Clouds Roll In

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print

Cloud computing is rapidly rolling into the mainstream of business and IT. The technology is revolutionizing the way organizations manage infrastructure and business processes.

Clouds Roll In

It's safe to say that cloud computing has emerged as a molten-hot topic. The ability to tap into infrastructure, services and applications on demand is both tempting and unsettling. Yet, somewhere between all the hype and paranoia lies a basic but important reality: "The cloud is a thoroughly disruptive technology that has a significant impact on companies, IT organizations and overall business strategies,” states David Nichols, CIO Services Leader for consulting firm Ernst & Young.

Moreover, unlike most technologies that are "born, live and eventually die" within the IT organization, clouds transcend IT and the standard business model, Nichols notes. Clouds can impact an organization in a number of ways, including the ability to scale infrastructure, streamline applications and business processes, provide a higher level of connectedness and collaboration, and manage data more efficiently. In many cases, "It gives people the tools to do their jobs better," he adds.

That's certainly the case at Segal McCambridge. In September 2011, the law firm adopted a cloud-based storage solution from Nasuni to replace an existing storage area network (SAN) in Chicago and at a disaster recovery site. The cloud provides unlimited and on-demand scalability without requiring any change in the physical IT infrastructure; perpetual access and complete protection on-site, including encryption; and file synchronization across offices, which helps distributed teams collaborate and increase overall productivity.

What makes the cloud-based storage appliance so attractive, Donehoo says, is the install-and-forget aspect of the technology. "We don't have to worry about adding hardware and systems,” he says. “Everything is backed up, and the performance and security meet the levels required by a law firm." Moreover, the Nasuni storage solution works within the firm's existing document management systems.

The cloud-based approach to storage has ushered in additional gains. In the past, attorneys sometimes copied data onto external hard drives and USB devices manually, or the firm had to physically ship drives—an inherently insecure process—in order to get reams of case-relevant information onto their computers.

At times, attorneys had to submit a request to the Chicago data center and wait for someone there to process it and send back data. Today, an attorney can conduct database queries over the WAN, and offices share documents with each other in near real-time.

"Cloud-based storage has trimmed days off the review process, while allowing attorneys and others to work in a more efficient way," Donehoo reports. "We are now paying for the exact storage we need at any given moment, rather than building out excess capacity." He says this approach has resulted in a 60 percent saving over the cost of operating the SAN, and the law firm plans to expand the overall use of the cloud over the next few years.

Tata’s Krishnan says that clouds frequently drive new behaviors and workflows into a business. Organizations may initially adopt a cloud to reduce costs, standardize IT or provide dynamic scaling, but, along the way, they often discover that the cloud allows them to remap business processes. Employees are able to interact and collaborate in new and more powerful ways. "It can prove transformative," he observes.

This article was originally published on 2012-07-23
Samuel Greengard is a freelance writer for Baseline.
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