Why choosing your cloud service provider carefully is key

The ease of set-it-and-forget-it cloud service is resetting IT’s role and transforming its entire relationship with business units, according to a group of Canadian CIOs.

Thirteen senior IT executives from Alberta gathered for a recent roundtable discussion in Calgary, hailing from the energy, arts and culture, construction, software, transportation and education sectors. The frank peer-to-peer forum called ‘Why Adopt a Cloud-First Strategy?’ was hosted by IT World Canada (ITWC) and sponsored by Telus.

Signing up for cloud today is almost as easy as cooking chicken with the famous infomercial rotisserie oven. Taking a set-it-and-forget-it approach to cloud, however, could burn your organization, warned a couple of participating executives. For example, failing to keep track of cloud contracts can lead to in-house apps that no longer work or integrate when providers suddenly change or upgrade their offerings, they said.

Another guest said organizations must keep a close eye on all internal cloud use to spot unauthorized IT activity.

“We think it’s almost too easy to get into the cloud. (Employees) go into the cloud with just a credit card because they want to try a new service. When they use it for six months and then they don’t want it anymore, we have to pull the data back in and it creates a lot of issues for us…It’s a bit of that shadow IT coming from the ease of the cloud.”

Still, all of the guests said it’s mostly a matter of buyer beware responsibility now that the cloud market has matured. They also agreed that the benefits of cloud far outweigh potential downsides. That’s because security, maintenance, backup, recovery, automatic upgrades and 24/7 support are often baked right into cloud contracts.

“We’ve been able to connect (Microsoft’s) Azure Cloud to ourselves but also then grant access to our clients,” said an engineering firm CIO. “You take care of the security and divest yourself of that infrastructure overhead. But also, the agility of spinning up that cloud service and allowing it to grow — based on our customers’ demands as opposed to just our own demands – has made an incredible difference.”

Choose your cloud provider carefully

The key for IT managers is knowing what’s in their service level agreements and putting thoughtful consideration into choosing cloud providers, said Carlos Carreiro, senior vice-president at Telus.

“A lot of people look at cloud as a bunch of blades or storage. But you need to look for a partner that understands your organization and your needs. To be honest, it’s not easy to find. It’s baby steps, in my opinion,” Carreiro said.

Business units are now playing a much bigger role in choosing cloud and other IT services, a shift that most of the participating CIOs said they’re currently grappling with. As one guest put it, CIOs are becoming more like service brokers who educate business units about potential risks and rewards so they can make their own informed IT decisions.

“Gone are the days of ‘Why don’t you IT people tell us what to do.’ It’s more like here are your options and here are the risks; you (business units) make the decision. And we have to present it as business risk, not IT risk.”

 Befitting an event held in Calgary, five of the 13 IT executives around the table hailed from organizations directly or indirectly tied to the oil and gas industry. Due to a 70 per cent drop in oil prices over the past 18 months, capital spending in Canada’s oil and gas sector is expected to plummet from $81 billion in 2014 to just $31 billion this year.

Despite that, IDC estimates IT spending in the sector is only down by about 10 per cent during the same period. In a February report, IDC said energy firms realize the only way to survive the current downturn is “to leverage enabling technologies like cloud and mobility to help automate and optimize processes and apply analytics to improve operations output.”

Telus is launching a managed IaaS offering for mid-market and large enterprise clients in Canada. Telus will provide public, private and hybrid clouds via its own data centre facilities as well as two new Microsoft data centres in Toronto and Quebec City. The Telus services will run on Microsoft Azure in conjunction with Cisco Cloud Architecture.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Christine Wong
Christine Wong
Christine Wong has been an on-air reporter for a national daily show on Rogers TV and at High Tech TV, a weekly news magazine on CTV's Ottawa affiliate. She was also an associate producer at Report On Business Television (now called BNN) and CBC's The Hour With George Stroumboulopoulos. As an associate producer at Slice TV, she helped launch two national daily talk shows, The Mom Show and Three Takes. Recently, she was a Staff Writer at ITBusiness.ca and is now a freelance contributor.

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