You’ve no doubt heard the buzz around cloud computing. We’ve done a fair bit of cheerleading for it ourselves: RingCentral is a cloud business phone system, so we know first-hand that cloud solutions can cut costs and deliver great features.
But cloud computing shouldn’t be seen as a panacea. Like any new technology, cloud products should only be purchased and adopted after a rigorous evaluation process.
As RingCentral’s senior director of IT services, it’s my responsibility to make IT procurement and implementation decisions – and here’s what I’ve learned about acquiring cloud products in the enterprise.
1) Don’t underestimate the time and energy required to make cloud adoption a success.
Cloud solutions are often sold on the basis of simplicity – and it’s certainly true that the cloud can make business IT much less headache-inducing. RingCentral’s cloud phone service, for example, serves as an easy-to-use, flexible alternative to complex on-premise PBX systems.
Still, migrating to new cloud services does take work. Moreover, it requires a rethink of processes and policy. Ask yourself, for example, who will be responsible for implementing (and then managing) cloud products. Will it be your IT department? Will individual departments (sales, finance, marketing, etc.) handle the services they use? These are the kinds of decisions you need to make before you start buying into the cloud.
2) Don’t think of cloud adoption as a one-off procedure.
Cloud products are extremely valuable – after using Dropbox or Box, for example, could you imagine using email for document collaboration? But you shouldn’t move into the cloud without considering how it will help further your company’s broader goals.
Do you plan on expanding into new markets in the coming years? Cloud applications are highly scalable, so they’re ideal for fast-growing organizations. Are you looking to reduce overhead? The cloud is often less expensive than hosted solutions. Do you want to modify your cost structure? Cloud services can replace capital costs with operating ones.
Whatever your strategy may be, cloud-related decisions should be made from a high-level planning perspective. And, as such, they must involve stakeholders at all levels of an organization.
3) Don’t go it alone.
It’s not easy to abdicate responsibility to an external party, be it a strategic partner, a consultant or a reseller. But if you want cloud solutions to be successful at your organization, you need to accept that there are going to be things you don’t know – and that you probably don’t even know what you don’t know.
You won’t always need someone to hold your hand through the cloud adoption process, of course. But don’t be hesitant to call in the services of outside resources. Better to err on the side of caution than make rash procurement decisions.
4) Don’t fail to make infrastructure investments.
If you want the cloud to work for you, you must not be afraid to make investments in your telecommunications infrastructure. Since the cloud is hosted remotely, your internet connection must be fast enough to handle heavy data traffic. RingCentral recommends, for example, that customer internet connections be at least 90kpbs up and down per line for optimal voice quality.
Also a consideration is integration architecture. Ideally, integration will be looked at from a top-down perspective, as there are a variety of integration decisions – regarding data, applications and processes – that must be made.
Integration architecture is a complex topic, and one that goes beyond the scope of this post – but it’s here that having an external consultant can be hugely valuable. It’s vital to ensure that your infrastructure is robust enough to support the solutions that you plan to implement.
Any more questions about the cloud or hosted-service best practices? Ask away in the comments!