Social Business in the Cloud or not?

According to a report commissioned by the Australian Information Industry Association (and supported by others in the industry), the location of data continues to be a barrier to greater adoption of cloud computing in Australia. But if we can deal with the data sovereignty issue, this report also highlights the possible economic benefits of cloud computing.

I’m primarily interested in cloud computing from an enterprise social software perspective. Certainly, my experience reflects the report. While some Australian-based organisations are happy that the risk of cloud-based social business solutions (e.g. Yammer) is low enough to accept or easy to manage, many others refuse to host data overseas.

But I also think it is a little unfair to point the finger at ‘cloud’ and focus on the data sovereignty issue alone. Data sovereignty is only one of number of issues that any kind of external hosting can present, along with more technical considerations about multi-tenancy (in both the cloud solution’s architecture and the data centre) and ensuring other data centre attributes such as availability and disaster recovery are fit-for-purpose.

Other more immediate issues to consider with external social business solutions include:

  • Will you be permitted to integrate with single-sign-on, user synchronisation and user provisioning systems (e.g. Active Directory)?
  • Does the cloud-based solution give you all the customisation options you require? For example: forced HTTPS connections, custom domain, branding, customer plugins or integrations etc.
  • If you start with a free trial of a cloud-based solution but want on-premise later, how easy is it to migrate from the cloud?

However, on premise is not without its own challenges. With the increasing demand for bring-your-own-device (BYOD), mobile, remote and external user access to social business platforms the difficulty of opening up the firewall may outweigh the risks of hosting in the cloud. Getting around this issue can be a major reason that organisations ultimately choose an externally hosted solution.

Its also worth considering for those that feel that they must have an on-premise deployment that there are managed application options available on the market that provide some of the benefits of cloud-based solution (for example, Socialtext, Socialcast).

Quite a lot to think about isn’t there? Don’t worry, we’re here to help!

Learn more about the Cloud and the Consumerisation of IT with Dion Hinchcliffe on the 17th May, as part of his Social Business by Design book launch tour to Australia.