The Cloud. The fluffy white condensate of technology.  It’s everywhere, and if you receive any sort of business/accounting/technology periodical, then you’ve undoubtedly read articles about moving to it.  The cloud evangelists come down from the mountaintops and tell us all how great the cloud is. And the industries have listened. In fact I have two accounting articles in my inbox from the past 12 hours indicting those who haven’t moved to the cloud as old timers and Luddites; that businesses that have not embraced the cloud (which is technically impossible because by definition, clouds are gaseous and incapable of being embraced) are already behind the times, at a competitive disadvantage, and as hip as—well, using the word “hip”.

If no one else will say it, I will.  The Emperor has no cloths.   And the cloud is not always the answer to everything. When vendors come knocking and industry starts pushing, just stop, take a deep breath, and RELAX.  The cloud is one option of many to solving technology problems.

I’ll concede that there are many good reasons to use the cloud to achieve your business goals. Lots of cloud based services are really cool.  But moving to the cloud for the sake of moving to the cloud is the wrong reason for moving to the cloud.  Let’s look at a few reasons why you would not migrate your business or applications to the cloud.

You’ve already invested in strong technology
Before the cloud, the technology-de-jour was “going paperless”. To that end, many firms heavily invested in paperless technology including sophisticated multi-function scanning devices, servers to host the data, and applications to access the data.  Through that process, firms upgraded their technology and have finally found the savings and efficiencies that were originally planned.  Over time that technology will age and need to be updated, replaced or scrapped.  Plan for that, and in planning consider the cloud as an option, but not the default solution.

You already have cloud capabilities but didn’t know it
One of the major benefits of using cloud technology is that information is available to employees anytime, anywhere.  Here’s a little secret—there are a lot of technologies built into standard IT equipment, or are available for a reasonable fee, that allow you to access data remotely.  Options include Microsoft Terminal Services (Remote Desktop), VPN, or Citrix.  Couple that with a secure email solution and much of the remote access problem is solved.

Alternatives to the cloud
The technology that makes the cloud what it is, is called virtualization.  In its simplest form, virtualization allows multiple servers or computers to “live” on one piece of hardware.  Purchase one heavy duty physical server and use it to host different logical servers.  This technology can be really helpful when backing up data too, allowing information to be written offsite in real time versus once a day or week. With virtualization, costs are reduced for hardware, cooling, power, and in some cases, disaster recovery.  A properly planned and deployed virtualized environment keeps your systems available and accessible just as much as a cloud solution.

Recurring costs and Uptime
Moving to the cloud means recurring expenses each month, forever.  You never own the technology, and your business is at the mercy of the cloud services provider. The dollars spent change from being a capital expense to being an operating expense and you lose control over upgrades, updates, and disaster recovery.   When a cloud services company’s service level agreement (SLA) states, “99.9% uptime”, that is still about 520 minutes a year, or 8.5 hours of downtime.  If those 8.5 hours are on April 14, December 31, or the day the bid is due, that’s a problem.

Let’s be clear—the cloud is not a bad thing. But jumping on the bandwagon without a reasonable amount of forethought and planning will cause more heartburn than help.  Do what’s best for your company, your employees, and your bottom line. Just do it with all the information.  If the cloud is the answer, then give it a big ole’ proverbial hug.  If not, don’t make the wrong decision and fall prey to the cloud evangelists. If the cloud is everything they claim, It will still be there when it’s time to re-evaluate your technology delivery solutions.