In a few short years, “cloud computing” has gone from being a technology buzzword to a business essential. The power and flexibility that comes from a properly deployed cloud is simply too potent to ignore. At the same time, as the technology matures and becomes more advanced, many businesses are finding that their IT overhead is growing disproportionately compared to their core business activities. Increasingly, the solution is to outsource the management of cloud services.

Managed cloud computing service providers are becoming more common in today’s business landscape and they are giving Canadian businesses the opportunity to reap the benefits of the latest cloud technology while refocusing personnel. Chris Christianopoulos, Director, Strategic Partners and Service Providers at Hewlett Packard, sees a large benefit for businesses moving away from the ‘DIY Cloud.’

"In addition to the business efficiency that comes from outsourcing cloud services to the specialists, managed cloud solutions also bring substantial benefits in security and agility."

“When you have companies out there that have cloud services as their bread and butter,” says Christianopoulos, “and they can provide these services in a consumable way to customers, that then allows those customers to focus on the things that are important to them, becoming more profitable and differentiating themselves in the marketplace.”

Where are your resources best spent?

For companies with robust existing IT departments, deploying and managing a cloud internally may seem more attractive, but it’s important to remember that time spent managing and developing the cloud is time spent away from other tasks, increasing workload and spreading personnel more thinly.

“Every organization needs to consider what kind of resources they have and match them up with their business objectives,” says Philbert Shih, Founder and Managing Director of Structure Research, an independent research and consulting firm tightly focused on cloud and hosting technology.

Further, getting the most out of your cloud computing solution requires specialized skills, ongoing time commitment, and a constant effort to keep abreast of new technology. “Cloud infrastructure technology is only going to get more sophisticated and complex,” Shih says. “It is one thing to run applications on the cloud.

It is another thing to scale on the cloud, optimize performance, plan for future requirements, stay in compliance and maintain cost and operational efficiency. The harder it gets to do these things the more pressure is placed on internal IT staff. This will inevitably lead more organizations to consider a managed model.”

End-to-end security and agility

In addition to the business efficiency that comes from outsourcing cloud services to the specialists, managed cloud solutions also bring substantial benefits in security and agility. The end-to-end technology packages that managed cloud providers offer can allow access to the best and strongest infrastructure in the world with services, leveraging products like Akamai’s cloud security solutions to provide a level of safety and accountability simply not available with a DIY cloud.

On the agility front, one of the most compelling reasons to consider a managed cloud solution is the incredible time-to-market gains they make possible. “If you want a competitive advantage,” says Christianopoulos, “it’s about having the agility to provide new services as quickly as possible.”

Mark Schrutt, Research Vice President, Services & Enterprise Applications at technology research and analysis powerhouse IDC Canada, puts it quite succinctly: “With a managed cloud system, you don’t have to wait to acquire servers.

You don’t have to wait for the software to be developed. The servers and software are ready and with a couple of clicks you can get what you need.”

This unparalleled agility, combined with the security, efficiency, and hands on business support, can translate to a substantial competitive advantage for companies using an outsourced managed cloud.

I suspect we will look back at the previous decades of bloated and overworked internal IT departments as a relic before long.