Forecast: Increasing cloud
Viewpoint Column by Ari Kopoulos, National Sales and Marketing Director, EmployeeConnect
This article is first published in Human Capital Magazine – Issue 8.8 (August 2010)
We keep hearing how the cloud is set to change the way we work, but what is it and what benefits does it bring to the business? Ari Kopoulos provides some insights
Our thirst for faster, better and cheaper services is driving the evolution of technology, and in particular the internet, into a world of real-time connectivity and lightning-fast bandwidth. It is here, where the once clear and distinct traditional boundaries of delivery, and command and control relationships, are set to blur, if not disappear altogether. Welcome to the cloud.
Cloud computing is a metaphor for the emerging version of the internet. It’s where providers deliver a variety of IT-enabled capabilities as on demand services, on a pay per user basis. Of these, the SaaS model is perhaps the most widely utilised. This involves the delivery of an application through a browser to a large number of users. Most payroll and HR vendors have a SaaS version. A variation of this is Platform as a Service (PaaS), where the vendor delivers a development platform, accessed via browser, that allows you to build an entire application running on the vendor’s infrastructure and delivered to your users. There are service providers that offer integration standards, known as APIs, enabling developers to exploit specific functionality, rather than delivering full-blown applications. A well known example is the integration of Google maps to location centric applications. Finally, there are vendors who use the utility model to offer storage and processing through virtual servers, accessible on demand.
While the economies of scale, agility, scalability and focus are tempting, migrating to the cloud introduces a whole new set of challenges that include security, control, flexibility and availability. At this stage, these form a barrier to widespread adoption, certainly in the SME space. However, there is a growing trend towards deploying the virtualisation model, in-house. This is effectively a private cloud and, in many ways, can be viewed as a safe and intermediate step towards embracing the greater cloud.
In terms of impact, there are a number of trends affecting the workplace where the cloud solution is both the catalyst for change and also the solution to these changes. The demand for work-life balance, globalisation, mobility and the generation mix mean that companies not only have to be more effective in terms of sourcing, developing and retaining talent, but also embracing and offering opportunities for new technologies and work styles. Also, social media is set to be the main vehicle in the way we find work, learn, collaborate and communicate. Finally, I think we can all agree that the mobile phone will soon be the dominant web device.
These set the stage for a very interesting environment, and to remain competitive and capitalise on these trends, a business can no longer rely on traditional computing systems and models. The cloud, although in its early days, offers a cost effective, integrated virtual infrastructure where a collection of services, all centralised, are consistently available and offer access to a new generation of best of breed human capital services.
Given the amount of money invested and attention companies like IBM, Microsoft and Google are giving to cloud development; we will soon experience an explosion of integrated applications and services that address all the disadvantages. For the business it’s not a matter of if you migrate, it’s a matter of when will you migrate?