A recent post by the folks at Melcrum in the UK provides evidence that more companies are adopting cloud-based collaboration platforms (in this case Google Apps) for their internal communications. Last week Jaguar and Land Rover announced they were also switching to Google. And Google isn’t the only big player in this emerging field: IBM recently introduced its own cloud collaboration suite. (I haven’t even mentioned the host of new providers that offer services that go well beyond email, calendars and file-sharing – notably internal micro-blogging and networking tools.)
Anybody who has worked inside an organization is familiar with the debates that occur on this issue. For the cons, there are typically concerns about information security and integration with firewalls, while on the pro side the main motivations tend to be lower cost and a more efficient, integrated platform that is accessible through any Web connection. In my experience, the naysayers are often in IT while proponents are employees looking for better ways to collaborate and communicate with peers. Coincidence? For many companies – slowed by balkanized email networks, weak IT governance and outdated infrastructure – going to a cloud platform is an easy way to start fresh using external resources, often at much lower cost than an infrastructure overhaul. For smaller companies, it’s almost a no-brainer. I’ve been involved in several start-ups in recent months and all of them are using cloud-based platforms for their email, file storage and collaboration needs – at no cost.
So why so much resistance? Likely a new version of the proverb that you can’t be fired for buying IBM – many prefer to play it safe. I’m certainly not a technical expert, but I suspect that the popular chestnuts about unreliable cloud networks and data risk are overblown. I’ve experienced far more problems with internal systems than the occasional blip with cloud-based applications. And is there a network anywhere that is more robust than Google? Companies should certainly do their due diligence, but when the status quo for many employees is working on creaky, inefficient systems – if they even have access to their network – there is no excuse for at least not considering the cloud.