Even though Cloud Computing has been around for several years, 2013 is shaping up to be the “Year of the Cloud”. Not unlike the periods when we experienced the emergence of PC’s, network operating systems, data mining tools and of course the Internet. Each technology paradigm shift comes with a “Getting to know” period when standards are not yet established and understanding what it means to my business is not all that clear. With Cloud Computing, organizations we knew as software or consulting companies are suddenly cloud companies. Marketing departments have incorporated the cloud verbiage into their advertising and promotional materials. Whether this makes them a legitimate cloud service provider depends on the company’s ability to create a business value to license their software or provide services that are secure, reliable, cost effective or have an ROI.

When trying to understand cloud computing, the good news is that not all things have changed. If you pull back the curtains, cloud computing leverages hardware, software, databases, security/disaster recovery tools & methodologies that are used inside company firewalls. However, there’s also a trend to take advantage of commodity hardware that clouds tend to be built upon and architect entirely differently. This will be transparent to the customer.

What has changed is the where your business applications are executed, stored, managed from and by whom. Cloud computing gives customers choices to be private, public or hybrid. There is no “Best” choice. Finding the platform that fits your company is best accomplished through performing an assessment of your business applications processes and constraints.

This period is a great opportunity for companies to take a look at the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of their technology assets. They can then identify candidates for Cloud Computing Assessments.

The criteria can be many. A platform may be nearing the end of a lease. You have to decide whether to renew. Looking at a Cloud alternative is a great way to inventory your processes, procedures and cost. Systems going through growth can be considered as cloud candidates. It becomes increasingly hard to manage growth while allocating resources in a timely manner. Cloud computing takes care of this.

Security is the biggest flag raised when it come to cloud computing. The tools, rules and guidelines that are in place inside the company firewall are the same in the cloud. Companies will have to define the levels of security they want in place. For companies that are sensitive to releasing control of their credentials or access points, they can choose to control that portion of the platform. With all the raised awareness of security threats, it’s a good time to review and design your security framework.

We are learning some “Cloud Lessons” from the early adopters. Refinements will be made through continuous improvement initiatives that will yield some best practices.

To determine if you are a SasS, PaaS, IaaS, Private, Public or Hybrid, you just need to pick an application or business requirement that needs attention and get an assessment. Isn’t this the way we’ve always done it?