Ask the IT Consultant

May 27 2010   9:00PM GMT

Evaluating Cloud Computing Services – Part 2

Beth Cohen Beth Cohen Profile: Beth Cohen

Question:  As a mid-sized enterprise customer, can I trust that the cloud is ready to be added to my portfolio of IT services?  What should I be looking for in cloud products that will meet my requirements?

As we discussed in part 1, cloud services can be classified into five broad categories:

  • Consumer Grade
  • Small Business Grade
  • Mid-sized Business Grade
  • Enterprise Grade
  • Private Cloud

For the consumer and the small business, cloud services are widely available, cheap and fairly robust if you are willing to put up with the limited services and self help support.  But for the enterprise, hoping that Amazon will not accidentally compromise your data, is just not going to be enough to satisfy your auditors or risk analysts.  Part 2 will discuss products that are more suited to the more sophisticated requirements of mid-sized and larger enterprise customers.  Part 3 will cover the cloud architectures and services that appeal to the needs of the large enterprise.

Mid-sized Business Grade – This is the classification that is the hardest to characterize.  Many of the newest entries into the cloud space fall into this category as vendors ramp up products that will appeal to companies that cannot afford the risk of implementing the consumer grade services available to small business customers, but who are unwilling or unable to pay for enterprise grade products or private cloud implementations.  In general the mid-sized enterprise is not going to be satisfied with the minimal customization available to the small business market.  The value that cloud services bring to mid-sized companies is access to applications with features and capabilities long available to enterprise customers at a fraction of the cost.  This market is full of niche products that cater to narrow specialties, such as facilities maintenance and asset management solutions (MaintenanceConnection and WebWork), and more sophisticated products with broader appeal, such ERP (NetSuite).  These is also a growing set of products being marketed as cloud portfolio management tools, such as Cloudswitch, a migration and virtual cloud data center management tool.  Many of these offerings have the capability for greater customization and better support services, which make them attractive to the mid-sized market, but the vendors tend to be relatively small so there is a risk of vendor lock-in and less robust back-end architectures than might appear on the glossy website.  Expect to see the most growth in these types of products as mid-sized enterprise customers become more comfortable with moving their IT applications to the cloud.

About the Author

Beth Cohen, Luth Computer Specialists, Inc.

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