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Hands on the wheel: deciding when the time is right to transform your business

Jul 30, 2013
Originally Published in The Guardian (guardian.co.uk)

It is clear that a growing number of CIOs are turning to the cloud to help gain a competitive edge for as well as looking for new and innovative ways to cut costs. A recent study by KPMG reveals that the use of cloud is genuinely dominating boardroom planning for 2013, with 42 per cent of UK organisations revealing that at least one-fifth of their total IT spend in the next 12 months will focus on cloud services. However while the business benefits of moving to the cloud may be clear, deciding when and how to implement a cloud strategy still remains a complex challenge for some.

Giving the green light to cloud

Deciding whether the time is right to move to the cloud raises a whole series of unique concerns and questions that are born from the businesses strategy. For firms of any size, security, scalability and control are fundamental when choosing a cloud solution. Smaller companies want to know how the cloud will give them a competitive edge, and what it will mean for their future growth. Larger firms, on the other hand, will be more concerned with how the cloud can support and improve what the business is already doing, the extent to which the cloud can interface with existing ICT infrastructure and the scale of change this move will result in. Reassurance on these issues will determine how quickly companies adopt cloud computing as the model for their ICT.

Driving cloud on a global scale

Medium and large enterprises are more likely to have well-developed in-house ICT resources, but that doesn't mean the cloud can remain as a separate function to their core business strategy, quite the opposite in fact. Numerous businesses that have matured in Europe or North America are unlocking the potential in the cloud and harnessing growth opportunities in emerging markets, using e-commerce as a key enabling technology. At NTT Comms Europe we are seeing a significant take-up across the retail and fashion sectors where brands are using the cloud to access 'new wealth' in APAC and in return huge fashion houses across Asia are expanding into the European and American markets supported by the extensive cloud infrastructure and global network footprint they have access too. The idea of the cloud implies ubiquity and ease of access globally - but it is local datacenters and local network points of presence, coupled with local knowledge, that make it a reality.

Expanding into these markets requires robust on-the-ground capabilities, in-depth market knowledge, and the ability to 'virtually' cut and paste head office systems and processes into new regional branches with minimal set-up time. Identifying suppliers that can truly deliver a global footprint requires careful consideration and research. Companies looking to place business-critical applications in to the cloud should look for, as a minimum, a data center infrastructure with presence in their key markets, joined together by a global network from a single provider. Understanding who owns the network is vital to large enterprises. This goes beyond knowing who to call when things go wrong. This knowledge can help CIOs make informed planning decisions based on the service provider's investment priorities.

Giving way to the cloud for growth

The emergence of the cloud has forced ICT organisations to revisit one of the fundamental questions of business technology: is it about reducing costs, or driving growth or both? The 'new model' businesses which have placed the cloud at the heart of their strategy have been able to concentrate their internal ICT resources on innovation and development, rather than keeping the lights on with their existing infrastructure. Consequently they have become far more innovative, and faster to unlock new revenue generating opportunities. Instagram is a great example of this new breed of businesses: it depends 100% on the cloud to deliver its service, but the delivery depends on its service providers. This means it can focus on delivering what its customers want. Just five years ago, such a business model would have been impossible. The practical challenges of providing the solution would have gotten in the way of the original business idea.

Don't turn back at the junction

There's no simple answer to the question of when you should move to the cloud, but businesses need to consider it now or risk getting left behind. Selecting the right cloud provider means choosing what suits your business. This provider should take a consultative approach, helping you identify the objectives for your move to the cloud, whether cutting costs, improving scalability or increasing ICT flexibility and agility. They should be able to demonstrate the benefits of their cloud solution, and work with you to ensure that it can meet your business objectives. By making the right choices from the start, the sky is the limit for what the cloud can deliver.

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