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How IT outsourcing customers can test cloud computing

Stephanie Overby | April 16, 2010
Customers of traditional IT services can take five low-risk steps to evaluate whether cloud computing services are right for their organizations.

Services involving routine, non-sensitive information or "nice to have" business tools with limited scope are less risky prospects for cloud pilots than enterprise-wide, mission-critical services involving regulated or business sensitive data, says Mayer Brown's Masur.

3. Carve something out. Many IT decision-makers will balk at cutting over to, say, a hosted email offering or infrastructure-as-a-service from Rackspace or Amazon in one fell swoop. That's why Plotkin suggests IT mangers "consider commoditizing some of the services that IT provides to the business, and carefully moving a small part of the delivery to this more flexible model." Build and test it in parallel with the existing delivery method to determine if a wholesale "lift and shift" to the cloud has merit, he adds.

4. Solidify a next-generation sourcing strategy. Don't just throw together a PowerPoint about how your IT organization plans to embrace cloud services in conjunction with your traditional IT outsourcing model. "Ask some hard questions about where the firm needs to be over the next three to five years regarding technology," says Fersht.

For example, Should you be in the data center business? Is that custom application truly a competitive differentiator? How should your outsourcing strategy shift to ensure long-term value?

"These are questions that deserve serious consideration," Fersht says. "Enterprise decision makers that don't re-think technology now will be left behind by competitors that are."

5. Don't wait to do your due diligence. Not ready to try out desktop-as-a-service, play around with Microsoft Azure, or sign a new pay-as-you-go contract with an outsourcer? Now is still the time to start digging into the details of the cloud computing market. Research not just vendor offerings and approaches, but financial stability and scalability.

If you're considering signing a contract with some new vendors, go deep. Among the issues to consider, says Fersht: Are you having the right conversations with services vendors who have the process depth and delivery model to help you determine your next moves? Do you have confidence in the solutions being touted by the provider, or are you just getting the hard sell? Have you seen real evidence of vendor capabilities to deliver business effectiveness?

Make sure you understand not just the promise of the cloud, but potential perils, adds Plotkin, especially with more aggressive, risk taking sellers. Finally, make sure you have a back-up plan should any cloud provider underperform.


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