Navigating the Cloud is the clear way forward

Cloud computing – the use of hardware and software over the internet – is a growing trend and the focus of Raconteur Media’s latest in-depth survey by researcher Mike O’Driscoll


Cloud computing is a rapidly maturing technology and those organisations that have at least some data, platforms or applications delivered through the cloud may already be in the majority.

The Gartner Group estimates double-digit annual global growth rates for software as a service or SaaS, for example, reaching £9.1 billion in 2012.

Raconteur’s survey Navigating the Cloud, produced in association with The Corporate IT Forum, focuses extensively on UK-based IT professionals who have a significant role in their organisation’s cloud computing decision-making or operation. Altogether 246 respondents partially completed the survey and 164 answered all questions.

The survey found that a large majority of organisations (83 per cent) were using some form of paid-for cloud services, 81 per cent were using SaaS, but large proportions were also using platform as a service or PaaS (38 per cent) and infrastructure as a service or IaaS (45 per cent).

Cloud computing potentially delivers a range of benefits, including cost savings, increased agility, scalability and reliability, better connectivity, easier sharing of data and applications, and reduced energy consumption.

As with most technological advances, the benefits must be considered against inherent risks; these include entrusting a remote service with all or part of the organisation’s sensitive or valuable data and making the cloud provider responsible for the reliability of the organisation’s IT services.

The process of transferring systems to the cloud may be complex and involve considerable investment and disruption.

The “everyday” nature of free cloud services, such as Facebook or Hotmail, may have served to familiarise users with the cloud model, explaining the Raconteur survey findings that those using free cloud services were more likely to be also using paid-for cloud services.

However, while most individuals seem willing to trade-off the risk of having their personal data stored remotely against the convenience of maintenance-free access from any online location, organisations are necessarily more cautious in doing so because the consequences of lost or stolen data could be fatal.

Despite this, the potential competitive advantage gained through cloud services means that organisations are increasingly opting for intelligent management of the risk involved in cloud services rather than having a no-cloud policy.

A third of Raconteur survey respondents had plans to invest in IaaS and 39 per cent planned to invest in PaaS. Some 30 per cent of respondents reported  that their organisation used the cloud to develop web applications, suggesting that many organisations are moving on to “deeper” uses of the cloud having often put their toes in the water of the more basic aspects of cloud computing.

Although the survey suggested that organisations are deepening their use of the cloud, there are still many types of data which organisations would not put on cloud. Some 59 per cent said they would not put health data on any type of cloud, 42 per cent would not store financial data and 39 per cent would not store intellectual property on the cloud.

The perceived ability of the cloud provider to ensure data security is a key criterion in selecting a cloud provider.

Other barriers include the difficulty of integration with existing systems and loss of control over customer data. Organisations not currently using paid-for cloud services hoped to gain business agility (68 per cent), lower costs (59 per cent), and improve scalability of IT and shift IT expenditure from capital to operational (41 per cent).

Those who do use paid-for cloud services are positive about the impact of cloud computing on their organisation. Some 63 per cent agreed it had fundamentally improved their business model, 58 per cent agreed it had reduced costs, and 52 per cent that it had improved interaction with suppliers and customers.

The vast majority (83 per cent) of those using paid-for cloud services are satisfied with their cloud provider.

Key-driver analysis showed that particular aspects of the relationship, such as trust, technical expertise and pricing, contributed much more to overall satisfaction than others.

Respondents’ assessment of the impact of cloud services on their organisation was also strongly related to satisfaction with the cloud provider. The high levels of satisfaction with cloud providers and the largely positive views of the impact of the cloud strongly suggest the technology is maturing.

Raconteur’s survey found that 81 per cent of respondents, who use paid-for cloud services, use internal training, but 25 per cent use training from the cloud provider and 13 per cent use an external training company.

Significant proportions of paid-for cloud users engage cloud technology consultants (33 per cent), 28 per cent use IT law services and 18 per cent use a cloud broker or dealer.

The relatively modest use of consultants, brokers and external trainers, among paid-for cloud users, suggests opportunities for cloud service providers and other external training providers in this market.

The opportunities are likely to be even greater among those who do not currently use any paid-for cloud services. Some 70 per cent said that they would consider using consultants to facilitate the transition to cloud computing, 55 per cent said they were most likely to select a cloud service provider for training and 41 per cent said they would use external trainers.

The survey shows that businesses are investing in PaaS and IaaS, and will need training and consultancy to guide them through the transition to these deeper levels of cloud computing.

It describes the priorities of businesses in developing cloud strategies, which people make the decisions about the organisation’s cloud strategy and how they have sought to overcome the barriers to implementation of the cloud in their organisation.

On their journey through the cloud, businesses are most likely to choose providers who understand their needs, and the Raconteur survey offers valuable insight into what those needs are and how they can be met to create satisfied clients.

The complete analysis of this study is available for purchase at £479+VAT; please visit theraconteur.co.uk/research or call us on 020 3428 5230.