Cloud computing has made the transition from hype to mainstream IT according to UK IT chiefs, who now believe security and reliability issues with the technology can be conquered.
Cloud computing - which allows data to be stored and processed using a scalable internet platform rather than on an organisation's own infrastructure - can hold out the promise of cheaper and more efficient corporate IT.
However, when the CIO Jury was last asked for its verdict on cloud computing - back in March 2009 - the IT bosses were unimpressed, with 10 of the 12 jury members saying it wasn't part of their cost-cutting strategy. They cited security and reliability as the two main factors holding back its adoption within the enterprise.
Now, 16 months on, and for many CIOs these worries have been overcome: this week's silicon.com CIO Jury voted 'yes' by a margin of seven to five when asked 'Is cloud computing now part of your IT strategy?'.
Stephen Potter, CIO at World-Check, told silicon.com: "Using cloud technologies is enabling us to create a flexible, scalable mechanism to deliver a common quality of service to our customers, wherever they may be in the world."
Because cloud-based applications don't require buying additional hardware or complex integration, one criticism is that it is too easy for individuals or departments within an organisation to deploy them without alerting the IT department.
"Using cloud services for internal applications such as email and CRM is giving us similar flexibility and reduction in the need for large numbers of internal IT staff. The security concerns are real but manageable if you have tight control on exactly which elements of your business are using cloud technologies," Potter continued.
Mark Andrews, head of IT at Park Cakes, added: "There should be no issue with security around cloud computing if the correct security strategy and policies are in place."
Nicholas Bellenberg, IT director at Hachette Filipacchi, said issues of security and usability "need to be addressed on a case-by-case basis".
"We have found in the past that some of our colleagues have signed-up for web delivered services that have performed poorly and would not have been countenanced if IT had been involved in the initial selection stages," he added.
"There are services and systems that we use that are delivered via the cloud. Some work very well. Some are extremely poor versions of old legacy apps that need serious overhaul," Bellenberg said, adding: "The all-too present reality that lets 'cloud computing' down is where you have applications that are not delivered in a real web fashion. Badly written systems that only work on PCs using Internet Explorer simply do not cut it nowadays. You have to be platform and browser-neutral. And experience tends to show that where the basics are correct, good usability tends to follow."
Not all IT chiefs are convinced about the immediate prospects for cloud computing, however. Florentin Albu, ICT manager at Eumetsat, warned: "At present there are still legal and performance (SLA) issues to be addressed."
Such sentiments were echoed by Mark Beattie, CIO at LondonWaste, who said: "I think concerns about where the data is stored, who it belongs to and legal challenges yet to come, make it a high-risk strategy for many." Mike Roberts, IT director at The London Clinic, said: "I would only consider a 'private cloud' as we cannot allow a situation where data is managed outside the jurisdiction of the Data Protection Act or under the jurisdiction of the US Patriot Act!"
Today's CIO Jury was:
- Florentin Albu, ICT manager, Eumetsat
- Mark Andrews, head of IT, Park Cakes
- Mark Beattie, CIO, LondonWaste
- Alastair Behenna, CIO, Harvey Nash
- Nicholas Bellenberg, IT director, Hachette Filipacchi
- Graham Benson, IT director, M and M Direct
- Adam Gerrard, CIO, Avis Europe
- Steve Gediking, head of IT and facilities, Independent Police Complaints Commission
- Stephen Potter, CIO, World-Check
- Jacques Rene, CTO, Ascend
- Mike Roberts, IT director, The London Clinic
- Mike Tonkiss, IT director, Neopost
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Steve Ranger has nothing to disclose. He does not hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Steve Ranger is the UK editor-in-chief of ZDNet and TechRepublic. An award-winning journalist, Steve writes about the intersection of technology, business and culture, and regularly appears on TV and radio discussing tech issues. Previously he was the editor of silicon.com.