Recently, I was asked to comment on a story for a reporter regarding how Small to Medium sized Businesses (SMBs) should use “free trial” offers to determine if they should cloud their applications. What started out as a small response in which I caution organizations to use free trials very carefully soon snowballed into a long diatribe about appropriate Cloud Strategy on-boarding management. Shortly after the interview, this issue arose in our community and as such reposting the response to our Blogs.
All cloud providers today are incented to offer free cloud subscriptions due to their cost to serve. Naturally, they have to build an infrastructure capable of supporting their targeted distribution and sales goals and for each customer they bring on, that cost to serve number drops as you distribute their fixed cost for hosting across the larger number of subscribers.
To be honest, this economic relationship creates some problems in that cloud providers offer trials that are billed as “Trials” but in fact are designed to get you hooked into their product. As a result, don’t mistake “Free Trial” for “Risk-Free” as often the case you’ll have to make some change to your infrastructure to support the free trial which in many cases causes you to adjust key infrastructure elements of your network like your mail MX record, or perhaps your proxy-location information to pipe the information to a cloud provider.
To that end, we at Shavlik recommend people first buy into the Cloud as a Strategy as opposed to Cloud as a Tactic. (And given our accronymed filled industry, it seems apropos that we abbreviate this as CaaS). Many organization’s believe Cloud is a “Just add water and stir” experience when in fact it is not. Making sure an organization has properly evaluated the effect of clouding aspects of their business is key.
If your organization has bought into the CaaS approach, we recommend you start by trialing low risk applications in the cloud. How do you figure out what low-risk is? — It’s simple. Imagine a continuum between low-risk and high-risk simply aligning with your business functions. You might decide for example with the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) providers for example, the sheer risk of your business of taking an infrastructure level element and clouding it up front is too expensive. At the same time, perhaps their is a low-used application like expense management is which is used on demand where you can start. If the application itself is down, really… who is going to notice.
Here at Shavlik, and what we recommend for those serious about Clouding is that you create a risk-reward matrix. One that looks at the risk of the business versus the cost to implement. Using this model, if you can find applications that are low-risk to the business and easy to implement, this is where you start. We’ve depicted this grid below.
Application to Cloud Risk Assessment Matrix
If you hit this point and you have trialed a cloud service, CONGRATULATIONS! — You have gone farther than most. Now it’s time for you to learn what you can from the experience. Here’s what’s key:
- Did it work? — Did you properly predict the value of the service?
- How was it accepted? — Did your team implemented without political issues?
- How did your users receive it? — Did you meet much user resistence?
If you breezed through it, it’s time to move onto bigger and better clouding projects.
Speaking from experience, we’ve managed to cloud more than 50% of Shavlik’s infrastructure. Today, our email, our CRM, our infrastructure, our HR systems, our financial packages are all in the cloud. The value you got above in the “green” quandrant is only a fraction of what you’ll get when you get to the “red” one, but when you master the art of clouding and implementation, I assure you the “clouding” strategy will lead you to “clear skies”.
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