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Going away are the days when you had to rely on very sophisticated hardware and software to handle day-to-day operations. Those needs made it crucial to have additional IT departments. Some of these unavoidable tasks included: configuring, installing, securing, testing and even upgrading the computer programs of your business. Though costly, many IT departments still have difficulty with sharing data effectively on top of providing hacker-proof security. However, the good news is technology evolves consistently. Additionally, with the advent of cloud computing, the roles and uses for the IT department are changing, as well. Today, the cloud has quickly become a necessary element towards remaining competitive. Here are a few reasons why.

What Makes Cloud Computing Desirable?

With the cloud, service hosting is delivered through the internet. It allows for flexibility from traditional software to the Internet, which offers more convenient access. Information can be distributed and received from any location at any time. There are no constraints on data extraction. Cloud services can also be up and running much more quickly than it takes to install and to configure expensive hardware.

What This Means for Today’s IT department

As a result, many companies are recruiting new staff members who are well-versed with cloud technologies, while those who aren’t are losing their jobs or receiving lowered work hours. For instance, most storage administrators are opting for cloud solutions over on-site management. This involves a lot of networking in order to get the data onto the cloud. It  is becoming more and more necessary for some IT staffers to switch and update their roles. The transition is being made from focusing on hardware maintenance to  integration, resource management, technical architecture and capacity planning. This is an evolution from systems administration to cloud administration.

Graphics Moving to the Cloud

Normally, for an organization to run complex graphic applications, a massive hardware layout was laid in place. However, with updates to cloud technology, this has since changed. For instance, enterprise company, AMD, currently runs their graphic applications on a HTML5 browser.

Preventing Data Loss

There is no doubt that the cloud system provides accessibility and convenience together with redundancy, but one area that will be of concern most lies within security policies. Cloud vendors do recognize this need, and are taking concrete steps to remedy any worries.

Private vs. Public Clouds

Do you want to share your infrastructure with other businesses on the cloud? Are you willing to endure slower server processes when utilizing a shared cloud? Of course, you have the option between a public and private cloud depending on your needs. You may opt to use a public cloud for non-mission critical applications.

Democratization

When it comes to innovation and competition, cloud utilization has given smaller companies a leg up. Since a large hardware infrastructure is no longer needed, businesses of all sizes can distribute applications and support. These boutique firms will be able to pack a strong punch, especially in niche markets. Other changes include moving more towards solutions as a service. This means:

  • Users drive innovation.
  • Increased customer participation.
  • Service changes will move from the bottom up.

Every Line of Business Benefits

In the past, the IT department seemed to operate on an island far, far away that would rarely interact with company areas such as HR or marketing. IT administrators seemed to live in a world of their own. Furthermore, departments had to come up with intricate arguments for improving their capabilities. Today, that is no longer the case. For example, marketing departments can make technology decisions on their own, pushing changes and solutions out much more quickly by making use of various cloud technologies. Now, the IT department will be used to help enable and speed up the process. They will also be expected to understand the financials and ROI for various cloud options. Furthermore, in order to keep their jobs, CIO’s need to be cloud champions.

The Cloud and Analytics

As more data moves into the cloud, the need for intelligence increases. Information is used to improve sales and customer retention. Especially when the data is targeted and interpreted. Instead of evaluating feedback at your company’s headquarters, there is a push for these types of analytics to occur in the cloud. That means less infrastructure for you with the possibility of on-demand response times. Here are other ways the cloud is changing the IT landscape:

  • Software developers need to modify how they create and deliver apps.
  • A smaller number of IT staff is needed.
  • The IT department needs to manage the relationship with the cloud vendor.
  • Software applications need to be “cloud-ready.”

Exponential Growth of Cloud Resources

Cloud computing has certainly become a powerful industry. Once, it was only enterprise businesses that could afford cloud services. Now, there is a downward trend in pricing, which makes it more affordable for any sized business. Moreover, cloud use is rising rapidly. Here are some statistics from the past few years:

  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) expanded by 45 percent between 2012 and 2013.
  • Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)achieved $1B in revenue for 2013.
  • 63 percent of companies use Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).
  • SaaS is expected to grow over $30B by 2016.

Does It Need to be Cloud or Nothing?

With the past decade leading up to the cloud and hyper-virtualization, the theme seems to be that you need to use everything in the cloud or else. While this can be true in many instances, there may be situations where you might like a little more control. Many current IT departments use the same technologies that cloud vendors use. Also, local control gives you more convenient access to auditing, customization, service and performance levels. If something goes wrong, you can more quickly mobilize your staff than you might be able to with an outside vendor. This is something to consider before moving your entire IT department to the cloud.

Understanding the varying cloud offerings, and how to use them is critical to the modern IT worker. Courses are available for continuing education, and many of them are online including classes available through:

  • Coursera
  • edX & UC BerkeleyX
  • MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW)
  • Google Developer Academy

Email applications, security, analytics and storage can all be offered through the cloud. How you leverage all of these options will be the key to your success. Considering the pros and cons, what new cloud platforms do you plan to use in 2014?