The question: Whether to deploy certain important services outside the data center or in the "cloud." Historically the IT department has generally been unwilling to do this because, after all, when it comes to third parties, whom can you trust? Maybe the guy across the street who was a friend of your brother-in-law's cousin’s wife. But trust some virtualized entity on the other side of the cloud with your data? Until recently, that's been pretty much of a stretch.
Now, however, the game is changing.
There are some services that corporate IT centers do well, and others not so much. How well these things are done (irrespective of what these services happened to be) can be defined by answering two simple questions. The first question is: Does the IT team meet the objectives spelled out in the service level agreements (SLAs) they cut with their stakeholders? And the second: Do they do this with enough efficiency to keep the company competitive in the marketplace?
It makes sense to look to the cloud for things that data centers don’t do well, or that they don't do with much efficiency. Some services stand out as likely candidates for cloud computing and have two things in common. First, they are all likely to be responses to some relatively new requirements on IT (new within the last five years or so); second, each will require a different sort of control over corporate data than was previously necessary.
Consider the fundamental issue of e-discovery, a term that refers to the ability to search all kinds of digital data -- graphics, emails, photos, spreadsheets, whatever. Today, all businesses in the U.S., and probably most businesses outside the U.S. that work with U.S. businesses, are required to produce such data on demand in case of any civil litigation. (Note that I didn't say "every large business with a huge legal staff"; this applies to just about all businesses, whatever the size.)
Prior to December 2006, e-discovery was a non-issue, so most companies had no e-discovery capability at all. Now however e-discovery is the top litigation-related burden for general counsel at firms with annual revenue of more than $100 million. Failure to provide such documents within the required time period can result in substantial fines and put a company at a disadvantage in court proceedings.
Doing e-discovery is expensive, but the cost of not doing it properly can be catastrophic. Some observers suggest a single e-discovery process using manual or only semi-automated methods could cost a 1,000-employee company $50,000 to $70,000, and that a case costing $100,000 in legal fees could balloon to more than $5 billion if a confused document search returns more than 1 Tbyte of data for review.
Given that 90 percent of all U.S. companies are engaged in some form of litigation, what's a company to do if it lacks e-discovery capability?
Doing e-discovery in-house requires IT-ers to do a number of things they have never been trained to do. And, while they may be able to learn the required technology, what about the new requirement for IT management to move outside their own bailiwick and engage with other key stakeholders in the e-discovery process? How long will it take to put new processes and best practices in place? When, for example, was the last time an IT manager at your firm sat down and had a long discussion about corporate strategy with the company's legal department?
Most companies can't do this stuff well. Very few have the social structure to support the cross-departmental interactions that would be required for the e-discovery example. They should look to the clouds for the sort of thing. After all, it makes less sense to worry about where service is being provided from, and more sense to pay attention to the quality of the service being offered. If the service is up to snuff, what difference does it make where it comes from?
— Mike Karp, Senior Analyst at Enterprise Management Associates
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