“Without conflict, you haven’t got a story,” said J.K. Rowling in a 2007 interview, on the cusp of releasing the final book in her globally renowned Harry Potter series. It’s a statement that’s true of the business world too; to be successful, one has to create ripples. Identify the market your product and service belongs in, and then ascertain what gives you your edge on existing solutions; there is no room in an unforgiving commercial climate for pale imitations. These are simple business principles. You simply must stand out, hence the birth of phrases such as “market disruption” – and IT disruption is a perfect example, with the growth of innovations such as cloud computing. Mr Joe McKendrick of Forbes, however, questioned last week whether the cloud is a truly disruptive phenomenon. This raises the question: what is the truth about the cloud’s place in, and influence on, the IT market?
The cloud stands as a direct alternative to the onsite server, with the latter usually hedged away in its own wildly expensive physical space in the company office. The former is an opportunity to store personal and professional information on a different platform, away from that office. Just a bit flashy, one might think at first sight, but the functionality offered by this simple transition stands the cloud in great stead within the IT market. Some examples of this are improvements on what existing solutions provide: for example, network security is significantly improved by migrating data to an unplottable, professionally monitored server. There can be a perception that the cloud is less secure, but it is not the case. The capacity that cloud can offer is far more flexible too, able to easily adapt to your company’s requirements at a moment’s notice – in stark contrast to the fixed onsite alternatives.
However, these are only improvements. It is technically possible to have network security on an onsite solution, though it won’t be as extensive. It is technically possible to download application updates on an onsite solution, though it could take as long as the Chilcot report. It is technically possible to adapt an onsite solution’s data capacity, though it’ll invariably cost an arm and a leg to do it. The greatest IT disruption – what truly sets the cloud apart in the way that an onsite solution is simply incapable of – stems from its ability to give staff access to their data on any device, in any location on the planet. The onsite solution cannot compete with that, or even try to adapt to do so. In a modern, globalised world, commerce is mobile, flexible and continual – being able to work fully, with access to all necessary material, is essential wherever you are. At home, on the road, in a Tuscany villa (or a Travelodge in Stoke) – there is no telling when you may be called on to provide your expertise in the office.
From the company’s point of view, you cannot afford to be restrained in how much you can do at a critical juncture, just because one person was away from his/her desk that day. In addition, the ratio of downtime is minimised because of the technical support you receive from the provider, which does not come as part of an onsite server purchase.
These functions is what makes the cloud a truly disruptive solution: as Mr McKendrick of Forbes notes, “market disruption” is not necessarily about competing in existing markets; rather, the key is to forge a brand new one. This is effectively what the cloud has done; a whole alternative industry now exists alongside the traditional onsite server, with its own market leaders (Amazon Web Services being the obvious example) and product differentials (public/private/hybrid cloud, hosted/True cloud, etc.). Moreover, the IT disruption caused by cloud is such that we are fast advancing towards a “cloud first” era; cloud will be the instinctive, go-to solution for individuals, companies and even governments across the world as they realise its beneficial properties.
In answer to Mr McKendrick’s question, we believe that commerce has never seen such an all-consuming IT disruption as the cloud’s, a desktop which has created its own empire that lives alongside the traditional onsite server, and is now beginning to supersede it. Sometimes we don’t even notice it, such as when we shop via mobile or check our bank details on an iPad. At other times – usually when an onsite server fails and its flaws become most obvious – the cloud’s impact becomes vastly clear. The cloud hasn’t just disrupted the IT sphere; it has transformed it.