CIO upfront: Cloud continues to change the face of SMB IT

Open any IT news website these days and you will likely see a lot of stories about the future of IT in the cloud.

In New Zealand, there has already been a steady adoption of cloud, with many attracted to its scalability and flexible pricing structure. This trend to move towards the cloud is not just smart marketing from the big three cloud companies (Amazon, Microsoft and Google), but an important shift in the way businesses are run.

IT administrators continue to leverage the cloud model, together with applications hosted on-premise, as a way to better manage local networks. This change has many serious advantages, which are especially important for businesses: cost, agility, manageability and security. But the question is, how far has cloud acceptance truly come, especially for SMBs?

To gain a clearer understanding of this change, we commissioned some research involving more than 2000 IT administrators across nearly 100 countries about their acceptance of the cloud.

Of these, 1,285 were from small-medium businesses (SMBs), and the remaining 752 were from larger companies.

Paessler’s report used the broadest data set for smaller companies, as they classify SMBs as companies with fewer than 500 employees.

Based on Paessler’s data, 24 per cent of the SMBs that responded reported that they were currently using the cloud, either hybrid or public, with 42 per cent planning to use the cloud in the near future.

Of the larger companies, 25 per cent were currently using the cloud, with 46 per cent planning to adopt the technology. As the figures demonstrate, almost 70 per cent of SMBs that took part in the survey are using the cloud now, or will be using the cloud within the next two years.

It is clear from this data that globally, the adoption of new technologies, including cloud, is becoming increasingly prevalent, and shows no sign of slowing down soon. In New Zealand, Gartner predicts that in 2017 alone, technology spending will reach almost NZ$11.8 billion, increasing by 2.7 per cent from 2016.

Considering how many core business systems and applications the cloud can support, it’s not hard to see why so many companies are jumping on the bandwagon and embracing this technology.

Paessler’s survey found that the highest acceptance for cloud services was for web hosting (80 per cent) and email (78 per cent), followed closely by office applications (74 per cent). Conversely, a lower percentage of survey participants (55 per cent) planned to run virtual machines (VMs) in the cloud.

For all other applications (file sharing, sales/ CRM ticket system, industry specific applications, backup), between 55 and 70 per cent of respondents are using the cloud or will be using the cloud within the next few years.

As far as network monitoring goes, nearly 60 per cent of respondents reported they were using cloud, or would be within the next few years. This number is expected to rise as more organisations discover the benefits of hosting their network monitoring tools in the cloud.

Think cloud first and embrace shadow IT – consider this your 'hybrid cloud'

What does this rate of adoption really mean for SMBs and IT departments?

Some IT departments, and IT administrators specifically, would consider certain cloud applications part of 'shadow IT', e.g. quite often employees or departments implement applications or deploy SaaS services that are not approved by IT administrators. In some instances, IT administrators may wish to turn these ‘rogue’ applications off, but are unable to as these cloud services are already a fundamental part of everyday life in the company.

This is a major challenge facing IT administrators. As more departments implement their own software, and their own applications (BYOA), into the business without IT approval; IT administrators are forced to look towards more comprehensive network monitoring solutions. The increase in adopting these strategies across organisations has never been more important, and doing this via the cloud has even more benefits than on-premise implementation.

In scenarios like this, which are very prevalent in today’s highly connected app-centric world, this often means that corporate IT teams have lost a degree of control and visibility over the applications being used in their organisation.

This is largely due to the fact that people and departments are increasingly turning to the Internet to address their problems, rather than their IT administrators. What this implies is that many end users are simply unaware of the security risks or organisational side-effects, this may represent, such as licensing and compliance issues. To cope with this challenge, some organisations have subsequently established a catalogue of approved cloud services that users can select from, without lengthy agreement from IT.

Over the next few years, the continued adoption of these trends will drastically change the work and environment for system administrators around the world and in all organisations.

Depending on the usage rate, and types of applications, this process will move faster or slower for every industry and organisation. And there will remain a small set of applications that can't be moved to the cloud for various reasons. However, it is clear that this trend is already under way and will touch all organisationsand companies in the near future, if it hasn’t already.

IT administrators will need to continue to build up their cloud knowledge, and understand the security and reliability implications in order to properly implement new systems in their own network.

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George Wilson is director of operations APAC at Paessler AG

Follow CIO New Zealand on Twitter:@cio_nz

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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