Most technology professionals know that cloud computing offers a plethora of benefits to a wide variety of employers and organizations. In the past, organizations spent a great deal of funds on servers, software, and storage devices in order to fulfill the computing needs of the business. With the evolution of cloud services, companies are able to have far more power and storage at a fraction of the previous costs.
The evolution of cloud computing has led to what has been described as the “cloud-first” strategy. This approach to computing suggests that an organization should look first to cloud solutions when developing new processes or adapting old processes before considering non-cloud-based solutions. As far back as 2010, businesses began referring to this as the cloud-first strategy. The idea moved quickly moved from private businesses to government entities. The U.S government released its first policy in 2011 and UK followed suit in 2013. Taking this further, the UK policy states that departments have the ability to use non-cloud alternatives but they must demonstrate the improved value proposition over cloud options.
Gartner has described the cloud strategy as a concise approach to cloud computing and its role within a company or organization. Many organizations around the world have adopted, or will adopt, a cloud-first approach to business. Gartner says that by 2025 more than 85 percent of businesses will employ a cloud-first strategy.
Why Should a Cloud-First Approach be Considered?
There are many reasons for implementing a cloud-first strategy, but one driving force is cost and value. Consider the following benefits:
- Systems can be built piece by piece based on business needs.
- Lower equipment and maintenance costs than previous on-site server solutions.
- Access to powerful software and platforms with lower initial investment and guaranteed costs or fees.
- Cost-effective upgrade options allowing the organization to upgrade if and when it is needed.
- Access to skilled support for specific services.
- Increased speed of delivery for updates, repairs, and improvements.
Another critical reason to consider a cloud-first strategy is the strength of the collaboration tools and services now available. During the pandemic, for example, many organizations were forced to allow employees to work from home or other off-site locations. Cloud computing allows employees around the world to access the necessary tools, data, and storage from any location on almost any device.
Cloud-First Doesn’t Mean Cloud Only
It is tempting to believe that cloud-first policies mean that all computing must be done via cloud service providers and that traditional software or hardware is no longer an option. Other options are clearly available if the value is clear. One example of a non-cloud based project is a 2017 pilot test for the Internet of Things (IoT). While this program would eventually end up cloud-based, it started as on-premise in order to control the testing environment for data storage and system latency as well as allowance for an understanding of the overall process.
Companies must consider their overall technological needs in the present and in the future. Three years ago, the U.S. government chose to change their focus from cloud-first to “cloud smart.” Technological policies should fit the mission of the organization as well as the intended purpose of the software. Some organizations, for a variety of reasons, will continue to maintain more traditional on-site infrastructure. In these situations, it may be more appropriate to maintain on-premises security tools such as firewalls and virus protection.
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Skills and Jobs in a Cloud-First World
Given a significant increase of reliance on cloud-based technology and IT infrastructure, there will be changes to the current and future workforce. Companies will need to evaluate their organizational skill sets and develop a multi-faceted talent pool to address these changes. This may include hiring additional employees, re-aligning roles and new jobs creation, such as a cloud engineer. The organization will need to encourage company-wide collaboration and flexibility to adjust to the ever-evolving environment.
Continuing education and talent development will also be critical. Some new hires will come in with the desired skills, but there are greater gains to be found in developing the current workforce. Cloud-first strategies are going to expand across all sectors in the years to come, as a whopping 85 percent of companies are expected to adopt this approach to business.
Employees with these skill sets will be in high demand, so now is the time to get the training in cloud-based computing and develop the skills to excel in the workplace. Cloud computing engineers and architects are trained in areas such as application migration, database management, disaster recovery and cloud migration and deployment.