the grass on the other side of the fence before you leap. They may have their job cut out for them when discussing this in a room filled with mid-level managers who all want to sound as though they can talk intelligently on the subject.

Another common cause falls under the heading of "Rouge Cloud Abuse." I'm not sure if a 12 step program exists for this yet, but give it time. In this scenario, a department manager or mid-level executive will choose to by-pass IT and deploy new software in the cloud. It seems harmless enough. Often this is a pet project or new venture and is presented to management as an inexpensive way to expand business. This only works out well when the project goes nowhere and there was no long term contract to leave the company with lingering loses. Otherwise, if the project starts to make money, the business is faced with the prospect of how to integrate multiple, dissimilar systems. This is one of the big hurdles faced when businesses merge and can prove quite costly. If it is too costly, both systems are maintained and the expense of redundant books, multiple entries, and cloudy reporting are born by the company. In effect, you have moved your company to the Government model of efficiency, where none of the various departments' systems can communicate with each other. However; unlike the government, you can't simply raise taxes to pay for the skyrocketing costs. Your IT staff, who are tasked with making your systems work efficiently, are simply looking down the road and seeing a point where you are adding more employees just to keep your systems running, instead of your systems working for you as a tool to conduct business in the most efficient manner.

These are just a few of the main issues that put IT departments at odds with management over cloud strategies. The cure for all of this friction is simply good communication between management and IT along with a healthy dose of reliable information. I've found that with most things in life, the truth rarely lies at the extremes, but is usually found closer to the middle ground. You may have inferred from all this that I am anti-cloud, but nothing could be farther from the truth. I have been using technologies that make up the cloud starting long before they were officially called "The Cloud," and believe that most businesses today can benefit from cloud technologies, but that is best explored in another post. In short, I am pro-cloud and anti-misinformation, and you should be too.