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How the Cloud is Affecting IT - Blog (09-05-2012)

The cloud is changing everything for IT personnel. Not only are apps that were once supported and implemented on premises being outsourced to servers hosted by other companies, but IT managers are being forced to learn new ways of supporting customers and employees.

What is the Cloud?
Unfortunately, the cloud is a hard term to define. It can range from simple storage to complex online virtual machines running Linux and hardcore corporate applications. Since there are all these different types of cloud solutions, the IT management of said solutions is both varied and difficult. In one way cloud hosted applications like Microsoft’s SharePoint and Office 365 are hurting the IT department because they are eliminating jobs that used to be done by IT personel. On the other hand, the cloud is helping IT admins with the creation of things like IT helpdesk software and software to manage updates across the entire network.

The cloud, in its simplest definition is data that is stored and transmitted over the internet. In many ways, by that definition, we have been using the cloud for years. The most obvious application that we all use that could be argued to be cloud computing is email. Email has been around for over 20 years and hasn’t change all that much. Of course, not many people think of email as the cloud, but when you are in IT you know that it is the backend that is really the cloud. It is the infrastructure.

In the End, The Cloud is all about Infrastructure
Almost all applications require a great foundation, or backend if you will, to be useful. If you are using IT helpdesk software, it would be useless without a great dashboard or awesome backend functionality. Email is terrible if the design of the interface is bad and the servers are slow. No matter the app, the infrastructure is very important. That is where the cloud is going to come in handy. No longer will IT departments be forced to manage the infrastructure themselves, they will rely on servers managed by their partners to do it for them.

This means several things, some of them good, some of them bad. On the bright side having other people manage the infrastructure means that support will (hopefully) be more knowledgable about the product since that is all they do. It also means that IT departments can focus on other things instead of servicing those servers.

On the other hand, Cloud managed services also mean bad things. First, there is the obvious one: If someone else is managing the software, what do they need you for? With more and more cloud managed services going in all the time, IT admins will be facing less job security. Another bad thing about managed cloud services is that since you are not relying on your department for the service you are at the mercy of the support of another company should something go wrong. Think of it like a water pipe break at your house if you are a plumber. Instead of fixing the pipe break yourself, you have to call and wait for another plumber to come and fix it. On the IT side of things, if something goes wrong you will not have any choice but to wait for the service team on the other end to do their jobs.

The Cloud is the Future
There are definitely downsides and upsides to the Cloud. It makes life easier, but also comes with certain costs. Whether you like it or hate it, or more likely feel somewhat in-between on the subject, the Cloud is the future. More and more corporate software applications will be running on things like SharePoint, Azure, AWS and other cloud services.

It is even popular these days to build businesses that only run their apps off of these servers. So if you are in a start up, it is even more likely that you are surrounded by a lot of clouds. If this is the case your IT career will be much different than that of someone who has been at it for 20 years. You will learn to manage the interaction between different cloud services, you will learn how to implement these infrastructures locally, and will learn how to deal with the different levels of support.

Just because the cloud is here to stay, doesn’t mean that all IT jobs will be cloud based. Because of different privacy laws, companies will always have to keep some data on site. This means there will always be some need for the traditional non-cloud IT guy.
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