Cloud computing is on everyone’s minds these days – and it isn’t as light a subject as the title would suggest.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines cloud computing as “a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources … that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”

That mouthful makes cloud computing sound like a boon to IT departments everywhere – and it certainly can be. However, cloud computing often creates just as many problems as it solves, forcing companies to develop complex work-arounds or face PR disasters when clouds go down. Here are the top five cloud computing conundrums.

1. Security Concerns Around Cloud Computing

Security of data and access control is always the number one concern of IT professionals considering moving to the cloud. Public clouds involve external ownership and internal IT departments are in the dark about who owns their confidential information or where the hosting servers are located. In Steve Hendrick’s IDC Directions presentation on Cloud Platform Wars this month, he said his 2011 IDC Cloud Survey found “Security; keeping content outside our firewall,” was the most important challenge facing cloud adoption.

2. Changing IT Roles

In short, CTOs and CIOs are now businessmen, and CFOs and CEOs are increasingly getting their hands in IT. In an effort to become leaner, more efficient, retain a competitive edge, companies are leverage their resources differently and with more collaboration. The business side of companies are seeing more and more opportunities in Cloud Computing to cut costs – be they servers, software licenses or headcount. On the IT side, cloud computing enables IT decision makers to focus on productivity and efficiency of applications instead of the infrastructure required to support those applications.

3. Fears Around Virtualizing Business Critical Applications

As businesses expand, more and more customers reply on the stability and accessibility of their products. Bank customers demand 24/7 access to their account information and monetary assets. Batch processing applications, like in pharmaceutical manufacturing, require ultra high-availability and even the slightest amount of downtime can be disastrous for an entire supply of medications. 9-1-1 systems, for sure, require 100% uptime for citizens to access fire and police first responders. Cloud computing, particularly when using a public cloud service like Amazon or Rackspace, carries the potential for disaster. If a downtime event occurs, your IT department can’t even access the data or servers to fix the problem. Instead, your company is at the mercy of someone else’s service team.

4. Drive to Reduce IT Overhead Costs Without Sacrificing Access to Premium Technologies

Software as a Service (SaaS), like Salesforce and Pardot, are popping up everywhere, and then, just as fast, becoming integrated into the fabric of technological giants. Connie Guglielmo of Forbes just named SaaS companies as the top takeover targets for larger companies like IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle and SAP, who are looking to take advantage of cloud computing opportunities.

5. Fewer Headcounts with Equal or Greater Responsibility

With shrinking IT departments and greater demands on their time, accidents become harder to handle with private clouds. When a downtime or a security event happens, does your IT department have the manpower and the expertise to address the situation? Are they spread out to global locations without easy access?

On the other hand,  the risk with public clouds depends on whether the cloud provider has the proper resources to address the issue – and what their SLAs cover if they don’t.

 

For more information on preparing for the cloud, SpencerStuart has a fabulous article on Leadership in the Cloud Computing Era or read our whitepaper on Server Virtualization and Cloud Computing: Four Hidden Impacts on Uptime and Availability.