How to avoid “Cargo Cult” clouds

Cargo-Cult-Plane

If you think all you need to do to solve all your IT problems is to add a cloud, think again.

Cargo cults sounds like an urban legend, but they’re not. There really were South Pacific tribes that believed if they simply made fake airplanes, real airplanes would appear bearing radios, TVs, trucks and everything else they ever desired. These cargo cults flourished after World War II. After all, these people had seen thousands of Americans, with endless goods, appear out of nowhere bearing riches beyond their imagination. Then they disappeared. The people reasoned that if they made planes too and acted like Americans, the spirits would surely bless them with material goods too. They were wrong.

You may think these people were foolish. Before you cast stones you might want to look at your own IT house.

If you think that merely adding a cloud to your company’s IT portfolio is going to give your business the advantages of cloud technology, you’re indulging in cargo cult thinking. That’s like thinking buying a Fitbit Charge HR Wireless Activity Wristband and a gym membership is going to make you drop 20 pounds and build up your muscles. It doesn’t work that way.

A cloud is just a tool. What you do with it will determine if it actually helps your company or not.

First, you need to decide what you want a cloud for in the first place. You just want simple storage? Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) for a common application such as an office suite, customer-relationship management, or email? A public cloud service should work for you nicely.

Then you have to decide which public cloud fits. Not all offer the same services. Their prices differ and their quality of service varies wildly. Simply deciding that, say, Dropbox or Office 365 is what you need without seriously considering your alternatives is foolish.

Let’s say you want firm control of your data or applications. Or you’re in a business with strict data control regulations and laws, such the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA). In both cases, you’ll probably want to invest in a private cloud.

If you do that, however, you’re faced with many choices. You’ll need to plan out your capital expenditures for a cloud-capable data center, which servers to buy, which virtual machines (VM) to use, which cloud, which operating system – the list goes on and on.

Sure, you could just buy whatever’s offered by your system integrator, but that’s a quick path to trouble. With a private cloud model you have many difficult decisions to make.

Let’s say you want the best of both worlds with a hybrid cloud. In that case, you’ll have even more decisions to make.

Get the picture? Simply saying, “We’re going to add a cloud,” and then adding bits and pieces and expecting anything profitable to happen is cargo-cult thinking. To get real use of a cloud requires real work.

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