10 ways to leverage cloud capabilities in 2016

More and more enterprises are putting cloud technologies to work--but they're still missing out on key opportunities. Here are some ideas to consider for the year to come.

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In 2015, industry research showed that 88% of enterprises were using some type of cloud technology. Despite this, there are still ways to utilize the cloud that are relatively unexploited by a majority of businesses. Here are 10 of them.

1: Application development and testing

By outsourcing their application development and testing activities to the cloud, some major companies have been able to defer or even eliminate expensive hardware upgrades in their own data centers. The method is to perform app development and testing on the cloud with on-demand, rented infrastructure--and then to import the apps when they are ready to be installed in production.

2: A backup option for DR

Large companies have the resources to have multiple data centers around the world for disaster recovery and failover. But most small to midsize companies don't. Even if you have a primary DR backup strategy that is contained within your own data center(s), a third option that provides additional protection is to use the cloud as a backup if all in-house systems fail.

3: On-ramps of acquired companies onto internal enterprise systems

For complex enterprise systems like ERP (enterprise resource planning), it can take many months to fully integrate a newly acquired company running a different system into the company's own internal system. As a bridge to fully integrating the new company's systems, some companies are opting to use a generic, cloud-based version of the system(s) they use internally so they can rapidly move the acquired company onto the system and get new employees trained. Later, they either move these employees onto enterprise systems when system integration is complete or they slowly migrate the enterprise onto the cloud.

4: Training

Training programs sponsored by vendors or by the company itself can be stored on the cloud and accessed via browsers by employees at any time of day--and from anywhere.

5: Technical expertise and business process outsourcing

Software-as-a-service (SaaS) cloud providers offer the combination of application hosting services and on-staff experts in a particular business area. In some cases, businesses have been able to solve long-term problems in their internal functions, like paying bills and receiving payment for services, by going with a SaaS provider that has the know-how in accounting as well as in running technology in the cloud. SaaS vendors offer critical expertise in other specialties, too.

6: Virtual IT for remote offices and employees

Maintaining servers and software at remote offices is time-consuming and expensive for corporate IT. A good way to reduce some of the work is to make these resources virtual on the cloud, accessible to remote offices through thin client devices. Moving remote office IT assets into the cloud also reduces security risks and governance issues that can arise with remote offices.

7: Big data processing

Every company wants to get into big data and analytics, but many small and midsize businesses can't afford the equipment and expertise needed to process this data. One way to obtain big data/analytics capability is by going to a cloud provider on a pay subscription basis. Many commercial big data and analytics cloud providers offer the hardware/software and the expertise for an affordable turnkey data analytics operation.

8: Sandbox work

For companies looking for a safe place to try out new technology and run experimental projects, cloud resources are available for rent--and any adverse impact of your experimental work on your data center resources is eliminated.

9: Project management

Cloud-based project management is easily kept current by project staff in any corner of the world. It also enables active collaboration between team members and eliminates the painstaking, fulltime job of an internal staff member having to update project data on a daily basis.

10: Peak demand period scale-outs

Retailers have their holiday and promotion seasons, but they don't want to make data center investments to cover peak time of usage and then let those resources sit during times of diminished demand. One way to avoid these investments is to rent cloud-based processing and storage on demand when you need it--and then deallocate these resources when processing and storage demands decrease.

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