Telegraph reaches the cloud: CIO details the three-year journey

The newspaper group's IT chief on Google Apps, Salesforce.com and datacentre footprints

...Salesforce.com's Ideas technology for members of staff to contribute ideas from how their work life could be improved to new products for the website or newspaper.

As well as bringing benefits for the tech team, the cloud computing project has seen a significant reduction in the size of TMG's onsite datacentre.

Although cost was less of a priority than improved agility, the project has nevertheless had an impact there, according to the CIO.

"We've just reduced our datacentre footprint through a consolidation exercise - we've got one-eighth of the footprint that we had previously. Part of that is the move towards the cloud because we require less horsepower, the other part is just taking advantage of things like virtualisation... that's had a huge impact in terms of cost of space and power. We know for sure that this has easily paid for itself just in the reallocation of resource."

The project hasn't been without its challenges though. With such a significant shift in the way that the company's technology is delivered, one of the major focuses for the IT department has been to help users adjust to the new way of doing things.

"You have to constantly think about training and communication and support as you do with any traditional solution.

"There are a lot of vendors out there in the cloud space that say because it's web-based, it's as easy to use as eBay or Amazon and all of these sort of analogies that get trawled out, but you mustn't go into this thinking that every user knows how to embrace those kinds of systems - you need to spend as much time on supporting and training them.

"At the end of the day, it's still technology and it's still a cultural change that you need around it to make it work."

When the company implemented Google Mail, for example, some workers took to the new system easily, while others found it harder to get used to.

"The work that we did with Google suggested that for some people it was a three-hour transition, for others it was a six-month transition before they got use to it.

"This work that we've done with Google shows that there is a curve, it's like a hockey stick, where people are excited to start with because they've got an unlimited inbox, they've got the search functionality, they've got the same experience at home as they do at work.

"Then you take the old system away and they're in the dark for a little bit and, for some people, that can be a matter of minutes but for others - less web-aware people - it can be a matter of months, so you've got to give them the right training and support to get them through that. But if we were to do an Outlook upgrade, it would be a similar story, so there's no reason to be overly worried about that."

According to Cheesbrough, 96 per cent of users now say Google Mail is an improvement compared to the Outlook system it replaced.

With the final six months of the cloud computing effort ahead, Cheesbrough and his team will be focusing on the implementation of FinancialForce while there will be additional HR and training functionality put into the cloud.

But with the end of the tech transformation looming, Cheesbrough said the company will continue to follow developments in cloud computing beyond the lifetime of the project, "because what's hot today isn't necessarily hot tomorrow", he said.