Consumers Are Leading Companies to The Cloud

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

Rentokil’s adoption of cloud-based email is significant, because it shows that organisations have to treat their members like consumers, says Peter Judge. 

Rentokil’s adoption of Google Apps may be the biggest endorsement yet of the search giant’s cloud approach. But it’s also an indication of a much bigger groundswell in IT. 

Cloud computing may be significant, but I think the driver here is the shift to consumer computing.

The giant cleaner-and-rat-catcher is putting thirty-five thousand users on Google Apps by the end of 2010. That’s significant – but it’s not earth-shattering.  The move to the cloud may well be inevitable, but this does not turn it into a stampede.

The cloud has also had an endorsement from Microsoft, which may be somewhat ironic, given Microsoft’s failure to back up cloud data from its Sidekick users – who may all have lost their contacts and appointments. That could have an impact on the success of the cloud based version of its forthcoming Office 2010,

It might give Steve Ballmer some sour satisfaction. He said in London that “no-one believes in thin clients” – and it seems likely that people might now doubt the Sidekick thin clients from Microsoft subsidiary Danger.

Rentokil was not put off by any arguments about cloud performance or security. Google’s SAS 70 audits were enough to convince the company its data was safer in Google’s data centre than on its own premises.

It wasn’t even bothered by compliance – which we think is a far more serious obstacle for cloud  technology. Even cloud provider Savvis has warned that compliance may be an issue, and I recently chaired a webinar on the subject. 

the thing that struck me about the Rentokil announcement was different. One phrase jumped out. The Rentokil deal “signifies a wider change in the workplace to using more consumer-friendly, intuitive technology,” said the Google PR.

That struck a chord with what I heard on our webinar. When I asked the panel, “Do you trust the web?”, I expected we’d be talking about corporate attitudes. Instead we spoke about whether individuals in the company trusted the cloud – to the extent that the analyst on the call, Paul Roberts of the 451 Group, said we probably needed a psychoanalyst instead.

I was a bit phased, but I’ve realised that this is a major point about the cloud. Users expect to get email, and personal applications such as banking, from any terminal including their phone. Users trust the cloud already, and however much the CIO might want to control behaviour, an organisation’s attitude is largely just the attitude of its members, writ large.

Even companies with no cloud plans are having to support webmail and mobile devices, because that’s how users work.

In other words, organisations are not evaluating the cloud and deciding, based on corporate policies. They are being pulled into cloud computing by their members. It’s just one more example of the way consumerisation is changing corporate IT. 

Of course, consumer behaviour and consumer devices aren’t always appropriate to work. But when the pressure is there, and the providers can put up a good argument that their offerings are business-strength, then it’s ultimately going to be futile to stand against it.